The benefits of sprouts are endless. That’s why sprouted seeds, beans and grains are often regarded as nutrition powerhouses.
First off, they are packed with more vitamins, proteins, and fibre than regular seeds, beans, and grains. Sprouts are also known to improve digestion, heart health, and balance blood sugar.
Sprouts are easy to grow at home – all it requires is a jar to grow your sprouts on the kitchen counter.
For those who follow a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet, eating sprouted foods is a simple way to get a nutrient boost from foods often found in a plant-based diet like seeds, beans, and grains.
If you have genetic variations that may affect how you process specific vitamins, proteins, cholesterol, and blood sugar, eating sprouted foods may be beneficial in optimizing your nutritional needs and intake.
What Are Sprouts?
Sprouts are seeds, beans, and grains that have germinated, becoming young plants. By soaking them for several hours, the germination process begins. Most types of seeds, beans, and grains can be sprouted at home with minimal equipment.
When the sprouts have grown to 2-5 cm long, it is ready to eat. Sprouts can be eaten cooked or raw (depending on the type) and topped on soups, salads, and stir-fries.
What to Sprout?
Many types of seeds and beans can be sprouted, with some exceptions. Chia, hemp, and flax seeds are challenging to germinate and are not typically sprouted. Do not sprout red kidney beans because they contain a toxic compound once they are sprouted (1).
Instead, focus on sprouting these:
Bean and pea sprouts: Such as lentil, adzuki, garbanzo, soybean, mung bean, black bean, green pea and snow pea sprouts.
Sprouted grains: Such as brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth, Kamut, quinoa and oat sprouts.
Vegetable or leafy sprouts: Such as radish, broccoli, beet, mustard green, clover, cress and fenugreek sprouts.
Nut and seed sprouts: Such as almond, radish seed, alfalfa seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed or sunflower seed sprouts.
The Benefits of Sprouts
Sprouts Offer More Vitamins and Minerals
The sprouting process increases nutrient levels, making sprouts rich in proteins, folate (vitamin B9), minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, vitamins C and K than un-sprouted plants (2). One study has found a 10x increase in antioxidants like rutin from three days of sprouting (3).
Sprouts Offer More Protein
Several studies show that sprouting increases the protein content. Sprouts generally contain a higher level of essential amino acids, with some amino acids increasing by as much as 30% (4).
For instance, tofu and soy milk made from sprouted soybeans contain 7-13% more protein (5).
Sprouts Offer Improved Digestion and Added Fiber
When grains are sprouted for five days, the fibre it contains can increase to 133% than un-sprouted grains (6). What’s more, sprouted beans that are 5 mm long found an increase in the total fibre content by 226% (7).
Sprouting increases explicitly the content of insoluble fibre, a type of fibre that helps form stool and moves it through the digestive tract, reducing the chance of constipation.
Aside from the added fibre content found in sprouts, sprouting helps break down anti-nutrients that make them difficult to digest. Anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to minerals like magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron, making them harder to digest. Evolutionarily, the purpose of anti-nutrients protects the seed and allows it to stay intact as it passes through an animal’s digestive system to then grow into a plant.
Soaking and sprouting just for one day reduces the anti-nutrient content by 90% or more (8).
If you have experienced excessive flatulence or bloating after eating beans, chances are you won’t notice this problem if the beans are properly soaked and sprouted.
Sprouts Offer Better Heart Health
Several studies show that eating sprouts may increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels (9).
Studies conducted on those with type 2 diabetes have found that those who consumed 60 grams of lentil sprouts per day had 12% higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and 75-85% lower levels of triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol, compared to the control group (10).
Another study had found improved levels of total cholesterol in men and increased HDL cholesterol in women when they ate 100 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts per day (11).
Sprouts Offer Balanced Blood Sugar
Sprouts may help to balance your blood sugar. There are many theories as to how.
