Sprouts have long been a staple in Chinese cuisine, but have recently become increasingly popular in the Western world too. The question is, do sprouts actually offer any health benefits? The answer is yes. Sprouted seeds are a great way to include fresh, raw, and sprouted foods into your diet, not just to boost flavor but also to boost your health. In this blog post, we will explore the 5 most surprising health benefits of sprouts!
What are sprouts?
Sprouts are the first stage of a plant, right when it starts to germinate. Simply put sprouts are young plants on their way to full growth. This is the reason why sprouts have a very high nutritional value, usually many times higher than the fully grown plant. The plant needs all these nutrients to grow into a strong and healthy plant. At the same time, the sprouting process breaks down certain proteins and makes them easier for your body to digest. This is great if you have a sensitive stomach or digestion issues because sprouted foods are usually easy on the gut. Sprouting also increases the bioavailability of many essential vitamins, meaning they are more easily absorbed by your digestive tract.
Edible sprouts are not grown in soil but rather in a warm and moist environment. The seeds are soaked in water for a few hours (or overnight), which kickstarts the germination process. The sprouting process starts when there is enough moisture to activate certain enzymes which stimulate the seed’s development into vegetation or shoots. You can use many different types of seeds, such as broccoli, lentil, different beans, or alfalfa but you can also sprout nuts and grains. The possibilities are almost endless.
Common types of sprouts
The most common sprouts are alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, mung bean sprouts, and radish sprouts. They are easy to grow and have a mild flavor that goes well with any dish. Overall, sprouts can be grouped into four categories:
- Vegetable Sprouts, such as broccoli, red clover, alfalfa, radish and mustard green sprouts.
- Bean and Pea Sprouts, such as mung bean, snow pea, and lentil sprouts.
- Nut and seed sprouts, such as sesame seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seed sprouts
- Sprouted Grain, such as wheatgrass and quinoa sprouts.
Health Benefits of sprouting
Sprouts are loaded with a variety of vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The exact nutritional value depends on the type of sprout and can vary greatly. Generally, sprouts have been found to contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins like Vitamin C and K, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium. They are also often high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Sulforaphane and Beta Carotene. In addition, sprouts are high in protein, making them a great food for vegans and vegetarians. Sprouts are a great way to add more raw foods into your diet, to ensure you get all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function well. Research also points to a variety of very specific health benefits related to consuming sprouts.
1. Sprouts help prevent cancer
Many sprouts contain lignans. Lignans are plant compounds, defined as phytoestrogens, that have many health benefits, one of which is their ability to prevent cancer. They work by interfering with the messages cells use to grow and multiply at an uncontrolled rate in some organs, particularly the colon. Lignans act as a natural antimicrobial agent and help reduce your risks of cancer. Sprouts are also rich in antioxidants, which help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Sprouting seeds for at least three days will dramatically increase their anti-cancer properties.
2. Sprouts balance hormones and relieve PMS symptoms
A diet that includes sprouts is filled with healthy and natural plant hormones that can help regulate your menstrual cycle. This includes reducing the severity of PMS symptoms such as cramps, headaches, mood swings, bloating, etc. You might also notice an improvement in acne breakouts because sprouts can help balance out hormone levels. Especially plants that are high in sulforaphane, like broccoli sprouts, have been found to maintain balanced and healthy estrogen levels in the body.
3. Sprouts improve digestion
Sprouts are high in fiber, which helps keep things moving. Consuming sprouts on a regular basis can greatly improve digestion because sprouts provide both soluble and insoluble fibers that allow for more regular bowel movements and easier elimination. Sprouting seeds is a great way to add more fiber to your diet. The process of soaking the seeds in order to sprout them also breaks down certain proteins, which can be hard for our bodies to digest. This means sprouted foods are much more gentle on the gut.
