Shout Out for Sprouts
You may have seen them in a gourmet sandwich shop or the produce aisle, looking like loose tangles of little pale threads with tiny unopened peas at the top. You may even have tasted them and decided "Not bad," because of their fresh, lively taste and texture.
What are sprouts exactly? Well, there are a lot of different types – almost as many as there are edible plants. Bean sprouts, sunflower sprouts, rye sprouts… every plant-based food started with a sprout and grew from there. Grains, seeds, and legumes can all be sprouted, such as wheat and barley, carrot seeds oil, coriander seeds, and groundnuts.
But the main reason for eating sprouts is about nutrition and digestion. It's essentially about getting the most benefit out of a plant in the most biologically concentrated form. When you sprout foods, you increase proteolytic enzymes that make both carbohydrates and proteins digestible. While your body produces proteolytic enzymes when you eat foods that don't contain digestive enzymes, your body is forced to manufacture them (instead of making enzymes it should be making). After a while, your body's ability to produce the right enzymes wanes along with its ability to fight off disease.
The good news: enzymes from sprouted foods can replace those your body no longer produces.
Sprouts as young as three days old contain 10 to 100 times the glucoraphanin, the main enzyme inducer, of the mature vegetable, which helps protect against chemical cancer-causing agents. Eating sprouted foods not only boosts the antioxidant vitamin C content, according to Dr. Mercola's Total Health Program (Dr. Joseph Mercola and Nancy Lee Bentley; 2003) but also increases the chlorophyll content (a good thing), which creates a hostile environment for harmful bacteria and detoxifies your body while boosting your oxygen and immune system levels.
Health Benefits of Sprouts
Some find sprouts to be a rather odd thing to eat when the full-grown variety is on hand, but they come with their own hugely beneficial packages of nutrients that are missing from the adult version, so to speak. It only stands to reason that from the seed to the full-grown plant, there are different nutrients, and some are concentrated. The vitamin E content, for example (which boosts your immune system and protects cells from free radical damage) can be as high as 7.5 mg in a cup of broccoli sprouts compared to 1.5 mg in the same amount of raw or cooked broccoli. The selenium content can go from 28 mg versus 1.5 on the same scale.
While an entire cup of sprouts may be more than you'd consume at a time, the above profile speaks to the nutrition they provide. In this amount, you get 43 percent of the daily recommended value in vitamin K (for bone strength and formation and increased protection from neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer's disease). You also get 23 percent of the DV in vitamin C (a proven infection fighter) and 16 percent of the folate (required for DNA, the genetic material found in all cells of the body, and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, without which our chances of chances of developing anemia, heart disease, stroke, and cancer would increase).
Sprouts are also an excellent source of fiber, manganese, riboflavin, and copper, along with smaller but significant amounts of protein, thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Sprouts Nutrition Facts
One (1) cup of sprouted mung beans (101 grams)
Amt. Per Serving
Studies on Sprouts
Sulforaphane, a natural compound derived from broccoli/broccoli sprouts, was examined in a clinical study for its ability to inhibit breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) and the potential mechanism. Scientists found it to not only decrease the breast cancer cell population, but also reduce the size and number of primary mammospheres (cell clusters) by 65 to 80 percent.
The conclusion of the study: sulforaphane inhibits breast CSCs and down-regulates the self-renewal pathway, which supports the use of sulforaphane for the chemoprevention of breast cancer stem cells.1
Another study was conducted to evaluate the biological, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH, an enzyme that inhibits toxic alcohol molecules compromising our nervous systems2), and antiproliferative activities of different extracts of mung bean seeds and sprouts. All extracts from the sprouts showed higher contents of total phenolics, total flavonoids, and the diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity than from seeds. The sprout extracts were more effective against human pulmonary carcinoma and human gastric carcinoma cells than the seeds.
The conclusion was that sprout extracts could be a source of antioxidants with health benefits.3
Sprouts Healthy Recipes: Sprout-Stuffed Tomatoes
- 4 ripe avocados
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 packed cup alfalfa or sunflower sprouts, coarsely chopped
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 garlic clove, pressed
- 2 scallions, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, minced
- Umeboshi vinegar (or salted lemon juice)
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Slice avocados lengthwise, remove pit, and set aside 4 halves. Mix remaining ingredients. Smash remaining avocados, and mix with tomatoes, sprouts, lemon juice, garlic, scallions, and cilantro.
- Stuff the 4 avocado halves with the tomato mixture.
- Drizzle with umeboshi vinegar and toasted sesame seeds.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type by Dr. Joseph Mercola)
Sprouts Fun Facts
When sprouting your own seeds, it's best to ensure they haven't been chemically treated. Soak them overnight (overnight is important) with about a third full of clean water in a clean Mason-type jar covered with a mesh sprouting screen. The soak time depends on the seed size: five hours for small seeds, and 12 hours for large seeds and grains.
In the morning, drain and rinse them, turn the jar on its side, and repeat three times daily until they sprout – on average about three days. Rinsing and draining them three times a day gives them just the right amount of moisture.
A few items to note: Your container should be a quarter to a third full of seeds (they swell to around eight times their original size) and kept at room temperature with good air circulation. Once green tips begin appearing on the sprouts, they can be used immediately or refrigerated for several days.
Why eat sprouts? First of all, once you get a taste of their crunchy, tasty goodness in a salad or on a sandwich, you may find yourself asking for this option again and again, or even sprouting your own - an easy, fun project. But an even more important reason is the truly amazing health benefits they provide.
Besides vitamins C, A, and K, sprouts contain fiber, manganese, riboflavin, copper, protein, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. The amounts these vitamins and minerals impart generate benefits for nearly every area of the body. When you eat sprouted foods, you increase highly concentrated proteolytic enzymes that make carbohydrates and proteins digestible. Even little sprouts contain 10 to 100 times the glucoraphanin, the main enzyme inducer, compared to the mature vegetable, protecting against chemical cancer-causing agents.
So eat sprouts or sprout some – they're a mega-healthy food we can all live with.