What’s the Sparkle Behind Sprouts? Why are Sprouts the Miracle Food?
“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” ~ Goethe
For a long time, we’ve known that sprouts are really healthy. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean vitamins? Sure, sprouts have plenty of them. As baby vegetables, they tend to be more nutritionally concentrated. In fact, the seed contains everything the new plant needs for its development into a mature vegetable. In this respect, you could call sprouts nutritionally dense vegetables. For example, radish sprouts have 40X more (391 IU) pro-vitamin A than a mature, organic radish vegetable (8 IU). The vitamin C in green peas jumps 5X from 1.5mg to 10.4mg after just 3 days of sprouting. And while the vitamin C content in raw spinach (28.1mg) is similar to that of radish sprouts (28.9mg), the niacin content of the radish sprouts(2.85mg) is four times greater than spinach (0.72mg).
Of course, the most popular nutrition marker is protein. Greens such as lettuce and spinach are not known as good sources of protein. In fact, head lettuce is not even 1%(0.9). But alfalfa sprouts are 4% protein. That’s even more than romaine lettuce (1.8%) or even the mighty Spinach (2.86%). Because the development of protein requires sufficient resources of vitamins and minerals, when a low protein food such as a leafy green sprout has a good amount of protein, then it is a good marker for its overall nutrition.
But a food’s nutrition is more than its quantity of vitamins and minerals. The real healing potential in a vegetable lies in its phytochemical content. These are plant compounds such as antioxidants, bioflavonoids, carotenes, phytosterols, glucosinolates, sulphorophanes, isoflavones, phyto (plant) estrogens, polyphenols, etc. These are especially abundant in the embryonic or “sprout” stage in plants and vegetables.
In a 1997 study by Xia Xu, PhD Dept. of Food Science & Nutrition, University of Minnesota, he found that coumesterol, the most dominant phytoestrogen, increased dramatically in soybeans after only 5 days of sprouting (4,200%). That’s 42 times more coumesterol (38.55mg/100g) in the sprout than in the non-sprouted soy. Red Clover sprouts were second best increasing to 28.06mg/100g. Phytoestrogens are plant hormones that mimic many of the benefits of estrogen therapy such as increasing bone density in menopausal women, decreasing total cholesterol while increasing the good HDL cholesterol and suppressing angiogenesis (tumor growth). In addition, they lack most of the side effects of standard estrogen therapy making them a viable alternative.
Alfalfa, clover, soybean, lentils and pea sprouts are all abundant in another plant compound — saponins. You can see the sudsy-soapy indication of this compound in the rinse water of these sprouts. Saponin is a natural detergent. In fact it may be able to scrub your arteries clean. Cardiologist Lawrence D. Rink, MD, concluded that from a five-year double-blind clinical study with 45 of his patients. He recorded a reduction in the bad C-Reactive Protein by 50.4% and the bad LDL fats by 16.6% and a simultaneous increase in the good HDL fats by 11.2%. This was based on a daily dose of 1120 – 2240mg of alfalfa sprouts. Xia Xu found the saponin content of alfalfa sprouts increased 450% over five days growth.
But the most dramatic examples of sprout nutrition come from the crucifer family of vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, radish, kale, mustard greens, raab, kohlrabi, etc. Starting in 1992, scientists at John’s Hopkins University examined the anti-cancer activity of a group of enzymes called glucosinolates. “In animals and human cells, we have demonstrated, unequivocally, that this compound can substantially reduce the incidence, rate of development and size of tumors.” — Paul Talalay, PhD, chief research pharmacologist, Johns Hopkins University. Talalay found that at only five days growth, broccoli sprouts contained 50 – 100 more glucophanin than the mature broccoli vegetable.
Although all the crucifers contain glucosinolates, broccoli sprouts have become the most studied because of their initial focus in these studies. So don’t stop enjoying the sprouts of kale, cabbage, radish, mustard, etc. The glucophanin in these sprouts converts to sulphorophane upon digestion and it is that enzyme that blocks the alpha receptors on cancer cells, cutting off their nutrition and arresting growth. But the research with sprouts extends beyond cancer to diabetes, cholesterol, ulcers and more. Here are a few examples that indicate the healing potential inside these embryonic plants. While broccoli sprouts and cancer has dominated the interest of researchers, clover, alfalfa, soybeans, flax, wheatgrass and sunflower sprouts also fill out the picture. Notice the international scope of these studies (see sidebar).
However, there is one more nutritional benefit that these studies miss! Scientists are trained to define nutritional benefit according to the presence and amount of chemicals. Western scientists are not known for measuring energy or “vital force” such as “Qi” (pronounced Chi). But that is truly the most important benefit of these baby plants. Their Qi resonates loudly. Healing is best effected by moving those amazing nutrients into the bloodstream. The high level of bio-activity of these embryonic plants provides the current that delivers its natural medicine. If you could see its aura, broccoli sprouts would radiate far brighter than broccoli. Sure, the mature broccoli vegetable is still a raw food. But it is not a living food. In fact, it has been dying ever since the farmer severed it from the earth. It has been losing nutrients and life force with each passing day. But not the sprouts! They are radiating and effervescing right up to the minute you put them in your mouth and again in your stomach and in your bloodstream. When you eat sprouts, you are consuming the bio-electric twinkle of life. You can’t get that from a pill or a box or a can. Think about how everyday you plug in your cell phone to charge up. How about plugging in your body and getting charged up with the spark of living foods!