What are sprouts?

Filling, low calorie food

Sprouts are the young edible shoots of newly germinated seeds of various herbaceous plants, including vegetables, herbs, legumes, and field crops.

Sprouts include the entire germinated plant (root, shoot, cotyledons, and remnant seed coat) which is sold for use as a vegetable, in stir-fries, salads and sandwiches. They are most commonly used in asian cuisines or salads.

Sprouts are made by germinating seeds of various legumes or herbs or cereals, for example, radish, Alfalfa, lentils, peas, sunflower, mustard and watercress, by adding water to the seeds under optimum temperature conditions.

The germination process results in growth of young shoots called sprouts. The most familiar and most common sprouts are alfalfa (Medicago sativa or lucerne) and mung bean (vigna radiata) sprouts.

Image by Atelier Joly April 5th 2005 (Creative Commons 3.0)

What Changes occur after sprouting?

Note that the growth from seed to sprout is accompanied by changes in nutritional value, in the following:

Changes in Carbohydrate, fat and Water

Most of the carbohydrate and fat in the seed is utilized during growth and the water content increases dramatically. Beans sprouts are in general composed of about 90 percent water.

Changes in Vitamin C

The concentration of vitamin c goes up by 300-500% depending on the seeds being germinated. Since the vitamin c in the seeds is relatively low, the increase makes sprouts a good but not outstanding source of vitamin C.

For example,100g of raw mung seeds: provides 6% of the RDA for vitamin C and 40% of RDA of folate (B9); on the other hand,  100g of mung bean sprouts provide 16% of RDA for vitamin C and only 15% of folate (B9);

For example, 100g red or yellow bell pepper provides 306% of RDA vitamin C, and raw guava, provides 381% of RDA vitamin C, so you are definitely better off adding slices of pepper or guava to the salad or sandwich with sprouts.

Fruits and vegetables like guava, oranges, red and yellow bell pepper are undoubtedly, a better source of vitamin c.

Changes in B Vitamins

100g cooked mung beans provides 14% of RDA for vitamin B1 and 40% for vitamin B9

100g mung bean sprouts on the other hand provide 7% of RDA for vitamin B1and 15% respectively.

Changes in Beta Carotene

Sprouted oats, for example, have exceptional amounts of beta carotene.

Please note that the oat groats sold in stores will not sprout because the kernels have undergone heat and moisture treatment to deactivate the lipolytic enzymes. Use seeds intended for sprouting.

Are Sprouts really nutritional stars as hyped?

Sprouts are not always nutritional superstars as hyped, but are nevertheless filling, low calorie food with flavourful crunchiness. They are always tender and sweet.

Sautéed Zucchini and Bell Pepper myfavouritepastime.com

What seeds can be sprouted?

Technically all viable seeds can be sprouted, but sprouts from tomato, potato, eggplant and rhubarb, should not be eaten whatsoever, whether cooked or raw, because they can be poisonous.

Use seeds ‘intended for sprouting’

Do not use sowing seeds because they may be treated with chemical dressing and this should not be ingested. Use seeds intended for sprouting.

Seeds suitable for sprouting

Each type of sprout has it’s own shape, taste and texture.

  1. Legumes: alfalfa, clover, fenugreek, lentil, pea, chickpea, mung bean and soybean (soya bean).
  2. Cereals: oat, wheat, maize (corn), rice, barley and rye
  3. Pseudo cereals: quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat.
  4. Oil seeds: sesame, sunflower, peanut, hazelnut, almond.
  5. Vegetables: spinach, lettuce, lemon grass, watercress, radish, turnip,
  6. Brassica: broccoli, cabbage, mustard, radish
  7. Carrot family: carrot, celery, parsley, fennel
  8. Allium: onion, leek, green onion.

Important Points to Note on Sprouts

  1. Seeds and sprouts must be rinsed regularly to avoid accumulation of products of decay organisms and smells of rot and discolouration.
  2. While sprouts are a healthy food option, they can sometimes be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella which can lead to food poisoning.
  3. Avoid eating raw or undercooked sprouts.
  4. Do not eat tomato, potato, eggplant and rhubarb sprouts.

Here are important resources for more information on sprouting

  1. Health Canada: on sprouts and food poisoning.
  2. FDA: sprouts, what you should know
  3. University of Kentucky: info sheet on sprouts.
  4. Johnny’s Selected Seeds for Sprouts.
  5. Sprout People.


Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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