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Healthy Eating Habits: Sprout Nutrition and Safety

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By adding plenty of fresh nutrient dense foods to our diet, we can give our body the nourishment it needs without consuming an over abundance of calories.

Sprouts, for instance, are treasure troves of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants the body requires to function, eliminate toxins, and avoid free radical cell damage.

Why Sprouts Are Good For Us

Tossing sprouts on a salad or a sandwich immediately raises the meal's nutritional value because when sprouting, plants contain a concentrated amount of nutrients:

  • More Vitamins. In the sprouting process, a seed’s vitamin content may increase significantly. The B1 in mung beans, for instance, goes up 285 percent when the beans are sprouted. Their B2 increases by a whopping 515 percent, and niacin (B3) by 256 percent.
  • More Fatty Acids and Fiber. Most of us do not get adequate dietary fiber and healthy fats from our food. Sprouts are a great source of both.
  • More Enzymes. Enzymes help our body extract greater amounts of nutrients from the foods we eat, and sprouts contain approximately 100 times more enzymes than mature vegetables and fruits.
  • Mineral-Protein Bioavailability. Minerals such as magnesium and calcium bind to a seed’s proteins as the seed begins to sprout. This makes both the protein and minerals more usable for our body.

Sprout Safety

Because ideal growing conditions for sprouts are equally ideal for bacteria, there is a slight risk of food poisoning with raw or lightly cooked sprouts. They must be purchased and handled with care. Keep the following sprout safety tips in mind:

  1. Look for the ISGA (International Sprout Growers Assoc.) seal on the package, and do not purchase sprouts if the sell-by date is expired. If buying in bulk, ask your grocer for the sell-by date.
  2. Only purchase sprouts if the roots are clean, the stems are white or cream colored, the buds are still attached and are a light color.
  3. Keep sprouts refrigerated and wash them thoroughly under running water before eating. Sprouts should have a clean, fresh odor (not musty).
  4. Two days after the sell-by date or two days after purchasing the sprouts - whichever comes first - compost or dispose of them.
  5. Consider buying sprouts from certified organic growers.

Caution: At Risk Individuals

The benefits of eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts is thought to outweigh the risks for generally healthy individuals. However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the FDA, recommend people with weak immune systems, children, pregnant women, and the elderly only consume thoroughly cooked sprouts. Thorough cooking guarantees sprouts will be bacteria free.

To enjoy cooked sprouts, toss them into soups, stir fries, or stews near the end of the cooking process, or oven roast them until browned and crispy.

Sources: World’s Healthiest Foods ; Mercola; Eat Right/Academy Nutrition & Dietetics ; FDA
Photo credit: Yumi Kimura