My obsession with sunflower sprouts Posted on January 16, 2014

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I really hate missing our Sunday morning organic markets for two reasons: firstly, I miss the opportunity to support my local farmers and cash in on some of the best local produce going round, and secondly I miss loading up on my sunflower sprouts from Summit Organics (one of the most amazing organic farms going round).

It would be fair to say I have a sunflower sprout addiction. For those of you yet to indulge in some sprouting goodness, these crunchy and slightly nutty tasting greens can be consumed ‘naked’, yet they also make a delicious addition to any salad as well as rice-paper rolls, wraps or anything that needs a little more green (I’ll post my favourite sprout recipe tomorrow).

Not only do sunflower sprouts taste great, they are full of nutritional benefits:

  • Sunflower Sprouts contain approximately 25% protein and are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, D, and E and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.
  • Sunflower Sprouts also contain, healthy fats, essential fatty acids, fibre, and phytosterols. Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated that daily consumption of foods enriched with at least 0.8 g of plant sterols or stanols lowers serum LDL cholesterol.
  • Both sunflower seeds and their sprouts contain high amounts of vitamin E. Vitamin E works synergistically with vitamin C and selenium to reduce blood pressure, increase the elasticity of arteries and prevent heart disease.
  • The sunflower sprout is a natural expectorant for chest congestion: In Ayurvedic medicine, these sprouts are thought to have the ability to encourage clearance of the lungs. Natural expectorants may also be used as a preventative measure against lower respiratory infections to deter the invasion of pathogens.

Sprouting as a whole:

  • According to Care2, experts have estimated that sprouts can contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables, allowing your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat. Who doesn’t want more bang for your buck?The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids also increase dramatically during the sprouting process. For example, depending on the sprout, the nutrient content can increase as much as 30 times the original value within just a few days of sprouting. Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list of all the seeds that you can sprout and are typically each about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables you can even harvest in your backyard garden
  • During sprouting, minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, bind to protein, making them more bioavailable
  • Whilst I am a sunflower sprout advocate, broccoli sprouts have proven particularly beneficial for type 2 diabetics. In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, they reduced oxidized LDL (and improved the oxLDL/LDL level) and decreased triglycerides in diabetic patients. They also reduced insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics. And finally, they reduced oxidative stress in type 2 diabetics.

So, you’ve heard the good news; now, alas, I must tell you that sometimes getting hold of sunflower sprouts can be tricky.

If you’re extraordinarily lucky, as I am, you can buy them at a local farmer’s market. Like the rest of the organic produce available at the farmers market, this is by far the cheapest way to source these tasty greens.

If this isn’t an option, your local health food store might sell them. Check the refrigerated section.  

If you are all out of luck, sprouts, can easily be grown in your own kitchen, so you know exactly what you’re eating.

One beautifully photographed, step-by-step blog that shows the in’s and out’s of sprouting sunflower seeds is called Kitchen Apparel. For all your sprouting gear, you can jump onto Sprout Organic (for Australian customers) and The Sprout People for those in the US.

One thing to note is that sprouts don’t store well. One trick I have learnt from a friend at the farmer’s market, line an airtight container with paper towel and store sunflower sprouts on top of paper towel. That way the moisture is absorbed! They last up to 6 days this way.

When researching this article, I came across a few cases where bean and clover sprouts have been to linked to a international E. coli and salmonella outbreaks. In outbreaks associated with sprouts, the ‘seed’ is typically the source of the bacteria.  For those of you concerned, you should avoid eating raw sprouts – cooking sprouts will reduce kill the harmful bacteria. 

The fact that sprouts have been linked to salmonella and e-coli is new to me. Whilst I continue to enjoy my sprouts, I am going to research this a little more over the coming weeks. I will report back with my findings.

 Do you eat sprouts? Do you grow your own? Or do you avoid them because of contamination risks? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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