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Plant the Seeds for Better Nutrition with Sprouts

Plant the Seeds for Better Nutrition with Sprouts

The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.

I’ll never forget the day when my husband asked for my opinion on the most underrated, underappreciated food. As if I’d been waiting my entire life for someone to ask me this question, I immediately shouted: “Sprouts!”

I’ll admit, I used to walk right by sprouts in Heinen’s Produce Department without giving them a second thought. They weigh next to nothing and don’t look like much, so how could they offer any nutritional benefits? As with many things in life, looks can be deceiving.

What are Sprouts?

In a nutshell, sprouts are germinated seeds or beans. They are classified as both a vegetable and functional food (Fx Pillars 2 and 6). Harvested within a week of sprouting, sprouts contain more vitamins and minerals than the original seed because the process of germination unlocks key nutrients and releases them into the final product.

Our partners at Cleveland Bean Sprout Inc. grow these varieties of sprouts, which can be found in Heinen’s Produce Department:

  • Broccoli sprouts: Grown from broccoli seeds, broccoli sprouts have a mildly bitter taste.
  • Alfalfa sprouts: A slightly nutty flavor, alfalfa sprouts come from alfalfa seeds.
  • Clover sprouts: Red clover seeds are responsible for the slightly sweet flavor of clover sprouts.
  • Bean and lentil sprouts (Crispy Mix sprouts): A combination of sprouted green and red lentils, green peas, and adzuki beans offering a mild flavor and delicate crunch.

The Health Benefits of Sprouts

Sprouts are living food! Besides being super affordable ($2-$4 per container depending on the variety), just one small handful of these delicate strands has the potential to benefit your health in many surprising ways.

Sprouts are:

  • Full of living enzymes: Enzymes are special proteins that help break down food particles so you can digest and absorb them.
  • Rich in antioxidants: Sulforaphane is an antioxidant compound in broccoli sprouts that has been shown to block certain mutations in DNA that lead to illness.
  • Loaded with bioavailable protein and the essential vitamins and minerals folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins C and K.
  • High in fiber to support digestive and heart health. Evidence suggests the regular inclusion of lentil sprouts in your diet may raise good (HDL) cholesterol and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol.

5 Meal Ideas that Feature Sprouts

Alfalfa, clover and broccoli sprouts are best eaten raw in cold applications or sprinkled on top of cooked dishes. Bean and lentil sprouts (Crispy Mix sprouts) can be served cold or added to dishes at the end of cooking.

I’m so impressed by the nutritional goodness of sprouts that I’ve made a commitment to include them in two of my daily meals. For a dose of sulforaphane, I blend a small handful of broccoli sprouts in my lunch smoothie. For dinner, I usually top my oversized dinner salad, Buddha bowl, or veggie side dish with a half cup of Crispy Mix sprouts. Here are some other ideas to help you get on the sprouts bandwagon.

  1. Add to sandwiches or wraps. For a double whammy of sprout goodness, use Ezekiel sprouted bread or wraps.
  2. Top leafy greens salads, mayo-free coleslaw or Buddha bowls with a handful of sprouts.
  3. Blend broccoli sprouts into your favorite smoothie.
  4. Add as a garnish for tacos, soups, stews or casseroles.
  5. Stir sprouted beans and lentils into stir-fries during the last few minutes of cooking.

Food Safety Tips for Eating Sprouts

Sprouts require a specific environment to grow and are usually eaten raw. Both factors cause sprouts to carry a risk of foodborne illness, making them risky for those with compromised immune systems.

Our partners at Cleveland Bean Sprout Inc. take all the proper precautions to ensure the sprouts you buy at Heinen’s are as safe as possible. First, they pack them in a climate-controlled room to cool the sprouts immediately. In addition, a third-party laboratory tests the sprouts for foodborne illness on a weekly basis and sends the report to Heinen’s as documentation of their safety.

Here are a few more sprout safety tips to employ:

  1. Look for sprouts that are dry, crisp and odor-free.
  2. Store sprouts in their original package in your refrigerator.
  3. Pay attention to the use-by date and discard if expired.
  4. Wash sprouts with cool running water before eating.

Key Takeaway

Sprouts really pack a powerful punch, so don’t let their fragile appearance fool you like they did me. Go ahead and power up your smoothies, elevate your salads, and raise the bar of virtually any meal with this versatile vegetable wrapped in a small-but-mighty package.

Melanie Jatsek RD, LD

By Melanie Jatsek RD, LD

Heinen's Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek, RD, LD believes that the answer to a strong, healthy and vibrant body lies within. As a published author with over 20 years of experience in wellness program development, health coaching and professional speaking, Melanie offers expert guidance through Heinen's Club Fx program to help customers take inspired action to build the healthy body they were meant to live in without giving up their favorite foods.

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