Transcript: Cooked Beans or Sprouted Beans?
Beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils are packed with nutrients and play a role in the prevention of chronic disease, but most can’t be eaten raw. Boiling is the most common cooking method, which is what’s used to make canned beans, but sprouting is becoming more popular. Which is healthier? There hadn’t been a head-to-head comparisons, until now.
The easiest way to compare is to just measure the quantity of the polyphenol phytonutrients thought to account for some of their protective benefits against chronic disease, for example the anthocyanin pigments that make these particular beans so pretty.
As you can see, sprouted beans have more of some, but less than others, in fact you see that across the board with the other phenolic phytonutrients. More of some; less of others. Because the positive effects of these compounds may be related to their antioxidant capacity, you can compare the overall antioxidant power of boiled versus sprouted beans, for which boiled appears to have a marginal edge, but ideally we’d actually measure physiological effects, like what about boiled versus sprouted against cancer cells. And that’s just what they did.
This is the concentration of raw bean extract needed to cut the breast cancer growth rate in half in a petri dish. Boiled beans do about 40 times better. Same cancer growth inhibition at just a fraction of the concentration, and sprouted beans do about the same.
Now you can’t even eat most beans raw, but I wanted to include them just to show you a fascinating phenomenon. No amount of raw bean extract appears able to totally stop the growth of breast cancer cells, but just small amounts of cooked or sprouted beans can. And same thing with actually killing off cancer. No amount of raw bean extract works, but both boiled and sprouted beans can.
Similar results were found for melanoma, processing the beans—either cooking or sprouting boosted anticancer activity in vitro, but against kidney cancer, raw and boiled worked, but sprouted didn’t at all.
The researchers were also interested in brain protection. Given that elderly persons reporting always eating legumes may be significantly less likely to experience cognitive decline, the researchers decided to compare the protective effects of boiled versus sprouted beans on astrocytes.
Astrocytes are the most abundant type of cell in our brain. They are star-shaped cells that keep our brain running smoothly. Should they become damaged, though, they may an important role in the development in neurodegenerative disorders such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. So if we’re thinking clearly, we should thank our lucky stars.
To see if beans would help protect astrocytes from damage, first they had to make sure bean extracts wouldn’t cause any damage. This is the before, dripping nothing on astrocytes in a petri dish, 100% viability. And this is the after, adding boiled bean extract. Didn’t hurt the cells at all. And sprouted beans seem to even help them grow a little bit. Same thing but this time we’re going to damage the astrocytes with an oxidative chemical that killed off about a quarter of the cells. But with some boiled bean extract on board the astrocytes were protected at the two higher doses, but the sprouted beans didn’t appear to offer significant benefit.
So what’s the takeaway? As far as I’m concerned, we should eat beans in whichever way will get us to eat the most of them.
I do love my lentil sprouts, one of the healthiest snacks on the planet (along with kale chips). It’s amazing that I can create fresh produce in 2 to 3 days on my kitchen counter. Sprouting’s like gardening on steroids! But using canned beans I can get similar nutrition in about 2 to 3 seconds.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.
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