'Sprouting' Is The Healthiest (And Least Expensive) Thing You Can Do For Your Brain Health
I sprout every week. I have for years. And many people don't realize how easy it is to grow sprouts and microgreens at home and take advantage of their incredible health benefits. All it takes is a container, seeds, and water—and it's incredibly cost-effective, as you can buy a large bag of seeds for very little money and sprout those seeds for months.
So yes, I sprout because it is inexpensive, but more importantly, I sprout because there are few foods that rival sprouts for their anti-inflammatory1, antioxidant2, and detoxifying qualities. Seeds, beans, legumes, and grains can be used to sprout, and sprouted foods contain a significant amount of protein as well as higher concentrations of important vitamins and vital nutrients compared to the mature food form. Sprouts are full of enzymes for digestive and metabolic processes and offer up the perfect substrates for the mitochondria to allow for optimal energy production for organ function. Best of all, they taste great. Most sprouts have a crunchy, even slightly sweet flavor. They are a great addition to salads, stir-fry meals, sandwiches, and more.
Here are some of my favorite sprouts and why you should consider sprouting at home:
1. Broccoli Sprouts
This is one of my top food recommendations in general, as they are very neuroprotective. Broccoli sprouts contain higher amounts of the antioxidant sulforaphane than the mature broccoli plant. Sulforaphane stimulates the expression of cytoprotective genes3 in the brain and even has been shown to potentially minimize injury to nerve cells. The only significant natural source of sulforaphane is in the sprout of the broccoli seed.
2. Mung Bean Sprouts
Mung bean sprouts are an important part of my detoxification diet. Mung beans have long been used in different cultures for their powerful detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain important compounds such as isoflavones, which are antioxidant and can help reduce cholesterol. They are one of the few foods that contain significant amounts of bioavailable potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce muscle cramps.
3. Chia Seed Sprouts
These sprouts are high in omega-3 fatty acids and support neuronal health and decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack. Chia sprouts are high in calcium and magnesium, which support bone and muscle health. Magnesium is particularly important for vessel and brain health. These sprouts also contain significant amounts of fiber, which not only promotes bowel regularity but also stabilizes blood sugar levels.
4. Red Clover Sprouts
I recommend these sprouts for perimenopausal and menopausal women as they are a great source of phytoestrogens and therefore can treat many common symptoms such as temperature dysregulation and bloating, but phytoestrogens are also helpful to treat insomnia and anxiety, which contribute to difficulties in focus and concentration.
5. Lentil Sprouts
Lentils are my favorite legume, and I eat them regularly. They are rich in thiamine, an important B vitamin for neurotransmitter balance. An interesting fact is that dried lentils are deficient in cysteine and methionine, two essential amino acids. Lentil sprouts, on the other hand, have increased levels of all amino acids including cysteine and methionine, making it an important vegan source of a complete protein.
6. Radish Sprouts
Who doesn't like a good radish? Rich in chlorophyll-supporting cellular function, these sprouts are great for weight loss as they provide a sense of fullness with their spicy flavor and also have important vitamins for metabolism. They also contain significant antioxidant compounds, which enhance immunity and reduce inflammation.
Sprouts are an important part of a healthy diet and are often overlooked. The benefits of reduced oxidative stress, less inflammation, improved cellular respiration, and detoxification far outweigh the cost and the time it takes to grow them. You will no doubt reap the benefits from regular sprout consumption!
Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., is a board-certified neurologist practicing integrative pediatric and adult neurology in Seattle. She is the owner and founder of the Center for Healing Neurology and is on the faculty of Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her holistic approach includes full neurological care with the addition of acupuncture, neurofeedback, and herbal and nutritional guidance. She received her M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and completed her neurology training at the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition to becoming a certified medical acupuncturist, she has also completed the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona. Her Ph.D. doctoral dissertation studied the effects of environmental toxins on our nation’s water systems.