If you are into healthy eating you probably know about sprouts and the great health benefits of sprouts. But if you are someone who has been low on consuming vegetables and salads in general, seeing sprouts sprinkled on top of soups, salads, in between the sandwich, could have left you a bit intimidated. Aside from great health benefits sprouts add a crunch and different flavour to the food.
Below I will cover what are sprouts, different types of sprouts, the health benefits, how to prepare them and also highlight some risks you need to be aware of.
What are sprouts?
Sprouts are the germinated seeds of vegetables. Sprouting of seeds helps to magnify their nutritional value, boosting vitamin content significantly.
What are the different types of sprouts?
Nuts and seed sprouts- sesame seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed sprouts. I have written about the health benefits of soaking and sprouting nuts and seeds in the past.
Vegetable sprouts- mustard green, alfalfa, red clover, broccoli sprouts
Bean and pea sprouts- black bean, lentil, mung bean, kidney bean, snow pea sprouts
Grain sprouts- from quinoa and wheatgrass
Microgreens are sown either in soil, coconut or hemp mats. They grow well in light, low humidity and fresh air. After the first true leaves appear, the microgreens are ready to eat. They are cut from the top of the growing area - the roots remain unused. The advantage of microgreens over sprouts is that they absorb nutrients from the soil, so their nutritional value is higher. Here you can read more about microgreens and how to grow them.
What are the health benefits of sprouts?
Sprouts have many health benefits. Sprouting helps to activate the enzymes, which are necessary for food digestion. All sprouts contain protein, which in turn contain amino acids that are building blocks for our bodies. Sprouting also increases the vitamin content of the young plants. When you expose sprouts to sunlight, then their chlorophyll and carotene content will increase dramatically.
Below are a list of most well-known sprouts and some of their nutritional facts around macronutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (listed from highest containing to lowest in 100g).
5 grams carbohydrate
4 grams fibre
2 grams protein
0.5 grams fat
Vitamins and minerals: vitamin C (60% of daily value), vitamin A (10% of daily value), calcium (6% of daily value), iron (4% of daily value), vitamin E, B, K, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and antioxidant sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale) slows tumour growth and stops benign carcinogens from converting into active ones. They are also sources of plant oestrogen's, similar to human oestrogen, and so are helpful in cases of PMS, menopause, hot flashes and fibrocystic diseases. In addition they help to detoxify the body, benefit the heart, support stronger bones, improve respiratory function and protect the brain.
Mung Bean Sprouts
19.15 grams carbohydrates
7.02 grams protein
7.6 grams fibre
0.8 grams fat
Abundant in vitamins A, B, C and E, the minerals iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, essential amino acids and antioxidants.
Sprouted mung beans contain as much as six times more antioxidants than regular mung beans, which help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Mung bean soup is commonly consumed on hot summer days in many Asian countries, which is believed to help with against heat stroke. Mung beans also help to lower the LDL cholesterol in your body and help reducing blood pressure.
3.99 grams protein
2.1 grams carbohydrates
1.9 grams fibre
0.69 grams fat
Vitamins and minerals: vitamin K (38% of daily value), vitamin C (14% of daily value), folate (9% of daily value), manganese (9% of daily value), copper (8% of daily value), phosphorus (7% of daily value), magnesium (7% of daily value), riboflavin (7% of daily value), zinc (6% of daily value), iron (5% of daily value), thiamine (5% of daily value), vitamin A (3% of daily value), antioxidants.
Alfalfa sprouts are rich in phytochemicals, protecting against cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and fibrocystic breast disease. They help to stimulate natural killer cell activity, which strengthens your immune system. They are also beneficial in reducing symptoms of PMS and menopause, including hot flashes. They contain high amounts of antioxidants, the body’s defence against the destruction of DNA which is the cause of ageing.
22 grams carbohydrates
9 grams protein
1.9 grams fibre
0.6 grams fat
Rich in vitamins A, B, C, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium
Lentils have phytic acid in them which is difficult for the body to digest. Sprouting nullifies the phytic acid letting more vitamins as well as minerals to be better absorbed by the body as digested. Lentil sprouts as well as other sprouts are high in antioxidants, so they are at fighting ageing and also prevent premature greying of hair. They promote the blood flow, therefore supporting heart function. And as sprouts, including lentil sprouts are high in fibre, they make sure to aid with digestion.
