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Sprouts: Types, Nutrition, Health Benefits & Risks

Sprouts are one of the healthiest foods with chock-full of vitamins and minerals that benefit your overall health. When you soak seeds or spores in water, they start germinating and this process is called sprouting [1] . Sprouts are easy to grow and easy to add to your meals.

What Are Sprouts?

Sprouts are the germinated seeds that mature into young plants. The sprouting process starts when the seeds are soaked in water for several hours during which they are exposed to the right combination of moisture and temperature and allowed to grow for two to seven days. The sprouts usually grow from 2 to 5 cm long.

Types Of Sprouts

The most common types of sprouts are as follows:

  • Beans and pea sprouts - These include lentil, soybean, mung bean, kidney bean, green pea, garbanzo bean, adzuki bean and black bean.
  • Nut and seed sprouts - These include almond, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed, radish seed and alfalfa seed.
  • Sprouted grains - These include buckwheat, kamut, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth and oat sprouts.
  • Vegetable or leafy sprouts - These include broccoli, radish, mustard greens, beet greens, cress and fenugreek sprouts.

Nutritional Information Of Sprouts

The sprouting process doubles up the nutrient levels, making sprouts an excellent source of protein, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K. Study shows that sprouting increases the protein content [2] . Sprouts are rich in antioxidants and plant compounds [3] and they also possess high levels of essential amino acids.

The proteins in sprouts are easier to digest because during the sprouting process the amount of antinutrients are reduced, making it easier for the body to absorb all the nutrients they contain.

Health Benefits Of Sprouts

1. Improve digestion

Sprouts contain a high amount of living enzymes, which assist in boosting the metabolic process and improve chemical reactions in the body. The enzymes aid in breaking down the food and enhance the absorption of nutrients by the digestive tract [4] .

In addition, sprouts contain a high amount of insoluble fibre that helps to bulk up stool and reduces the chances of constipation [5] .

2. Promote heart health

Consuming sprouts increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol. Broccoli sprouts contain many bioactive compounds, specifically sulforaphane which increases the total antioxidant capacity of plasma and decreases lipid peroxidation, serum triglycerides, oxidative stress index, serum insulin, insulin resistance, and oxidized LDL cholesterol in type 2 diabetic patients [6] .

Similarly, chickpea sprouts contribute to cardiovascular health due to the presence of phytoestrogens [7] .

3. Aid in weight loss

Sprouts are considered to be very good for weight loss because of their high fibre content. Fibre keeps you feeling full for longer and prevents hunger cravings by stopping the release of ghrelin, a hunger hormone. Peanut sprouts reduce abdominal fat in obese women [8] .

4. Control blood sugar levels

Eating sprouts can keep your blood sugar under control. A study shows that sprouts have the ability to regulate the activity of amylase enzyme which the body uses to properly break down and digest sugars [9] . Broccoli sprouts are rich in sulforaphane which improves the glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

5. Prevent cancer

Raw broccoli sprouts are a rich source of potential cancer-fighting compounds. The main compounds found in broccoli and its sprouts are glucosinolates that are transformed into isothiocyanates when chopped or chewed. These isothiocyanates have anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities [10] . Another study showed that broccoli sprouts can prevent prostate cancer [11] .

6. Boost immunity

Sprouts are packed with vitamin C, which acts as a powerful stimulant for the white blood cells (WBCs) to fight off diseases and infections, thus boosting your immune system.

7. Promote gut health

Sprouted wheat and sprouted oats help regulate and maintain the pH balance of the body by reducing acid levels. Lactobacillus acidophilus found in these sprouts acts a good probiotic for the gut [12] .

Potential Risks Of Raw Sprouts

Sprouts are linked to food poisoning because they are consumed raw and they may contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E coli bacteria. These bacteria thrive in a warm and wet environment, which is most likely to occur during the sprouting process.

The symptoms of food poisoning will appear 12 to 72 hours after eating sprouts. The symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has linked 48 food-borne illnesses to sprouts [13] .

Here are some tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning:

  • Cook sprouts properly.
  • Buy fresh, chilled sprouts.
  • Avoid eating sprouts with a strong smell and slimy appearance.
  • Keep sprouts in the fridge at temperatures under 48°F (8°C).

