Introduction

You have probably encountered sprouts in salads, sandwiches, and Asian dishes. They also go by the name micro-greens

Sprouts are very young seedlings that are packed with nutrition.  They have been a major part of Asian culture for centuries. Sprouted seeds and beans are available for many varieties of plants and they are usually harvested just a few days after they are germinated.  You can often buy alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts in your local grocery store and markets. 

Many Sprouts have higher vitamin amounts than the fully grown version of the same plant they have high levels of minerals as well.  Overall seed and bean sprouts are one of the healthiest foods you can eat but you need to be careful and we’ll talk more about that in this article. 

If you have never eaten sprouts before they have a mild to nutty taste.  Arugula may be a good comparison.  Bean sprouts from mung beans are full of water and have little taste.  Alfalfa sprouts have more taste and more of a grass-like texture and are crunchy.  While I really like alfalfa sprouts I can see where some people may not like the texture as much as mung bean sprouts.   Really these products are not expensive and picking up a small clamshell of alfalfa sprouts is the only way to really check out the product.

When seeds or beans are dampened with water have the right temperature, and get light, they start to grow into plants.  This is called germination.  Sprouts are ready to pick when they have developed their first immature leaves called cotyledons.  Most of us call them first leaves.  Most seed and bean sprouts take 3-5 days before they can be harvested for food.    

Sprouts are important to your overall health because of the concentrated nutrients that are found in sprouts.  One cup of mung bean sprouts contains 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and only 31 calories.  Sprouts contain antioxidants and vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Sprouts are easier to digest and make more nutrients available to your system.  Nutrients are concentrated in sprouts making sprouts a true superfood.  

Alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts can usually be found at your local supermarket.  Check the looks of the sprouts before you buy.  They should look fresh and not be wilted.  If there is a best before date take note of it.  Sprouts are not one of those things that you can keep in your refrigerator for a week before using them.  It’s best to shop for them as you need them.  

Grow Your Own Sprouts and Micro-Greens

If you want something a little different you may wish to check local markets.  Alternatively, you can easily grow your own sprouts without any special equipment.  

Some great sprouts to grow are broccoli seeds, lentils, mustard seeds (spicy kick) beet seeds for a bright red color in salads, spinach seeds, radish seeds, sunflower seeds, and red clover.  Some of these seeds may not be readily available in the supermarket.  In fact, you may need to go to amazon or a feed store to purchase them in any usable quantity.  String bean seeds are about $10.00 per pound from a seed supplier.  Don’t get any seeds or beans that are chemically treated.  Stick with all-natural.  

You can grow sprouts in a plastic tray or you can buy a special sprouting tray from Amazon.

Make sure all of your trays and seeds are cleaned with very dilute bleach.  About a 10-1 mixture of water and household bleach should do the trick.  Just rinse them in the bleach solution for a few seconds and then rise the solution off of the seeds and trays.  This is to prevent salmonella or E.coli from contaminating your food.  Seeds come from plants in a field and there is always a potential to pick up pathogens along the way.  This goes for homegrown sprouts or store-bought sprouts.  

The easiest way to sprout seeds and beans is to soften them up in lukewarm water for 3 hours. Definitely do not use hot water.  Seeds are a living thing and will be killing the sprouting action of your seeds   You may wish to stir them with a whisk to break a hardened shell but usually this is not necessary.  

Scoop the seeds onto a paper towel and maintain the humidity (don’t let the seeds dry out) To maintain humidity you can put a cover on the tray.  Keep the seeds in a reasonably warm place.  

After a day, you will see the seed break apart and the tiny green sprouts start to emerge.  Keep them moist without letting the seed be wet.  After 3 days check the progress of your crop.  Again don’t let the sprouts dry out and a mister may work best to maintain moisture.  Most sprouts only need 3 day3 to 5 days to reach maximum size.  The smaller the seed the less time is usually required.  

Wash your sprouts and enjoy them.  They will keep 1 – 2 days in the refrigerator.  If they start to wilt it’s time to replace them.  

Can sprouts help you lose weight?

Sprouts can definitely help you lose weight.  Sprouts are one of the most vitamin and mineral-dense food without having many calories.  Imagine if you ate 10 cups of sprouts.  You would be totally full all day and you would only have ingested 300-400 calories.  Sprouts taste great as well.  They are easily incorporated into salads, sandwich toppers, wraps and pitas, garnishes, and cooking.  

By incorporating sprouts into your diet and eliminating an equivalent amount of high-calorie, low nutrition food you are on your way to losing excess weight.

Other Health Benefits

Bean sprouts and seed sprouts can help with eye health.  Lutein and zeaxanthin are common nutrients in microgreens and sprouts.  

Sprouts contain folate.  This is vitamin B9.  Folate is linked to healthy blood and may reduce the risk of some cancers, health and stroke disease, depression, birth defects, and dementia

Sprouts improve heart health and diabetes health because of lowering some risk factors associated with heart disease.  There have been a number of small studies where consistently there were health improvements in triglyceride levels, HDL (good) cholesterol, and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.  In one study there was a 10 percent reduction in A1C (blood glucose) levels.

Low levels of vitamin C have been reported to contribute to thin and brittle hair. Sprouts have a lot of vitamin C and this may be a way to help improve your hair.   

My Final Thoughts

Bean sprouts, seed sprouts, and nut sprouts are easy to grow or buy and have tremendous benefits for everyone.  There are so many different types of sprouts from bland to spicy that you won’t get bored easily,  From a weight-loss perspective sprouts are an excellent, tasty, and nutritious addition to a weight loss program.