The health benefits of sprouts make up quite an impressive list, and they include the ability to improve the digestive process, boost the metabolism, increase enzymatic activity throughout the body, prevent anemia, help with weight loss, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, prevent neural tube defects in infants, protect against cancer, boost skin health, improve vision, support the immune system, and increase usable energy reserves.
Introduction to Sprouts
Sprouts may refer to a number of different vegetable or plant beans in the period of time after they begin to grow. The most common sprouts that people regularly use in cooking are alfalfa, soy, and mung bean sprouts, as well as various other types of bean sprouts. The reason that so many people turn to sprouts as a source of food is that they represent a much more significant amount of vitamins and nutrients than they do in an un-sprouted form. Typically, a week after sprouting, the sprouts will have the highest concentration and bioavailability of nutrients. Beans must contain a packed storehouse of all the important nutrients that a plant will need to grow in its initial days, so those tiny caps are filled with important organic compounds, vitamins, and minerals that our body can also utilize.
There are a number of different cultures that highly value sprouts as an essential element of their cooking. Although sprouts can be cultivated anywhere that beans are grown (which is basically anywhere in the world), Asian nations seem to have adopted sprouts as a topping for various dishes, as well as a common ingredient in salads more than most other countries in the world. They are readily available no matter what market you go to, however.
The important thing to remember is that much of the nutritive value of sprouts is lost when they are heated. In other words, although they are a very important source of nutrients and beneficial health boosts, they should always be added to meal in their raw form to guarantee that they have the most impact. Let’s explore some of the components of sprouts that make them such a powerful, yet overlooked, source of so many health benefits.
Nutritional Facts of Sprouts
All of the nutritional and medicinal benefits of sprouts are derived from their impressive vitamin, mineral, and organic compounds content. Sprouts contain a significant amount of protein and dietary fiber, as well as vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, vitamin C, vitamin A, and riboflavin. In terms of minerals, sprouts contain manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Many of these component nutrients increase dramatically as the sprout continues to develop. Along with all of those components, sprouts are also a rich source of enzymes that are essential for health. It is best to eat sprouts that first opened one or two weeks earlier. Now, let’s explore some of the fascinating and vital health benefits that sprouts hold for us!
Health Benefits of Sprouts
Digestion: One of the best things about sprouts is that they contain an unusually high number of enzymes. This can help boost the various metabolic processes and chemical reactions within the body, specifically when it comes to digestion. Enzymes are an important part of the digestive process, and they help to break down food effectively and increase the absorption of nutrients by the digestive tract. Furthermore, the dietary fiber found in sprouts makes it a very important boost for digestive functions. Fiber bulks up the stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract. Furthermore, dietary fiber stimulates gastric juices, which aid the enzymes already found in sprouts in breaking down food effectively and efficiently. Sprouts are a great way to clear up constipation, as well as diarrhea, and can even prevent colorectal cancer.
Metabolic Booster: As was already mentioned, sprouts contain a wealth of enzymes that usually aren’t available through food. This major influx represents a kick start for the body, and can seriously impact the metabolic activity of your body. Beyond that, sprouts also contain a significant amount of protein, which is the essential part of food that allows our body to perform all of its chemical functions. Protein is necessary for almost all bodily processes, particularly the creation and maintenance of cells, organ repair, skin regeneration, bone growth, muscle development, and a number of other very important aspects of health. This means that sprouts are an easy and delicious way to improve the overall functioning and development of your body. This high nutritive content is also why sprouts are so highly recommended for vegetarians and vegans, since meat is such a traditionally important source of protein. Sprouts can replace that source of protein for many people.
Anemia and Blood Circulation: Anemia is the technical word for an iron deficiency. If you don’t consume enough food with iron, your red blood cell count drops, because iron is an essential part of red blood cell production. This can result in fatigue, lack of concentration, nausea, light-headedness, and stomach disorders. By maintaining your red blood cell count with proper amounts of iron (and copper, which is also found in sprouts), you can improve the circulation of blood in your body, thereby increasing the oxygenation of organ systems and cells to optimize their performance.
Weight Loss: Sprouts are one of those foods that are very high in nutrients but very low in calories. This means that you can eat sprouts without worrying about compromising your diet. Furthermore, the fiber in sprouts helps to make you feel full, both by adding bulk to your bowels, but also by inhibiting the release of ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone that tells our mind that we are ready to eat something. This can reduce overeating and snacking, two of the biggest problems for someone suffering through the problems of obesity.
Heart Health: Sprouts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and although these are technically a form of cholesterol, they are considered “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and can actually reduce the amount of harmful cholesterol in your blood vessels and arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory in nature, so they reduce the stress on your cardiovascular system in that was as well. The potassium content of sprouts also helps to reduce blood pressure, since potassium is a vasodilator, and can release the tension in arteries and blood vessels. This increases circulation and oxygenation, while reducing clotting and lowering the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Infant Health: Neural tube defects are one of the most common side effects of a deficiency in folate, a member of the B vitamin complex. Sprouts have a significant amount of folate, thereby protecting your infant from this tragic condition.
Immune System: The are a number of factors that make sprouts a powerful booster for the immune system. Its vitamin-C content alone makes it a powerful stimulant for the white blood cells in the body to fight off infection and disease. Furthermore, as a sprout continues to develop, vitamin A can multiply almost ten times its original content. Vitamin A has a number of antioxidant properties that make a great source of immune system strength.
Cancer Prevention: The antioxidant activity of the organic compounds found in sprouts make it a very good anti-cancer choice for your diet. The vitamin C, vitamin A, as well as amino acids and proteins (including the huge amount of enzymes) can also impact the free radical content in the body. Free radicals are the natural, dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells. They are also responsible for some heart diseases, premature aging, cognitive decline, and a variety of age-related health concerns. Sprouts can counteract these effects, thereby helping to reduce the chances of developing cancer.
Vision and Eye Health: Vitamin A has been associated with an improvement in vision health for many years. It acts as an antioxidant agent to protect the eyes’ cells from free radicals. In this way, sprouts can help prevent glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. In fact, vision can even improve in some cases, so eat your sprouts and start seeing the world a bit more clearly!
Cold Sores: Cold sores can be an unsightly, painful, and uncomfortable condition to suffer through. If they get infected, they can even become a serious health risk. There is a specific enzyme, called lysine, that actually inhibits the growth of cold sores and treats them if they do appear. This enzyme is conveniently found in significant amounts in sprouts!
Allergy and Asthma: Some varieties of sprouts, like broccoli sprouts, have been linked to reducing allergic reactions, including asthma, which is an inflammatory condition of the respiratory system. Although the exact chemical pathway is not fully understood, additional research is being done on this topic all the time.
A Few Words of Caution: Sprouts are far more beneficial when eaten raw, however, sprouts have also been associated with outbreaks of bacterial foodborne illnesses like E. coli and other potentially serious infections. You should only purchase sprouts from reputable sources and grocery stores, and make sure to wash the sprouts thoroughly before serving in a salad or as a topping to a dish. Other than this concern, sprouts are a delicious and nutritious way to add some flare to your meal and some benefits to your health!