Red Clover Sprouts
22 grams carbohydrates
9 grams protein
1.9 grams fibre
0.6 grams fat
Rich in vitamins A, B, C, K, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, magnesium, carotene, chlorophyll, antioxidants.
Same as the other above sprouts red clover sprouts are rich in phytochemicals, in particular genistein, which is known to prevent the formation of new blood vessels inside a tumour, in essence starving the tumour. Red clover also contains naturally occurring plant oestrogen's, helpful with PMS, menopause, hot flashes and fibrocystic disease.
There are several more sprouts to consume, but I hope the above gives you a good overview of all the health benefits you get when consuming sprouts on a regular basis.
The risks you need to consider when consuming sprouts
Though sprouts are very nutritious, they could also carry food borne illnesses like salmonella, E.coli. Most sprouted seeds are grown in humid warm conditions, that encourage bacterial growth. Also, if they are mass-produced, you have no idea whether the water that was used to regularly clean the seeds in the sprouting process, was clean; or whether the seeds and sprouts were handled following a good hand hygiene.
How can you consume sprouts?
To get the best and most out of the sprouts, you should consume them raw. You can of course steam, boil, cook, oven-roast them to reduce the risk of food born illness, but then you will loose a bit of their maximum nutritional value. Always store your sprouts in refrigerator. If the appearance of sprouts looks even a little bit slimy, musty or they have developed a side-smell- discard them right away.
You can also sprout chickpeas, which make a delightfully delicious hummus. It is much richer in nutrients than hummus made from cooked chickpeas.
Sprouts can really be added into any food- salads, as toppings on soups, sandwiches. You can also garnish your meat or fish with it. The usabilities are wide.
How to grow your sprouts?
It's not complicated to grow sprouts at home. There are couple of different ways you can do it.
You need a mason jar, cheese cloth, elastic band. Or you can purchase a sprouting jar, which you can get from your local organic food store (they look like on the image). You need organic broccoli seeds and purified water.
Cover around 2 tablespoons of seeds with warm water and soak over night. Drain the seeds after 5-10 hours.
Put them in the sprouting jar or mason jar. Either use the cheese cloth and elastic band or the lid that came with the sprouting jar.
For around 5 days, rinse your seeds with clear purified water 2-3 times a day. Drain off the water every time you rinse them.
Keep your seeds in a warm and dark place.
In the first three days you will see the seeds split and you will start to see the beginnings of the sprouts.
When the sprouts have developed yellow leaves, you can expose them to some sunlight. Be sure continue rinsing them.
Sprouts are ready to eat wean the leaves are darker shade of green and more than 1.5 cm long.
(you can use this method for example for mung beans)
Pour around 2 tablespoons of seeds in a fine mesh colander and put in a glass bowl filled with a little bit of warm water so that the seeds in the colander in the bowl are covered. Soak over night or longer (12-24h). Rinse the seeds in the morning, change the water in the bowl and put the colander with the seeds on top of the bowl. So you have water inside the bowl and seeds with colander at the top of the bowl. Then cover the bowl with slightly damp cloth and put the bowl in a dark warm place.
For around 3 days, rinse your seeds with water 2-3 times a day and change the water underneath.
After three days you should have nice sprouted seeds ready to consume.
(you can use this method for example for alfalfa seeds)
Take a cheesecloth bag or seeds/nuts sack and put a tablespoon or two into the bag.
Take a mason jar and put the bag with seeds into it, with the top of the bag hanging out from the jar.
Pour water into the jar over the seeds in a cloth bag and leave it over night in a warm place to stand.
Next day, dump the water from a jar and rinse the seeds in the bag underneath the tap water (ideally filtered water).
Then simply put the cloth bag with seeds into the empty jar and hang the top of bag over the jar. The seeds will nicely germinate in the moist of the bag.
Rinse the seeds during 5 days 2-3 times a day within the bag and put in the jar letting the bag opening hang over the jar.
After 5 days you should have a beautiful bag of sprouted seeds.
I hope you gained some inspiration from this blog post and you actually start to incorporate sprouting in your healthy eating habit.
If you are looking to gain more knowledge around healthy eating habits, have health goals you want to reach, don't hesitate to reach out to me for nutrition and health coaching at firstname.lastname@example.org.