Some studies show that the carb content in sprouted foods are lower, though not all studies agree. Another theory is that sprouts may be more effective at regulating the amalyse enzyme, an enzyme responsible for breaking down and digesting sugars.
In one study, people with type 2 diabetes consumed a powdered broccoli sprout supplement for eight weeks, which resulted in lower blood insulin levels and insulin resistance. They found that the improvement in blood sugar balance was due to the high amounts of antioxidant sulforaphane found in the supplement (12).
Sprouts may provide people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes with better blood sugar control. However, more studies are needed to determine why and if the same results apply to those without diabetes.
Potential Problems with Sprouts
Sprouts have received negative attention for their potential to carry bacteria that cause food poisoning. Given that sprouts are often consumed raw or slightly cooked adds to this risk.
Eating raw sprouts are especially risky since they grow in warm, humid conditions in which harmful bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella also thrive.
Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with a weaker immune system should cook the sprouts before eating to avoid food poisoning risks.
These are precautions to take to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Are the sprouts refrigerated? Make sure to purchase fresh sprouts that are properly refrigerated.
- What’s the appearance and smell? Do not purchase sprouts with a slimy appearance or ones with a strong smell.
- Keep it cool. At home, keep the sprouts in the fridge under 8 degrees Celcius.
- Use a sterilized jar. Wash or sterilize the jar or vessel used for sprouting.
- Wash your hands and keep counters clean. Keep your hands clean when handling the sprouts and any surfaces near the sprouts.
Adding Sprouts to Your Diet
There are a variety of ways to incorporate sprouted seeds, beans, and grains into your dishes.
For example, raw broccoli or alfalfa sprouts can be added to a sandwich or topped on salads. Sprouted chickpeas or lentils can be added to warm meals like rice dishes, stir-fries, and soups.
Why You Should Eat Sprouts If You Have These Genetic Variations
Optimal nutrient absorption and metabolism is crucial to a healthy body. Several genes are known to impact nutrient absorption. Understanding your genetic variations may help to avoid potential nutrient deficiencies by consuming nutrient-dense foods like sprouts.
Sprouts offer an exceptional nutritional profile, superior to its un-sprouted counterpart. Nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, protein, and fibre are abundant in sprouted foods.
If you have genetic variations in these genes, you may consider adding sprouts to your diet to optimize your nutrient absorption:
BCMO1 gene and Vitamin A:
Involved in the conversion of beta-carotene, found exclusively in plant-based sources, into its active and bioavailable form, retinal.
MTHFD1 gene and Vitamin B9 (folate):
Involved in encoding a protein that regulates enzymes in the body for proper folate metabolism.
SCARB1 and HDL cholesterol:
Facilitates the uptake of HDL cholesterol in the liver. This movement of cholesterol is a protective mechanism against atherosclerosis development, which is the principal cause of heart disease and stroke.
APOE and LDL cholesterol:
Transports lipoproteins, fat-soluble vitamins, and cholesterol into the lymph system and then into the blood. It mediates cholesterol metabolism and is involved in cardiovascular disease.
PPARG and Insulin:
Influences the regulation of genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism and insulin production, which moderate the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Variations in this gene are associated with insulin resistance, playing a pivotal role in fat cell formation and metabolism.
The benefits of sprouts are endless. Whether you have genetic variations in the genes mentioned or not, adding sprouts to your diet is greatly advantageous. Not only are sprouts packed in vitamins and minerals, but it also offers a higher protein and fibre content than food that are not sprouted.
Sprouts are suitable for everyone. However, children, the elderly and pregnant women should take caution when eating sprouts, making sure to cook them every time before consumption. Eating raw sprouts may contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella.
Specific genes may impact nutrient absorption. By knowing your genetic variations, you can better understand and provide the nutrients required to allow your body to thrive with nutrient-dense foods like sprouts.
Empower your health with a DNA test. Find out what your genetic blueprint is so you can start supporting your body the right way and eat according to your DNA. Learn more here.