Growing Edible Sprouts/Nutrition

Sprouts are often classified as herbs rather than vegetables in grocery stores in the United States, the assumption being that sprouts are used to provide flavor or texture to food, rather than being a significant part of a person's diet. Not all sprout varieties have been analyzed for nutritional content.

Two types of sprouts, mung bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, are analyzed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for content of certain nutrients.[1] The USDA analyzes food by weight and volume for specific nutrients considered essential to good health at certain levels. As is true with most edible plants, alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts contain protein, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients.

Alfalfa sprouts weigh 33 grams (1.2 oz) per cup volume, and mung bean sprouts weigh 104 grams (3.7 oz) per cup volume. (Keep in mind that a cup volume is not the same as a liquid measure of one cup, which is 8 fluid ounces.)

Mung bean sprouts, by weight and volume, have most nutrient values exceeding raw spinach, a vegetable high in most plant-based nutrients analyzed by the USDA. Alfalfa sprouts have four times the protein of iceberg lettuce by weight, but only twice its protein by volume. Lettuce has less vitamin C and more vitamin A than alfalfa sprouts.

"Seeds that sprout in distilled water contain more potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and sulphur than before the seeds begin to sprout."[2]

Nutritional Content of Alfalfa SproutsEdit

Comparing the nutrients in a cup of alfalfa sprouts to the nutrients in the same volume of lettuce or spinach will give you some idea how young leafy sprout nutrients compare to those in the mature leaves of commonly consumed plants.

Alfalfa sprouts are higher in protein and lipids than lettuce and spinach greens, but alfalfa sprouts contain very little sugar. Alfalfa sprouts are a good source of phosphorus and zinc, but they are not an especially good source of calcium or iron. Alfalfa sprouts are not a good source of vitamins A, E or K, but the lipids in alfalfa sprouts are predominantly polyunsaturated. Alfalfa sprouts are not a good source of beta carotene.

Alfalfa SproutsLettuce (Iceberg)Spinach
UOM33 gm72 gm30 gm
PROXIMATES
Watergm30.6368.8627.42
Energykcal8107
Proteingm1.320.650.86
Total lipid (fat)gm0.230.10.12
Ashgm0.130.260.52
Carbohydrate, by differencegm0.692.141.09
Fiber, total dietarygm0.60.90.7
Sugars, totalgm0.061.420.13
Sucrosegm00.040.02
Glucose (dextrose)gm0.030.660.03
Fructosegm0.040.720.04
Lactosegm000
Maltosegm000
Galactosegm000.03
MINERALS
Calcium (Ca)mg111330
Iron (Fe)mg0.320.30.81
Magnesium (Mg)mg9524
Phosphorus (P)mg231415
Potassium (K)mg26102167
Sodium (Na)mg2724
Zinc (Zn)mg0.30.110.16
Copper (Cu)mg0.0520.0180.039
Manganese (Mn)mg0.0620.090.269
Selenium (Se)mcg0.20.10.3
VITAMINS
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg2.728.4
Thiaminmg0.0250.030.023
Riboflavinmg0.0420.0180.057
Niacinmg0.1590.0890.217
Pantothenic acid mg0.1860.0660.02
Vitamin B-6mg0.0110.030.059
Folate, total mcg122158
Folic acid mcg000
Folate, foodmcg122158
Folate, DFEmcg_DFE122158
Choline, totalmg4.84.85.4
Betainemg0.10.1165.1
Vitamin B-12mcg000
Vitamin A (IU)IU513612813
Vitamin A (RAE) mcg_RAE318141
Retinol mcg000
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.010.130.61
Tocopherol, beta mg00
Tocopherol, gammamg0.060.05
Tocopherol, deltamg00
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)mcg10.117.4144.9
LIPIDS
Fatty acids, total saturatedgm0.0230.0130.019
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated gm0.0180.0040.003
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedgm0.1350.0530.05
Cholesterol mg000
Phytosterolsmg73
AMINO ACIDS
Tryptophangm0.0060.012
Threoninegm0.0440.0180.037
Isoleucinegm0.0470.0130.044
Leucinegm0.0880.0180.067
Lysinegm0.0710.0170.052
Methioninegm0.0040.016
Cystinegm0.0040.011
Phenylalaninegm0.0170.039
Tyrosinegm0.0050.032
Valinegm0.0480.0170.048
Argininegm0.0110.049
Histidinegm0.0060.019
Alaninegm0.0180.043
Aspartic acid gm0.090.072
Glutamic acid gm0.140.103
Glycine gm0.0110.04
Prolinegm0.0070.034
Serinegm0.0180.031
OTHER
Carotene, beta mcg292151688
Carotene, alpha mcg230
Cryptoxanthin, beta mcg200
Lutein + zeaxanthin mcg01993659

Toxins in SproutsEdit

Some legumes can contain toxins, which can be reduced by soaking, sprouting and cooking (e.g., stir frying). Joy Larkcom advises that to be on the safe side “one shouldn’t eat large quantities of raw legume sprouts on a regular basis, no more than about 550g (20oz) daily”.[3]

Buckwheat greens contain fagopyrin, a naturally occurring substance in the buckwheat plant. When ingested in sufficient quantity, fagopyrin is known to cause the skin of animals and people to become phototoxic, which is to say hypersensitive to sunlight, particularly if juiced or eaten in large quantities.[4][5]

FootnotesEdit

  1. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/index.html
  2. http://www.falunau.org/insightsArticle.jsp?itemID=927 Note: It would be best to reference the original research that concluded this.
  3. Larkcom, Joy Salads For Small Gardens, p.98 Hamlyn 1995 ISBN 0-600-58509-3
  4. Arbour, Gilles essay http://www.gillesarbour.com/buckwheat_assets/Buckwheat%20Greens.pdf
  5. Arbour, Gilles (December 2004). "Are buckwheat greens toxic?". Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. Find Articles. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0ISW/is_257/ai_n7638045. Retrieved 2007-02-04.