Sprouts full of nutrition

By Lindsay Adams
Aug. 9, 2016 at midnight
Updated Aug. 10, 2016 at 6 a.m.

Lindsay Adams

Lindsay Adams   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Have you ever noticed sprouts on a restaurant menu and wondered what in the world that could be? Sprouts are skinny little vegetables that look much like weeds you might find in your flower bed.

Surprisingly, sprouts are actually packed with nutrition. They begin as seeds and when in the right environment, germinate into very young plants. They are often the sprouts of a variety of foods such as grains, beans or leafy sprouts. Common examples you may see on a menu may be alfalfa or mung bean sprouts.

Depending on the variety, these little sprouts can be good sources of antioxidants, fiber, essential fatty acids, protein and other vitamins and minerals. They are often enjoyed raw on sandwiches or other dishes but can also be cooked.

Unfortunately, while sprouts can be packed with nutritional benefits, they are also often a source of bacteria, which could lead to foodborne illness, such as E. coli or salmonella. Bacteria love to grow in warm, humid environments, just the conditions in which sprouts thrive as well. There are approved plant treatments that can help prevent contamination. However, there is no true guarantee that all harmful bacteria are destroyed in raw sprouts, and you can't see or smell the harmful bacteria.

Luckily, proper buying, storing and cooking practices can be used to kill harmful bacteria in the sprouts. Here are some tips to keep your sprouts safe:

1. Only buy sprouts that have been properly refrigerated.

2. Do not buy sprouts that have a musty smell or slimy appearance.

3. Once home, keep sprouts refrigerated at a temperature of 40 degrees or below.

4. Use proper hand-washing practices when handling raw sprouts.

5. Rinse sprouts under running water before use.

6. Cooking sprouts can help reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. You can toss them in soups, stews or stir fries close to the end of the cooking process - or you can oven roast them until crisp and brown.

It is usually recommended that individuals at high risk for food poisoning avoid eating raw sprouts altogether.

Examples of individuals at high risk would be anyone with a weakened immune system, children, the elderly and pregnant women.

If you are a high risk individual, it should be safe to eat cooked sprouts and follow the above precautions for handling. For healthy individuals not at high risk for foodborne illness, eating raw or cooked sprouts should be safe, also.

While sprouts seem like an insignificant component of a meal, they can really add a burst of nutrients to your diet.

Lindsay Adams is a registered dietitian with. Detar Healthcare Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.


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