10 Best Benefits of Sprouts

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Emily Borth

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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, aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, prevent neural tube defects in infants, boost skin health, improve vision, support the immune system, and increase usable energy reserves.

What are Sprouts?

Sprouts may refer to a number of vegetable or plant beans after they begin to grow. The most common sprouts that people regularly use in cooking are alfalfa, soy, and mung bean, 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 contain a significant amount of vitamins and nutrients not present in the un-sprouted form. Typically, a week after germination, the sprouts will have the highest concentration and bioavailability of nutrients. Seeds 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 fare. Although they can be cultivated anywhere, they are often found as a topping for various dishes in Asian cuisine, as well as a common ingredient in salads. They are readily available no matter what market you go to.

The important thing to remember is that some of the nutritive value of sprouts is lost when they are heated. Most often, sprouts are added to the meal in their raw form both for taste and to guarantee that they have the most nutrient impact. However, due to the risk of food poisoning, individuals considered at high risk should thoroughly cook sprouts prior to consumption according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, anyone with a weakened immune system, young children or the elderly. Let’s explore what makes sprouts such a powerful, yet overlooked source of so many health benefits.

Sprouts Nutrition Facts

All of the nutritional and medicinal benefits of sprouts are derived from their impressive vitamin, mineral, and organic compounds content. They 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, they contain zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Many of these component nutrients increase dramatically as the sprout continues to develop. Along with all of these components, sprouts are also a rich source of enzymes that are essential for health.

Health Benefits of Sprouts

Now, let’s explore some of the fascinating and vital health benefits that sprouts hold for us!

Improve Digestion

One of the best things about sprouts is that they contain an unusually high number of enzymes. This can help boost 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 break down food effectively and increase the absorption of nutrients by the digestive tract. Furthermore, the dietary fiber in sprouts makes them an important boost for digestive functions. Fiber bulks up the stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract. Dietary fiber also stimulates gastric juices, which aid the enzymes already found in sprouts in breaking down food effectively and efficiently. They are a great way to clear up constipation as well as diarrhea.

A wooden bowl of fresh sprouts on a wooden table

Boost Metabolism

As already mentioned, sprouts contain a wealth of enzymes. This major influx represents a kick start for the body, and can seriously impact its metabolic activity. Beyond that, sprouts also contain a significant amount of protein, according to a report published in The Journal of Nutrition. Protein is necessary for almost all bodily processes, particularly the creation and maintenance of cells, organ repair, skin regeneration, bone growth, and muscle development. 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 as an important source of protein.

Prevent Anemia

Anemia is the technical word for certain nutrient deficiencies. One common cause of anemia is iron deficiency. If you don’t consume enough food with iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, which is essential to allow your red blood cells to carry oxygen. 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, you can ensure proper improve the circulation of blood in your body, thereby increasing the oxygenation of your organ systems 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 them without worrying about compromising your diet. In a study conducted in Korea, rats, which were previously fed a high-fat diet, were given a broccoli sprouts extract and they showed significant weight loss as well as fat loss. Furthermore, the fiber in sprouts helps to make you feel full, both by adding bulk to your bowels and 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 snacking and overeating between meals, two of the biggest problems for someone suffering from the problem of obesity.

Improve Heart Health

Sprouts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an essential fatty acid. Diets high in omega 3 fatty acids can actually reduce triglycerides in the blood and have been shown to improve HDL or healthy cholesterol, though the evidence for this is inconsistent. A study by The Center for Genetics in Washington DC, US confirmed that sprouts are high in antioxidants and omega-3. The omega-3 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory in nature, so they reduce the stress on your cardiovascular system 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.

Prevent Neural Tube Defects

Neural tube defects are one of the most common side effects of a deficiency of folate, a B vitamin that is incredibly important especially for pregnant women. Sprouts have a significant amount of folate, thereby protecting infants from this tragic condition.

Boost Immune System

There 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 anti-inflammatory properties that enhance immune system strength and function.

Eye Care

Vitamin A has been associated with an improvement in vision health for many years. Additionally, vitamin C 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, it can help improve vision too, so eat your sprouts and start seeing the world a bit more clearly!

Relieve 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 amino acid, called lysine, which inhibits the growth of cold sores and treats them if they appear. This enzyme is conveniently found in significant amounts in sprouts!

Reduce Allergic Reactions

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.

Word of Caution: Sprouts are far more beneficial when eaten raw; however, they have also been associated with outbreaks of bacterial foodborne illnesses like E. coli and other potentially serious infections. You should only purchase them from reputable sources or grocery stores, and make sure to wash them thoroughly before serving in a salad or as a topping to a dish. Other than this concern, they are a delicious and nutritious way to add some flair to your meal and some benefits to your health!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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