Sprouts: The protein-packed gift of nature
Sprouts are compact sources of energy and vital nutrients, and here are 10 reasons why including them in your regular meals isn’t just a choice, but could well be considered indispensable for good health!
With growing awareness that nutrition is key to leading a healthy life, people are now on the lookout for nourishing foods that do not require lengthy preparations. A significant role is played by ready-to-eat vegetables harvested at the earliest growth stages, and they are commonly known as sprouts. They are germinated seeds that will soon become tender stems.
Sprouts are produced by soaking selected grains or legumes overnight in water. The excess water is then drained, and the soaked grains or legumes are placed in a wet muslin cloth, and water sprinkled over them from time to time. The moisture and air help in the development of shoots. Besides being a powerhouse of nutrients to enhance our health, sprouts’ benefits include:
- Protein and carbohydrate, including a good dose of dietary fibre
- Vitamins such as vitamin C, β-carotene, and B complex vitamins
- Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium
- Health-promoting bioactive compounds such as quercetin and catechin that show antioxidant activity.
Different types of sprouts
Various plant-based food sources can be sprouted. While there are numerous benefits of eating sprouts daily, the different types of sprouts include:
- Cereal sprouts: Cereals are grass varieties of plants and widely available as grains in the market. Grains that can be sprouted include corn, whole-grain wheat, barley, rye, rice, and oats.
- Legume sprouts: Legumes are generally higher in protein, and are among the most sprouted varieties. Examples include kidney bean sprouts, lentil sprouts, pea sprouts, chickpea sprouts, soybean sprouts, and mung bean sprouts.
- Vegetable sprouts: Some vegetables that are sprouted are broccoli and red cabbage.
- Seed sprouts: These include pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seed, and methi and mustard seed sprouts.
Health Benefits of Sprouts
- Increased bioavailability of nutrients: Benefits of eating sprouts daily are attributed to the process of germination that helps increase protein, amino acids, sugars, and vitamins. Simultaneously, anti-nutritional factors—largely known as phytates—which can interfere with nutrient absorption are reduced, thus increasing the availability of minerals that can be absorbed by our cells.
- Improved Digestion: Sprouts’ health benefits for digestion are from their high fibre content. All germinated legumes have higher levels of dietary fibre, so they ensure easy passage of food and minimise the chances of constipation. Besides, germinating grains have an enzyme called amylase that helps break down complex starches to simple sugars, thus enabling easy digestion.
- Antioxidant Activity: Several bioactive compounds in sprouts are known to show antioxidant qualities that can reduce a load of free radicals, which are harmful molecules in our body that can damage cells. These functional properties of sprouts are credited for their numerous health benefits.
- May help manage high blood sugar levels: Diabetes is characterised by elevated blood sugar levels. This could be from the lack of insulin, the hormone that is responsible for managing blood sugar. Preventing the accumulation of sugar is thus important, and may be achieved through the active components of sprouts that exhibit antioxidant properties. Overall, the consumption of sprouts is also associated with the efficient management of blood sugar among diabetics.
- May impact bone health: The high calcium and phosphorus content in sprouts can contribute to building strong bones. Alternatively, sprouts’ benefits to bone health include prevention of the accumulation of sugar compounds that can in turn, lead to the weakening of bones, a condition known as osteoporosis.
- Helpful to manage weight: High levels of cholesterol through the consumption of excessive fatty food can lead to stressful conditions whereby harmful free radicals accumulate in our body and damage our cells. This can cause fat levels to rise. The benefits of eating sprouts include their ability to manage high levels of damaging cholesterol, which can be beneficial in managing weight.
- Protective for the heart: Sprouted seeds show protective effects against heart-related diseases caused by imbalanced cholesterol levels. It has also been reported that sprouted seeds are important in the prevention of blocked arteries. Saponins, the bioactive compounds in sprouts, can accelerate the excretion of cholesterol in the faeces, thus ensuring it does not settle in the blood vessels, which can damage the heart.
- Antiviral Activity: Antiviral agents from plant bioactive molecules can help cope with the challenges of viral infections that are among the major causes of deaths globally. Mung beans are among the sprouts good for health given their ability to reduce viral infections.
- Antibiotic Effect: When plants are exposed to stress by microorganisms, they may develop defence mechanisms to provide protection. When these helpful components are consumed in the form of sprouts, they can inhibit the growth of pathogens that would otherwise harm the human system. It is learnt that pea benefits in this regard, especially its sprouts’ benefits to health are numerous.
- Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is the body’s immune response in case of injury and is characterised by pain, redness, and swelling. However, the body can go into inflammation mode when there isn’t a need for it, and the products that are released in the process can damage our cells, a serious case that may even lead to life-threatening illnesses. Sprouts’ health benefits are linked to their ability in preventing and treating inflammation, which is usually the starting point of various diseases in the modern world.
Sprouts Chaat Recipes
While sprouts’ salad benefits stem from the multitude of functions mentioned above, those aren’t the only way to eat sprouts. Sprouts’ health benefits can also be leveraged in the form of chaat, promising just the same nutrients. Here are a few ideas:
- Pani Puri with Sprouts: Instead of filling the puri with pressure-cooked whole moong or regular potatoes, moong that is left to sprout overnight can be used instead. With the goodness of classic pani puri water made with mint and dates, sprouted pani puri can turn into a healthy and delicious snack, even as the body gets its quota of sprouts’ benefits.
- Corn Sprouts Bhel: Prepared by adding boiled sweet corn, chopped onion, tomato, potato, and coriander-mint chutney mixture with sev, this is a wholesome way of consuming sprouted moong, which is both tangy and delectable!
- Bhelpuri with Sprouts: A regular bhel puri is made using puffed rice and the classic red and green chutney prepared from mint and dates, respectively. However, it can be made all the more nourishing by adding sprouted legumes, thus ensuring a healthy serving of the sprouted goodness for the day.
The benefits of eating sprouts daily are an area of nutrition that we’ve unwillingly ignored. While our forefathers were known for their healthy eating practices, we’ve begun to slowly lose touch with this culture, given the various fast food options that are so easily available. However, considering the different sprouts’ health benefits, such as their ability to improve digestion, reduce cholesterol levels and weight, and prevent and manage various infections as well as disease states, making them a part of our everyday diet is an absolute must to achieve the goals of optimum nutrition!