Naturopathic Kitchen: Sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts in a bowl.

Sprouts have become a hit ingredient in fresh sandwiches, salads, and stir-frys, but what are they really? Essentially germinated seeds that have just begun to grow before being harvested, sprouts exist in a variety of forms. There are many types of sprouted seeds/beans, but some of the most popular include alfalfa, radish, broccoli, mung bean, green pea, and red clover.

The Health Benefits of Sprouts

Improve Digestive Health

Adding sprouts to your diet may improve digestive health for multiple reasons. First, sprouted seeds contain significantly more fiber than unsprouted seeds. 1 Sprouts are particularly high in insoluble fiber, which helps reduce constipation and aid digestion. 2 Sprouted seeds also contain lower levels of antinutrients (compounds that inhibit the absorption of nutrients) than unsprouted seeds, meaning that your body will absorb more nutrients from sprouts. 3

Manage Blood Sugar Levels

Multiple studies show that consuming sprouts may aid in blood sugar management, although researchers are not all in agreement on the reason why. One possibility is that sprouts may help to break down and digest sugars by regulating the amylase enzyme, while other researchers believe that the high amount of the antioxidant sulforaphane found in some sprouts is what contributes to blood sugar management. 4 5

Boost Cardiovascular Health

While more research needs to be conducted, initial studies show that the consumption of sprouts may help to improve cardiovascular health. One study found that daily consumption of 100 grams of broccoli sprouts for seven days resulted in increased HDL or “good” cholesterol in women and decreased LDL or “bad” cholesterol in men. 6 Another study, where participants ate 60 grams of fresh lentil sprouts daily for eight weeks, resulted in a 12% increase in good cholesterol and a 75-84% decrease in bad cholesterol. 7

Different Types of Sprouts

Alfalfa Sprouts

Flavor: Mild, fresh, subtle nutty taste.

How to Use Them: Eat these sprouts raw in salads, sandwiches, and wraps.

Red Radish Sprouts

Flavor: Spicy, peppery, similar to a radish root.

How to Use Them: The vibrant red hue of radish sprouts makes them a great way to add a little color to any meal. Use them raw in sandwiches, salads, and wraps, or add them as a garnish to stir fries, grain bowls, soups, or pasta dishes.

Broccoli Sprouts

Flavor: Earthy and a little spicy.

How to Use Them: Add them raw to your favorite sandwiches or wraps for a zesty crunch, blend them into a dip or spread to up the nutrient value and give it a kick.

Mung Bean Sprouts

Flavor: Mild, fresh.

How to Use Them: Mung bean sprouts are delicious when lightly sautéed, and their mild taste means that they take on the flavor of whatever sauces or spices you add. Put mung bean sprouts in your favorite stir-fry, ramen, pho, and other soups.

Green Pea Sprouts

Flavor: Sweet, similar to fresh peas.

How to Use Them: Green pea sprouts are best eaten raw in salads, sandwiches, wraps, or as a garnish on grain bowls or stir-fries.

Red Clover

Flavor: Fresh, light, similar to lettuce.

How to Use Them: Add raw red clover sprouts to any dish that could use a little extra crunch, such as sandwiches, salads, or wraps. These sprouts are very mild tasting, and so they can be paired with almost any flavor.

Sprouts are a versatile ingredient that can boost the nutrient value of your meals. There are many varieties of sprouts with different tastes and textures, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different types and discover which ones you like best.

Disclaimer: Consumption of sprouts has been linked to foodborne illness, given that they grow in moist environments. See this Sprouts Food Safety fact sheet for more details.

 

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