Did you know that sprouts contain some of the highest concentrations of phytonutrients per calorie of any food?
Sprouting refers to the germination of a seed, nut, legume, or grain after soaking it for several hours. A repeated process of rinsing and draining over the course of a few days yield sprouted tails up to 2 inches long from your starting seed, and a delicious super food ready for consumption.
Health benefits of sprouting
There are a surprisingly large number of benefits from eating sprouts, ranging from their high nutritional properties to their ability to support your immune system. Sprouts tend to deliver the most benefits when consumed in their raw form. Some of these benefits are described below:
- Source of nutrients and minerals. Sprouts contain fibre, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, as well as vitamins K, C, and A.
- Weight management. Because sprouts are high in fibre, they can help you feel full longer and normalize blood glucose levels. Mung bean sprouts, for example, provide about 2 grams (7 per cent of recommended daily value) of fibre per cup.
- Aid digestion. Sprouts are high in enzymes, helping break down food into their subcomponents more efficiently and allowing for better absorption. In other words, sprouts help extract more amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals from your meals.
- Natural anti-histamine. Sprouts contain diamine oxidase, an important natural enzyme that acts as a “scavenger” for histamine and decreases its levels in the body. Reduced diamine oxidase activity is associated with histamine excess and histamine intolerance, so eating sprouts can help improve a histamine disequilibrium.
- Enables your immune system to fight better. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial in healthy participants showed that ingestion of broccoli sprout homogenates can stimulate and enrich natural-killer cells – an integral component of your immune system – thereby promoting enhanced antiviral defense responses in the body.
- Reduces inflammation. Consuming a diet high in sprouts can help lower virus-induced markers of inflammation in the body. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted in smokers showed that ingestion of broccoli sprout homogenates can significantly reduce inflammatory markers and help fight the influenza virus in smokers.
However, sprouting also has a dangerous side. Sprouts that have been commercially grown have been associated with contamination of pathogenic bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli. In fact, Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have provided the sprouting industry with guidelines on safe manufacturing to avoid product contamination and illness.
If sprouting is of interest to you, take measures to avoid harmful bacterial growth during the germination process. The chance of buying contaminated seed is small, but to be safe, it is wise to follow these steps to ensure your sprouts do not make you sick:
- Ensure proper sourcing of your sprouts. Purchasing sprouts from a reputable source, or growing them in your kitchen under your own watchful eye and controlled environment can help reduce the likelihood of bacterial contamination.
- Provide proper air circulation. Without proper ventilation, sprouts can turn moldy and rot. Sprouts made at home should receive ample airflow while growing.
- Clean your sprouts. If you make your sprouts at home, you must follow a rigorous cleaning and draining process every 8 hours (at least twice a day) to reduce the chance of bacterial colonization.
- Start with clean equipment. Ensure that all starting materials, such as the glass jar, lid, and seeds are sterilized before initiating the germination process.
- Cook sprouts thoroughly. While sprouts are far more beneficial when consumed in their raw form, cooking them will kill harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of illness. If you have doubts about the source of your sprouts, it is best to cook them.
- Avoid raw sprouts in weakened or immature immune systems. Those who are immunocompromised or have underdeveloped immune systems, such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly, should avoid eating all types of raw sprouts.