The Nutritional Benefits of Sprouts

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The Nutritional Benefits of Sprouts

Few of us realize that a very simple and inexpensive solution to dramatically improving our overall health is easily within our reach, and that that solution is sprouts! Sprouts give us protein, important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and anti-oxidants , as well as flavor and texture, to our often less-than-perfect diets.

Yes, I’m talking about sprouts. Those simple little things we sometimes add on our salads are actually incredibly nutritious and good for us, and there are numerous ways to add them to our meals. Sprouts come in a variety of flavors to accent almost any meal, and in most cases have more nutritional value than the full size vegetables, often several times as much. This amazing food is so easy to incorporate into a well-balanced diet. The simplest way is to add them to sandwiches and salads, but you can also add the great taste, texture and variety of sprouts to soups, pizza, stir-fry dishes and omelets.

Although Alfalfa and Bean Sprouts are the most familiar varieties, many other kinds of Sprouts are readily available, including Broccoli and Radish Sprouts, Garlic and Onion Sprouts, Lentil, Clover, Sunflower, Pea Shoots and Soybean. All of these individual varieties have their own unique flavors, textures and nutritional benefits. Sprouts can be excellent sources of protein and other essential nutrients. For example, one cup (100 grams) of Soy Sprouts contain the same amount of protein as 100 grams of Eggs, but zero cholesterol. Several types of sprouts contain more protein than cooked meat-at a tiny fraction of the cost. Also, the presence and balance of amino acids makes this protein much more digestible than animal protein. All sprouts are rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes, and fiber. When exposed to light, several become rich in chlorophyll, which helps cleanse and oxygenate the blood. Enzymes aid in the digestion and assimilation of nutrients, and contribute to the body’s life force. Fiber aids elimination and their lecithin helps the body get rid of cholesterol. Antioxidants supply protection for you from radiation and toxic chemicals. They are an equipment of sorts to help the body to cleanse, detox, rebuild and heal itself. Antioxidant enzymes are especially important  because they are essential for the proper function of the immune system, and organic sprouts are one of the best sources for these important nutrients, allowing you to be able to build up your immune system.

The protein in Sprouts can be made “complete” by pairing Sprouts with garbanzo beans in a hummus sandwich. Pea Sprouts contain 3 times more phosphorus than Spinach, and over 4 times its potassium and niacin. Radish Sprouts provide 40 times more vitamin A than the mature radish vegetable.  Studies have shown that in comparison to dried seeds, sprouted foods contain an amazing increase in nutrients.  During the sprouting process, the vitamins, minerals, and protein increase substantially and the calories and carbohydrate contents decrease.  These comparisons are based on the equivalent water content contained in the foods that were measured. As expected, analysis showed that dried seeds, grains, and legumes have a very low water content.  The water and nutrient content increases when the same foods are converted into sprouts.

Sprouts are real health food. The right combination of sprouts contains everything needed for life and health. All their many nutritional elements are easily assimilated and readily available to your body. And when you grow them at home, you know they are pure, and you can enjoy them at the peak of their perfection. In addition to adding protein and other nutrients to your diet, many varieties of Sprouts contain plant chemicals that some studies indicate may protect against the onset of heart disease and cancer. Alfalfa Sprouts contain high levels of saponins, which have been shown in studies to reduce cholesterol. Much has been written about the cancer-inhibiting properties of broccoli, but very few people know that Broccoli Sprouts actually contain 20 to 50 times the amount of the cancer-inhibiting chemicals as broccoli.

Johns Hopkins scientists have found a new and highly concentrated source of sulforaphane, a compound they identified in 1992 that helps mobilize the body’s natural cancer-fighting resources and reduces risk of developing cancer. “Three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads, and may offer a simple, dietary means of chemically reducing cancer risk,” says Paul Talalay, M.D., J.J. Abel Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacology.

Clinical studies are currently under way to see if eating a few tablespoons of the sprouts daily can supply the same degree of chemoprotection as one to two pounds of broccoli eaten weekly. The sprouts look and taste something like alfalfa sprouts, according to Talalay. Talalay founded the Brassica Chemoprotection Laboratory, a Hopkins center that focuses on identifying chemoprotective nutrients and finding ways to maximize their effects. Brassica is a plant genus more commonly known as the mustard family, and includes in addition to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and turnips.

By adding Sprouts to salads, soups, sandwiches and stir-fry dishes, you can bring new flavors and textures to everyday foods. They contain all of the nutrients found in the various fruits and vegetables. Eating sprouts is a safe way of getting the nutritional advantage of both fruits and vegetables without contamination and harmful insecticides.  However, it’s very important that seeds and dried beans are purchased from a store where they are fresh, unsprayed and packaged as food.  Seeds that are sold for planting may contain mercury compounds or other toxic chemicals.  You can buy organic sprouting seeds at natural food markets, and there are a number of companies that sell organic seeds and sprouting kits on-line. If you are looking for simple ways to eat healthy in 2012, remember that Sprouts are a wonderfully easy and inexpensive way to add important nutrients to your diet.