Ways To Include Sprouts In Your Diet

  • Add sprouts in a sandwich or to warm meals like soups, stir-fries, and rice dishes.
  • Sprouts can be used to make burger patties.
  • Add sprouts in omelettes.
  • Blend sprouts into smoothies and pancake batters.
  • Sprouts can be eaten as a spread on bread or crackers.

You can also try this sprouted salad recipe and sprouts masala recipe.

How To Grow Sprouts At Home

  • Rinse the legumes and grains properly and place them in a huge bowl or a mason jar filled with water.
  • Cover the bowl or mason jar with a cheesecloth.
  • Keep it in room temperature for 3 to 12 hours or it may take longer than that.
  • Once sprouted, drain the water and wash with fresh water once again.
  • Consume the sprouts within 3 to 4 days.
View Article References
  1. [1] Chavan, J. K., Kadam, S. S., & Beuchat, L. R. (1989). Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting.Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition,28(5), 401-437.
  2. [2] Singh, A. K., Rehal, J., Kaur, A., & Jyot, G. (2015). Enhancement of attributes of cereals by germination and fermentation: a review.Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition,55(11), 1575-1589.
  3. [3] Chon, S. U. (2013). Total polyphenols and bioactivity of seeds and sprouts in several legumes.Current pharmaceutical design,19(34), 6112-6124.
  4. [4] Rawski, R. I., Sanecki, P. T., Dżugan, M., & Kijowska, K. (2017). The evidence of proteases in sprouted seeds and their application for animal protein digestion.Chemicke zvesti,72(5), 1213-1221.
  5. [5] Ho, K. S., Tan, C. Y., Mohd Daud, M. A., & Seow-Choen, F. (2012). Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms.World journal of gastroenterology,18(33), 4593-4596.
  6. [6] Bahadoran, Z., Mirmiran, P., & Azizi, F. (2013). Potential efficacy of broccoli sprouts as a unique supplement for management of type 2 diabetes and its complications.Journal of medicinal food,16(5), 375-382.
  7. [7] Harini, S., Adilaxmamma, K., Mohan, E. M., Srilatha, C. h., & Raj, M. A. (2015). Antihyperlipidemic activity of chickpea sprouts supplementation in ovariectomy-induced dyslipidemia in rats.Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine,6(2), 104-110.
  8. [8] Ha, A. W., Kim, W. K., Kim, J. H., & Kang, N. E. (2015). The supplementation effects of peanut sprout on reduction of abdominal fat and health indices in overweight and obese women.Nutrition research and practice,9(3), 249-255.
  9. [9] McCue, P., Kwon, Y. I., & Shetty, K. (2005). Anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive potential of sprouted and solid-state bioprocessed soybean.Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition,14(2), 145.
  10. [10] Anna Westphal, Kenneth M. Riedl, Jessica L. Cooperstone, Shreya Kamat, V. M. Balasubramaniam, Steven J. Schwartz, Volker Böhm.High-Pressure Processing of Broccoli Sprouts: Influence on Bioactivation of Glucosinolates to Isothiocyanates.Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2017
  11. [11] Beaver, L. M., Lӧhr, C. V., Clarke, J. D., Glasser, S. T., Watson, G. W., Wong, C. P., … Ho, E. (2017). Broccoli Sprouts Delay Prostate Cancer Formation and Decrease Prostate Cancer Severity with a Concurrent Decrease in HDAC3 Protein Expression in Transgenic Adenocarcinoma of the Mouse Prostate (TRAMP) Mice.Current developments in nutrition,2(3), nzy002.
  12. [12] Sharma, M., Mridula, D., & Gupta, R. K. (2013). Development of sprouted wheat based probiotic beverage.Journal of food science and technology,51(12), 3926-3933.
  13. [13] Gensheimer, K., & Gubernot, D. (2016, October). 20 years of sprout-related outbreaks: FDA's investigative efforts. InOpen Forum Infectious Diseases(Vol. 3, No. suppl_1, p. 1438). Oxford University Press.

Read more about: sprouts health benefits
Story first published: Wednesday, May 8, 2019, 14:15 [IST]
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