4. Sprouts keep insulin levels balanced
Insulin is a hormone that helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. Eating sprouts can help prevent spikes in your insulin level and keep your energy stable during the day, which also means you will have more mental clarity. Because Sprouts have a low glycemic index, eating sprouted foods may help prevent major spikes in your blood sugar levels and thereby reduce the risk of diabetes or obesity. The soluble fiber in sprouts is especially helpful for people with diabetes because it helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.
5. Sprouts boost the immune system
Sprouts can help boost your immune system, reducing the risk of colds and other illnesses. This is because sprouts are full of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, which help your immune system to stay strong and ward off infections. Sprouts are also rich in antioxidants that have been shown to improve overall immunity as well as reduce inflammation throughout the body. Sprouts have also been found to stimulate the production of T-cells which can fight off infections before they take hold in the body. Last but not least sprouts have been shown to increase red blood cells, which are also responsible to fight infections in the body and improving blood circulation.
6. Bonus Benefit: Sprouts can help reduce anxiety
Researchers also point out that sprouted seeds contain a type of amino acid called lysine which may play an important role in reducing anxiety levels by helping your body produce serotonin. Sprouts are also a good source of B vitamins, which improve mood and have been shown to reduce anxiety levels in some people.
Are there any risks to consuming sprouts?
Sprouts are a great way to include more nutrients into your diet. But just like anything in life, there are also a few risks that come along with eating sprouts.
Contamination with pesticides
Because sprouts are usually consumed raw, it is important to make sure the sprouts you eat have not been sprayed with any type of pesticides. Even if you buy strictly organic sprouts, you still can’t be sure that there has been no cross-contamination. The best way to ensure your sprouts are 100 % pesticide-free is to grow your own sprouts at home. That way you know exactly what has gone into your sprouts.
Contamination with bacteria
Like any other fresh produce that we consume raw, sprouts have a risk of carrying foodborne illnesses if they are contaminated. The warm and moist environment in which sprouts grow best is also the perfect condition for the growth of bacteria, such as listeria, E. coli, and salmonella. This risk can be greatly minimized by growing your own sprouts at home and by ensuring they never sit in standing water.
It is also important to make sure you thoroughly clean your sprouting equipment after using it. If you want to be completely sure, you can also lightly cook your sprouts. This means the sprouts lose their crunch but it will kill any bacteria.
Does that mean growing sprouts is dangerous?
No, not at all. Growing sprouts at home is very safe, especially if you know how to do it right. In fact, it is much safer than buying sprouts from a supermarket. You can’t be sure that they haven’t been contaminated with pesticides and they are usually already a few days old, putting them at a higher risk of carrying bacteria. Growing your own sprouts at home is not just safer, it is also cheaper, super easy, and a lot of fun! All you need is the right equipment.
What are you waiting for? Start spouting today
Sprouts are a real superfood! They have many health-promoting benefits and on top of that, they taste fantastic in any meal. Plus, it is so much fun to watch these little seeds grow bigger every day. Growing sprouts at home and adding them to your meals is a great way to incorporate more fresh foods into your diet and to ensure you are getting more vitamins and minerals into your body!
How to grow sprouts at home
Growing sprouts at home is very easy. All you need is:
- a sprouting jar with a lid
- organic sprouting seeds
Simply add a tablespoon of sprouting seeds to the jar, fill half with water, and screw on the lid. Let the seeds soak for 8-12 hours (or overnight), then drain the water. This kickstarts the germination process. From now on, all you have to do is to rinse the sprouts twice a day, ideally in the morning and in the evening. Afterward, place them upside down on a stand so that excess water can drip out and your sprouts are not sitting in standing water. Now you can watch your sprouts grow bigger every day.
After only 3-4 days, your sprouts are ready to be harvested. Simply store them in the glass jar in your fridge and they will keep well for 4-5 days. Make sure you don’t rinse the sprouts right before you place them in the fridge, they will keep longer if they are dry. Add them to salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, curries, you name it. Sprouts are a fantastic addition to pretty much any meal!