Have you heard the buzz about sprouts? Sprouts grow from germinating seeds, and seem to be gaining popularity as more people learn about the raw food movement. In their natural form, they almost look more like a garnish than a food, but they do offer a variety of nutrients in a small package.
Here's how the sprouts are made. First, seeds are soaked and rinsed to remove enzyme inhibitors. Then, each seed starts to germinate. This is when the seed's nutrition begins breaking down into simple components. For example, proteins break down into amino acids and starches break down into carbohydrates.
You can sprout legumes, oats, wheat, broccoli, alfalfa and many other seeds. [9 Snack Foods: Healthy or Not?]
And studies have shown that eating sprouts has health benefits. For example, legume sprouts have a higher content of almost all amino acids than legumes themselves, according to a 1992 study in the journal Archives of Latin American Nutrition.
Sprouts are a great addition to any well-rounded diet, although food safety experts warn that you should wash them very carefully. Here are some ways to include them in your diet.
1. Green salads: Sprouts and salads seem to go hand-in-hand, and for good reason. They make a great topping that adds somewhat of a different texture as it absorbs your dressing of choice.
2. Wraps: Sprouts are unobtrusive little nutritional powerhouses, so you can easily add them to your favorite healthy wrap, and make it even healthier, without altering the overall flavor much.
3. Sprouted bread: Despite recent rumors, sprouting does not remove the gluten from wheat. So, if you see sprouted wheat, spelt, kamut or bulgur bread, they may contain more nutrition than the unsprouted varieties, but they are not gluten free. So, if you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, steer clear of those. Sprouted buckwheat and millet should be gluten free, but if it's an issue for you, check the packaging before you buy.
4. Broccoli sprouts with shaved carrot salad: This is a nice light appetizer that is super easy to make, and good for you. All you have to do is combine sprouts with shaved or grated carrot, and add your favorite dressing.
Healthy Bites appears weekly on LiveScience. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!