Many of us have eaten sprouts at one time or another. I’ve been keen on them ever since I first tried them in the 1980s. They were all the rage and I’m fairly certain that nearly everyone back then tried them. Eating an avocado sandwich with alfalfa sprouts on whole wheat bread (or in a pita) was a kind of revelation for many. Who knew vegetarian food could taste so good!?! Now I don't eat bread, but I still want to take advantage of these little nutritious power houses! Luckily sprouts are still with us, and we now have many additional options aside from alfalfa. Thank goodness, sprouts will also fit into most any way of eating that you have – low carb, paleo, primal, keto, gluten free, SCD, GAPS and more!
What Should You Sprout?
There are sprouted grains (or cereals), sprouted legumes, and last but not least, small sprouted seeds. Sprouted grains aren't keto and sprouted beans and legumes have a lot of carbs so here we'll be focusing more on small seeds. While each of these has their own unique nutritional attributes, many of them are quite similar in taste—especially when it comes to sprouted seeds. In my opinion, those come in three distinct flavors: spicy, bitter, and mellow.
I sprouted radish, amaranth, kohlrabi, broccoli and sandwich mix sprouts for this post. (All of them are pictured above.) Radish sprouts are the largest and by far the spiciest. The pretty red-stemmed sprouts are amaranth. These are very mellow and plain. The kohlrabi sprouts are purple stemmed and bitter. The mix to the left of the radish sprouts is the sandwich mix and it was very mellow with a slight kick from the radishes in the mix. (This mix consists of alfalfa, red clover, and Daikon radish.) The sprouts on the right are broccoli sprouts. These are by far the most nutritious and have a slightly bitter to mellow taste.
Have you heard that broccoli sprouts are really good for you? Do you know why? Well, they contain high levels of glucorahanin. After we eat these sprouts the glucorahanin goes through a series of chemical transformations inside our bodies where it eventually becomes sulforaphane. This substance has shown antimicrobial and anticancer properties in many studies, and it’s for this reason that organic broccoli sprouting seeds are currently quite popular.
As for sprout nutrition, here are some of the basics. Add to this that they also have some vitamins and trace minerals and you can't go wrong including a few in your diet.
One 1/2 cup serving of broccoli sprouts contains: Only point 5 (.5 – half) net gram of carbs, 2.5 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 1 grams of protein.
One 1/2 cup serving of radish sprouts contains: Only point 5 (.5 – half) net gram of carbs, 1.5 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 1.5 grams of protein.
One 1/2 cup serving of alfalfa sprouts contains: Only point 5 (.5 – half) net gram of carbs, 1.5 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 1.5 grams of protein.
Additional Sprouting Options (Just be sure to purchase organic seeds.)
Allium: green onion, leek, onion
Oilseeds: flax, linseed, sesame, sunflower, peanut
What Should You NOT Sprout?
Alfalfa sprouts are widely available today but it’s the one seed many health experts no longer recommend for sprout consumption. That’s because alfalfa sprouts contain canavanine which is an amino acid that can suppress proper immune function and cause inflammation. In Nourishing Traditions Sally Fallon mentions this and it’s an important point.
Do NOT eat sprouts from the Solanaceae family: tomato, potato, pepper, eggplant—and rhubarb too! At certain points in their growth these plants are poisonous so eating them is simply too risky.
What’s the Difference Between Sprouts and Microgreens?
There are a few ways to tell the difference. First off, sprouts have small root systems when they’re harvested and microgreens have more root development. Secondly, sprouts are harvested in 3-20 days and microgreens are usually harvested in about 30 days.
Sprouts don’t need soil to grow and can flourish in closed surroundings. They’re harvested before their secondary leaves appear and are eaten whole—roots and all.
Microgreens are adolescent versions of adult greens. They’re grown in soil and are harvested just as adult leaves begin to show.
Growing mediums can vary with microgreens. Garden soil works but so too will organic sponges and fabrics. Popular microgreens include: cauliflower, peas, cabbage, arugula, radishes, beets, clover and alfalfa.
How Do I Sprout My Sprouts?
This is where things get much less complicated. You simply pick the DIY method that’s best for you, your budget, your lifestyle, and the seeds you want to sprout and you’re done! Just remember that the most important thing when you sprout is to keep everything clean, sanitary, and to rinse, rinse, rinse!
- Mason jar with sprouting screen or sprouting jar. (This is easy and economical. Works well with small seeds.)
- Tray sprouter. (Slightly more expensive but you can sprout more sprouts at the same time in a contained environment.)
- Sprouting bag or nut-milk bag. (Absolutely the best method for larger sprouts. Easy to use too.)
- Fine mesh strainer or colander. (This is good for larger sprouts as well but I prefer the sprouting bags. They control humidity better.)
- Foam sprouting mat or grow pads. (Great option for tiny seeds. These often get caught in other systems. These can be used for microgreens too.)
- Automatic sprouter. (This is the most expensive option but you can leave it and forget it. These systems will spray the sprouts for you!)
But What About the Carb Count?
Sprouts are little nutritional powerhouses – a small amount goes a long way. Generally, a 1/4 – 1/2 cup (lightly packed) is a good serving and less than 1 gram of net carbs. Sprouts are the perfect way to get more “veggies” into your low carb diet, and a lot of enzymes!
8 Low Carb Ways to Eat Your Sprouts
- Add to almost any avocado dish. (Of course!)
- Add to omelets or other egg dishes.
- Sprinkle them on top of virtually any soup.
- Add to a cauliflower crust pizza or almond flour crust pizza once it's out of the oven.
- Sprinkle over vegetable sides or warm salads.
- Mix into salads.
- Add to keto burrito bowl, burger or sandwich wrap.
- Wrap it into Paleo Sushi!! (this is my personal favorite)