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Get a Jumpstart on Spring with the Medicinal Power of Baby Plants

When you eat sprouts, you are consuming the bio-electric twinkle of life. Spring is a good time to plug in your body and get charged up with the spark of living foods.

For a long time, we’ve known that sprouts are very healthy. As baby vegetables, they tend to be 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 40 times more pro-vitamin A (at 391 IU) than a mature, organic radish vegetable (at 8 IU). The vitamin C in green peas jumps five times from 1.5 mg to 10.4 mg after just three days of sprouting. And while the vitamin C content in raw spinach (28.1 mg) is similar to that of radish sprouts (28.9 mg), the niacin content of the radish sprouts (2.85 mg) is four times greater than spinach (0.72 mg).

Of course, the most popular nutrition marker is protein. Greens like lettuce and spinach are not known as good sources of protein. In fact, while head lettuce contains less than 1% (0.9), alfalfa sprouts are 4% protein. That’s even more than romaine lettuce (1.8%), or 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, that 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, sulforaphanes, isoflavones, phyto (plant) estrogens, and polyphenols. Such compounds are especially abundant in the embryonic or ‘sprout’ stage in plants and vegetables.

In a 1997 study by Xia Xu, PhD, at the Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, he found that coumesterol, the most dominant phytoestrogen, increased dramatically in soybeans after only 5 days of sprouting (a 4,200% increase). That’s 42 times more coumesterol (38.55mg/100g) in the sprout than in the unsprouted 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 (tumour growth). In addition, they lack most of the side effects of standard estrogen therapy, thereby making them a viable alternative, in my opinion.

Alfalfa, clover, soybean, lentils, and pea sprouts are all rich in another plant compound – saponins. You can see the sudsy-soapy evidence 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, made that conclusion based on a five year double-blind clinical study with 45 of his patients. He recorded a reduction in the inflammatory C-Reactive Protein by 50.4%,  and in 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 – 2240 mg (1/10 – 1/5 of an ounce) of alfalfa sprouts. Xia Xu found that the saponin content of alfalfa sprouts increased by 450% over five days of growth.

But the most dramatic examples of sprout nutrition come from the crucifer family of vegetables which includes broccoli, cabbage, radish, kale, mustard greens, raab, and kohlrabi.

Starting in 1992, scientists at Johns Hopkins University examined the anti-cancer activity of a group of compounds called ‘glucosinolates’ found in broccoli and the Brassica family of foods which includes kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, and radish. As these glucosinolates-rich foods are digested, they form an enzyme called sulforaphane. Numerous studies have shown that sulforaphane interrupts the growth cycle of cancer cells, rendering them dormant. “In animals and human cells, we have demonstrated, unequivocally, that these compounds [glucosinolates] can substantially reduce the incidence, rate of development, and size of tumours,” stated Paul Talalay, PhD, chief research pharmacologist at Johns Hopkins University. Talalay found that, at only five days growth, broccoli sprouts contained 50 – 100 more glucosinolates than the mature broccoli vegetable.

Research on Sprout Medicine for Cancer, Diabetes, and High Cholesterol

Although all the crucifers contain glucosinolates, broccoli sprouts have been the most researched because of their initial focus in these studies. So don’t stop enjoying the sprouts of kale, cabbage, radish, and mustard – the glucosinolates in these sprouts convert to sulforaphane upon digestion, and it is that enzyme which blocks the alpha receptors on cancer cells, cutting off their nutrition and arresting their growth. And 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 the link between 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.

• Breast Cancer: “Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells.” (Clin Cancer Res. University of Michigan, May, 2010)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862133/

• Breast Cancer: “Flaxseed sprouts induce apoptosis and inhibit growth in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 Human Breast Cancer cells.” (In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. Mar 2012. North Dakota State Univ., Fargo, ND. USA) For prevention of breast cancer, a four ounce daily portion of vegetable sprouts, such as broccoli, is recommended.

 Bladder Cancer: “We report herein that dietary administration to rats of a freeze-dried aqueous extract of broccoli sprouts significantly and dose-dependently inhibited bladder cancer development…” (Cancer Research. Feb 2008. New Zealand and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York)  https://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/68/5/1593.long

• Bladder and Urinary Tract: “Sulforaphane Inhibits 4-Aminobiphenyl-induced DNA Damage in Bladder Cells and Tissues.” (Carcinogenesis. Sept 2010. Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, 14263, USA)

• Diabetes: “Broccoli sprouts reduce oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes: A randomized double-blind clinical trial.” (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Aug. 2011. Univ. of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran)

• Cholesterol: “Broccoli sprouts powder could improve serum triglyceride and oxidized LDL/LDL- cholesterol ratio in type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” (Diabetes Res Clin Pract. Feb 2012. Obesity Research Center)

• Cholesterol: “Broccoli sprouts and extracts rich in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates affect cholesterol metabolism and genes involved in lipid homeostasis in hamsters.” (Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. Feb 2011. Departamento de Biotecnologiìa e Ingenieriìa de Alimentos, NL, Mexico.)

• Stomach Cancer/Ulcers: “Total polyphenols, antioxidant, and anti-proliferative activities of different extracts in mung bean seeds and sprouts.” (Plant Foods Human Nutrition. Mar 2012. Agricultural Research and Extension Services, Naju, South Korea)

• Gall Bladder and Liver: “Cynarin-Rich Sunflower Sprouts Possess Both Anti-glycative and Antioxidant Activities.” Cynarin increases bile flow, and promotes gall bladder and liver health. (Journal Agricultural Food Chemistry. Mar 2012. Institute for Food and Bioresource Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, China)

Bisphenol A Poisoning: Wheatgrass Anti–BPA. “Inhibition by wheat sprout (Triticum aestivum) juice of Bisphenol A-induced oxidative stress in young women.”  (Mutat Res. June 2011. College of Pharmacy, Seoul, S. Korea)

I have only cited examples from the last few years. Much more research exists. But the point is that Hippocrates was right: “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”

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, a broccoli sprout would radiate far brighter than the broccoli vegetable. These sprouts are radiating and effervescing right up to the minute you put them in your mouth, and again in your stomach, and in your bloodstream.

Tips to Grow Your Own:

Editor’s Note: Steve Meyerowitz (Sproutman) recommends starting out with a Hemp Sprout Bag – a superior alternative to jars, which have a reputation for promoting mould. He also recommends the Freshlife Automatic Sprouter which waters automatically and grows micro greens such as sunflower, pea shoots, buckwheat, wheatgrass, and many others. To obtain organic seeds for sprouting, as well as the Freshlife Automatic Sprouter, or the Hemp Sprout Bag, contact Upaya Naturals by phone at (416) 617-3096, or 1-855-729-8341, visit: www.Upayanaturals.com. (Upaya offers free shipping in Canada on orders over $100.)

Buy Fresh Sprouts In Selected Stores

Some local health food and grocery stores sell a variety of fresh sprouts by Kind Organics, a Canadian company which produces sprouts, wheatgrass, microgreens, baby greens, and edible flowers in their greenhouses in the Holland Marsh area. Look for Kind Organics products such as alfalfa and mung bean sprouts, as well as sprout combos such as crunchy bean mix, Ancient Eastern, and Flavour Fusion at local health food stores such as The Big Carrot, Fiesta Farms, Qi Foods, Nature’s Emporium, and more. (Our editor’s favourite is the Broccoli Brassica Blend.) See ad on page 28, or visit www.kindorganics.com. For Kind Organics locations, visit: https://kindorganics.com/where-to-buy/

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