Sprouts are nutritionally dense, and are a powerful source of vitamins, minerals, oxidants, and enzymes. Once a seed sprouts, vitamins A, B, C, and E, and essential fatty acid nutrients increase. Just about any seed can be sprouted with the intention of eating it, but some popular ones include: chia, alfalfa, wheatgrass, broccoli, quinoa, barley, chick peas, watercress, radish, sesame, mung bean and lentils. Sprouts can complement each other. Mixing spicy sprouts, like radish, with mild sprouts, like watercress, can balance the flavors beautifully.

Raw sprouts contain an unusually high concentration of living enzymes, which are not present in cooked sprouts. Glucoraphanin, an enzyme which protects the body from cancer, is in high concentrations in young sprouts. Proteolytic enzymes are also in high concentration in seedlings. These enzymes boost our metabolic processes, by making carbohydrates and proteins more digestible. Sprouting considerably increases fiber content. Fiber slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. It binds to fats and toxins, helping remove from the body. In addition, fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system, breaking up the bulk of the stool, making it easier to pass.

Antioxidants present in sprouts, detoxify the body by boosting oxygen levels. This increase of oxygen, helps protects the body against attack from bacteria, virus, and abnormal cell growth. The consumption of sprouts can reduce acidity in the body, by increasing alkalinity. This reduces risk of disease, because long term body acidity leads to disease. Last but not least, sprouted seeds have a high concentration of the antioxidant, Vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin, works well at protecting cells from free radical damage.

Your heart and blood, both benefit from consumption of sprouts. The potassium in sprouts naturally reduces blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids present in sprouts, boost good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce harmful cholesterol in the blood vessels and arteries. This reduces the chances of platelet build-up and vessel blockages. The iron and copper in raw sprouts aide red blood cells in getting oxygen to organs, so they can function efficiently. In addition, sprouts increase blood circulation by dilating blood vessels, helping the oxygen to get there even more quickly! Sprouts can even help build the immune system. Their high Vitamin C content, stimulates white blood cells, which fight off anything invading the body.

Now let's consider the risks of eating raw sprouts. It is difficult to believe that these tiny, super-nutritious, seedlings could cause any harm! Here's how it can happen. Before a seed even begins to grow, it can potentially become contaminated with molds or bacteria, at the point of collection or during storage. At any stage of growth, animal feces or animal by-products can potentially contaminate the growing system, with bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella. Animal waste residue can come into contact with seeds or plants, typically via uncomposted cow manure (fertilizer), wild animal droppings, or contaminated water (run-off with uncomposted manure). The sprouts are grown in wet, moist environments, and this is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Even manure carried on shoes, has the potential to spread contamination if the environmental conditions are right, and sanitary protocols and precautions are not taken.

Although it is impossible for anyone to claim that a seed is 100% bacteria and mold-free, many companies now test their seeds stringently to certify that they are clean. The risk of exposure to bacteria from sprouts may be greatly reduced by purchasing seed, or sprouted seeds from a reputable, organic company. Eating non-organic sprouts at the supermarket, or on a sandwich at lunch, can be risky. If you have ever become violently ill by consuming sprouts, chances are you will never eat them again, no matter what! However, when you buy and sprout your own seeds, you can be certain that the seeds are organic, and that rigorous organic standards were used in testing. This reduces your chances of becoming ill sustantially.

Lastly, when you grow your sprouts at home, you can also be certain that proper sanitary practices are carried out. Rinse seeds well, and wash hands and surfaces that will be in contact with them. Rinse sprouting seeds according to germination guidelines, and be sure to refrigerate once leaves have appeared. If precautions are taken and followed, the risk of bacterial contamination is very slim. So, get out your green thumb, reap the nutritional benefits, and get sprouting today!

Author's Bio: 

Della Everleigh is a retired plant scientist who enjoys teaching others about plants. She helps to run a website selling small greenhouses, encouraging everyone to grow their own plants!