Sprouts: Why They are Among the Healthiest Foods You Can Eat ... and 15 Interesting Varieties
© 2017 Health Realizations, Inc. Updated
Sprouts are tiny, baby plants that are just beginning their journey into the familiar veggies we know. Yet, at this stage the sprout is packed with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and more, which it will need to grow into a mature plant.
Sprouts are "living veggies" that give you the benefits of raw food and "live" nutrition.
Eating sprouts, therefore, is said to be among the healthiest ways to consume your vegetables, because you get higher concentrations of nutrients, and, because the sprout is still alive and growing when it's consumed, it is a raw food, full of live nutrition (which cooked vegetables do not provide).
"Sprouts are the elixir of life," says Angela Elliott, a practitioner in holistic modalities and author of Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes.
Of note, while a head of broccoli from the supermarket will degrade in nutritional quality the longer it sits in your fridge, broccoli sprouts will continue to grow and gain nutrients, within reason, until you eat them. Further, gram for gram, broccoli sprouts have more nutrients than mature broccoli, so eating a small amount of sprouts may actually be better for you than eating a large amount of mature broccoli.
For instance, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that five grams of fresh broccoli sprouts contain the same concentrations of the compound glucoraphanin as 150 grams of mature broccoli.
Glucoraphanin is a precursor to sulforaphane, which has been shown to boost enzymes that protect against molecular damage from cancer-causing chemicals.
Health Benefits of Sprouts: What Does the Research Say?
Much of the research related to sprouts has focused on broccoli sprouts. Though these are far from the only healthy sprout, they do seem to offer exceptional health benefits. Here is a summary of what research has uncovered about a variety of sprouts:
- Broccoli sprouts fight cancer and stomach ulcers. Japanese researchers found that a diet rich in broccoli sprouts significantly reduced H. pylori infection among a group of 20 people. H. pylori is known to cause gastritis, peptic ulcers and possibly stomach cancer.
- Broccoli sprout extract protects against skin cancer. When researchers from Johns Hopkins University applied the extract to the skin of hairless mice, it counteracted the carcinogenic effect of ultraviolet light exposure.
- Eating just 113 grams of broccoli sprouts, radish sprouts, alfalfa sprouts or clover sprouts each day may help to reduce your risk of cancer by protecting your DNA from damage.
How to Eat Sprouts, and Which Varieties Can I Choose From?
Adding sprouts to your salads and sandwiches is an easy way to boost your nutrient intake.
You can easily grow your own sprouts at home using seeds and an at-home kit, but they are now widely available in supermarkets as well. Look for fresh, refrigerated sprouts without any brown discoloration, and experiment with different varieties to find the ones you like the most (they range in flavor from mild to spicy). Some of the most popular varieties include:
- Mung bean
- Red clover
Sprouts make an excellent addition to salads (for a tasty and incredibly healthy treat, be sure to try out the Sprouts n' Greens Salad in Alive in 5 and sandwiches, and you can even eat them on their own with some olive oil and fresh lemon.
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