Sprouts and microgreens truly are the best home-grown food, yet not enough people eat or grow them.
Just like matured vegetables, different sprouts and microgreens have different health benefits. If there were 3 you should eat on a daily basis, we think the varieties below should be it - not just because of their health benefits but also because they are extremely tasty.
Top on our list is broccoli grown as sprouts or microgreens.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables around because of its higher sulforaphane content. Amongst its many benefits are:
- Broccoli sprouts and microgreens have about 50 times more sulforaphane than the matured variety. Sulforaphane is a sulfur-rich compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, and cabbage.
- It has been shown to provide powerful health benefits like healthy heart (reducing inflammation which could result in narrowing of arteries), reduce high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
- Studies have also shown Sulforaphane may prevent cancer cell growth by releasing antioxidant and detoxification enzymes that protect against carcinogens — substances that cause cancer. Scientists are discovering remarkable evidence that eating broccoli sprouts can help treat and prevent disease. The health benefits go far beyond the usual range of vitamins and minerals found in any green vegetable.
Broccoli sprouts and microgreens are delicious in salads, piled on top of sandwich fillings, or just as a garnish in soups.
Historically, the leaves, stems, seeds and shoots of the alfalfa plant have been used for their many health-enhancing properties in many different cultures. The leaves of adult alfalfa plants are not very palatable but alfalfa sprouts provide all of alfalfa’s medicinal properties and health benefits, and they are easy to incorporate into a healthy diet.
There is a long list of traditional uses of alfalfa as a medicinal herb. They include lowering blood pressure, acting as a diuretic, increasing breast milk production, treating arthritis and getting rid of kidney stones.
- Scientifically researched studies have shown alfalfa to aid as an anti-diabetic agent, controlling LDL, VLDL cholesterol and improving blood sugar control.
- Alfalfa is high in plant compounds called phytoestrogens, which are chemically similar to the hormone estrogen. Though phytoestrogens are controversial, they may have several benefits, including easing menopausal symptoms that are caused by decreased levels of estrogen.
- Alfalfa has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine to treat conditions caused by inflammation and oxidative damage. This is because alfalfa was thought to act as a powerful antioxidant, preventing damage caused by free radicals.
- Do note that alfalfa is high in Vitamin K. Although this benefits most people, it can be dangerous for anyone on blood thinning medication (causing it to be less effective).
Like broccoli, alfalfa sprouts can be added to salads, soups, sandwiches, or as a garnish in any dish.
Radish sprouts and microgreens have a spicy flavour that tastes similar to the fully grown vegetable. Like broccoli, radish is a cruciferous vegetable and contains similar antioxidants like glucoraphanin and sulfurophane, though on a much lesser degree than broccoli sprouts.
Radish sprouts (left) and Radish microgreens (right)
Radish is also a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, E and K, and contains chlorophyll and all essential amino acids.
- Radish enzymes break down the starch in foods, which increases the absorption of nutrients.
- Radish contains lignin which can enhance the activity of macrophages (cells that attack foreign invaders of the body).
- Radish sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C which helps enhance resistance to disease.
- Acts as a detoxifier by regulating production and flow of bile and bilirubin and removes excess bilirubin from the blood. This can help sufferers of jaundice.
It is important to note that all sprouts contain some degree of phytoestrogens, but typically they are found in higher quantities in alfalfa, clover, pea shoots and fenugreek sprouts. These plant estrogens can be helpful or harmful to the endocrine system depending on one's individual state of health and the amount consumed. It is something to be aware of if you are seeking to increase or decrease dietary estrogen.
In addition, it is good to be aware that phytoestrogens, when consumed in large quantities (not usually the case with sprouts) can actually block estrogen's effects. (source)
The important thing to note is to consume in moderation. A healthy diet is always one which combines a balanced meal. Too much of one group of foods is never good for the body.