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What Are the Pros and Cons of Eating Sprouts?

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  • Written By: Bryce Clinton
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Eating sprouts can be excellent for one's health, but there are also serious dangers. On the positive side, sprouted seeds are considered by many to be a super food. Raw sprouts are very rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. On the negative side, the dangers of eating sprouts include sickness from salmonella poisoning and exposure to potentially deadly strains of bacteria such as E. coli (Escherichia coli). Determining whether the health benefits outweigh the dangers is a personal decision best made with an informed understanding of the risks.

A diet that includes sprouts has been central to many cultures throughout history, and sprouts have been described as a food that offers strong support for cell regeneration. The full health benefits of sprouts are still being discovered and quantified. Sprouts contain high amounts of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, and are said to reduce bad cholesterol. They are high in calcium, letichin, unsaturated fats, and vitamin E and B. Advocates of sprouts claim that eating sprouts from sunflowers and grains can significantly improve the health of diabetics, and some claim that sprouts can help prevent cancer.

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Despite all the potential benefits of eating sprouts, various governments and world agencies have issued warnings based on known cases of illness and death related to consuming raw sprouts. Some of these cases involve food poisoning from salmonella; others are connected to more deadly outbreaks of E. coli. The number of illness specifically traced to sprouts has been high enough for the United States Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to advise against anyone eating raw spouts. This warning, in turn, has led various sprout advocates to publish detailed information about the hazards as they see them.

When considering the pros and cons of eating sprouts, there is a lot of information on the Internet. There are warnings, and there are many attempts to diffuse the warnings. Most of the effort designed to lessen people's fear of eating sprouts comes from sprout growers who have lost business in the wake of what has become a sustained and ongoing sprout scare. As sprout growers see it, the risks are really no greater than the risks associated with many other potentially dangerous foods. The risks are far lower than risks related to eating meat, for example. They feel the risks have been exaggerated; however, the fact remains that there is still a danger.

Sprouting can be done at home and is popular among certain health advocates. All seeds, grains, and legumes can be sprouted. Different types of sprouts have different high levels of essential nutrients, in many cases, purportedly more nutrients than the mature plants they sprout from. Broccoli sprouts allegedly have 50 times more sulfurophane antioxidants than mature broccoli. Raw sprouts are also said to be easier to digest than cooked vegetables.

While the health benefits might be great, sprouts have nevertheless been linked to salmonella poisoning and deadly strains of E. coli enough times to raise and sustain international warnings. Some outbreaks have caused numerous deaths and cases of hemolytic uraemic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure. Other outbreaks have been blamed on sprouts, when in fact, it was later discovered that something else was to blame. Research has shown that often the seeds, grains, and beans are the source of the outbreaks, not the sprouts, meaning that it is not necessarily any safer to grow sprouts on one's own, even under sanitary conditions.

Detailed information about the pros and cons of eating sprouts can be found online and should be pursued by anyone who feels like there is too much ambiguity surrounding the matter. There is a lot of information regarding the health benefits, and a lot of information about the various outbreaks and warnings. If you choose to eat or grow sprouts, make sure you are taking necessary precautions regarding sanitation, origin, freshness, and packaging. You might also wish to consult with agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the FDA regarding the latest international warnings.

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clintflint
Post 3

@MrsPramm - I think the food poisoning risk is far overstated anyway, if you are very careful with your sources of sprouts. And they are so healthy for you that the tiny risk is worth it.

Just don't pick up sprouts from random sellers in the farmer's market without making sure they take serious precautions in sanitation first and you'll be fine.

MrsPramm
Post 2

@irontoenail - Cooking doesn't automatically make food safe every time. I imagine that, since sprouts are kept in warm, damp conditions for a few days, that gives bacteria plenty of time to grow and produce toxins that won't necessarily be neutralized by cooking.

Now, nothing is 100% safe and you've just got to weigh the risks and decide what is best for you, but any food that is known to be a fair risk for bacteria should not be fed to people with compromised immune systems, elderly people or children. A healthy adult might get sick but probably won't suffer from long term damage with food poisoning.

irontoenail
Post 1

One way to make them safer is to cook them before eating them, or at least wash them thoroughly in water that has a little bit of bleach in it. Eating raw sprouts might be ideal in some cases, but it's probably not going to make all that much difference if you blanch them first.

And some vegetables actually have more accessible nutrients if they are cooked. I don't know if that's true of sprouts or not, but raw doesn't automatically equal more nutritious.

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