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Sprouts: Benefits aplenty, but moderation matters

Sprouts: Benefits aplenty, but moderation matters

Consuming sprouts provides energy and helps to increase muscle mass
Representational image | Shutterstock

“As a vegetarian, my options to fulfil my were not many. However, I opted for sprouts during breakfast or as a snack in the evening,” says dentist and entrepreneur Dr Mahima Singhi. The 25-year-old from Surat, Gujarat, adds that her diet includes raw or steamed Bengal gram sprouts mixed with fruits or vegetable salad on alternate days. For seasoning, she adds roasted cumin powder and pink salt.

What makes sprouts the go-to food for Dr Singhi and many others who want to have their protein from vegetarian sources? Well, for starters, Suraiya Parveen, a nutritionist from Kolkata says that during sprouting, the thick outer coat of the pulse or grain bursts open and becomes soft making it easy to cook and digest. In addition, the enzymes (chains of proteins) get activated with an increase in nutritive value. The levels of minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron, vitamin A, B complex, and C also increase after 30 hours of germination.

Commercially available sprouts may get contaminated if they are germinated in an unhygienic or unhealthy environment. Hence, it is better to sprout at home.

The preparation

Soak the pulses or your choice of bean or legume (green gram, Bengal gram, soybean and chickpeas) in water for 10 to 12 hours. Drain the water and place the pulses (or bean or legume) over a moist cloth inside the bowl and cover it with a lid. The air inside the bowl and moisture will result in sprouting after 12 to 15 hours. Transfer it to a storage container and use it over the course of the next few hours.

Dr D L Jebarani, a siddha specialist from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, says that sprouts give a feeling of satiety. It reduces unnecessary food cravings and meet the nutrient requirement of the body. Though sprouts are healthy, it is not good to replace one’s diet with only sprouts. It is better to consume it as an evening snack with your choice of tea.

“Avoid removing the outer coat of sprouts as it contains maximum nutrients. It is advised to consume it raw, or half boiled as overcooking leads to loss of nutrients,” she adds.

Here are some food combinations that one can try:

  • Veg roll with mixed sprouts sauteed with finely chopped onion, tomato, and coriander. Add a few drops of lemon juice and salt
  • A sandwich made with tomato, onion slices, and sprouts with mint chutney
  • Tikki or cutlet made from a mixture of boiled potatoes and ground green gram sprouts. Add chopped mint leaves for seasoning

A study conducted by the Korean Society of Breeding Science states that soybean sprouts have high  nutritional value and minerals like zinc, iron and magnesium. It can be incorporated into food as soy sauce, soup, or salad.

“Sprouts can be ground and added to the dosa batter or roti dough. Add two parts of ground sprouts to four parts of the batter, and one part of ground sprouts to four parts of wheat flour. Add ghee in the liquid state over rotis for added nutritional benefits,” adds Dr Jebarani.

Dr Jebarani includes the following benefits of sprouts:

  • For anaemics, green gram and green pea sprouts help in boosting immunity
  • Microgreens (small plants after germination) from fenugreek seeds are beneficial for improving skin tone due to the multivitamins present in them
  • Consuming sprouts daily gives energy and helps to increase muscle mass, especially for people who are into bodybuilding. However, eating the same sprouts every day in large quantities is unhealthy. It is always good to try a handful of different sprouts like cowpeas, kidney beans, and green peas every day
  • Women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) have an imbalance in oestrogen levels. Bengal gram (black chana) sprouts help to maintain oestrogen levels in the blood and overcome menstrual problems

“Black bean sprouts are rich in antioxidant properties due to the presence of anthocyanins and help in improving immunity,” adds Parveen.

Dr Jebarani says that for some people, increased protein intake causes flatulence. However, adding a pinch of asafoetida (hing) to the sprout salad while sauteing will help to reduce gaseous discomfort in the stomach.

“Add coconut oil or sesame oil, chopped onions, curry leaves, and salt to a pan and saute it to enhance the taste. To manage bloating in the stomach, drink one glass of buttermilk with three pinches of asafoetida,” Dr Jebarani says.

Who should avoid

People with a sensitive gut might be allergic to raw sprouts. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, raw sprouts can cause foodborne ailments including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and vomiting with mild fever due to E-coli infection. It usually occurs after a week of consumption and is commonly seen in children below four years. The infection lasts for around five to ten days. However, cooking the sprouts can reduce these effects.

Dr Jebarani concludes, “The fibre content in sprouts helps to relieve mild constipation. However, people who get frequent indigestion and discomfort after eating sprouts should avoid them. They could choose alternative protein sources like mutton, country chicken, or green leafy vegetables. For children, incorporate sprouts into the diet after seven years of age to avoid indigestion and choking.”

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