Raw sprouts are delicious and are densely packed with nutrients. It is one of the healthy snacking options. However, when it comes to pregnancy, expecting women need to follow a long list of do’s and don’ts. From what to eat to what to do- there is a whole guide aimed at the well-being pf the mother and the baby. Likewise, there are several safety concerns when it comes to consuming sprouts during pregnancy.
What Are Sprouts?
Sprouting is the technique used to germinate grains, legumes, and beans. Sprouts are the shoots that grow out of legumes, seeds, and grains that undergo sprouting. These tender sprouts that emerge from the seeds carry all the nutrients of that seed, and that too, in a more concentrated form.
You can sprout different kinds of seeds and grams like channa, moong, alfalfa, radish, horse grams, etc. Each type of sprout has a different taste, texture, and looks. They also have varied nutritional composition.
Related Reading: Top 10 Protein-Rich Foods For Pregnancy
Are Sprouts Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?
Raw sprouts have an increased risk of being contaminated with bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. Therefore, all types of raw sprouts, let it be moong beans, radish, channa, or alfalfa, are considered as a ‘high-risk’ food when it comes to pregnancy.
During the process of sprouting, the outer shells of the grains and seeds crack. Therefore, the chances of bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli to get into the seeds through their cracked outer shell increases.
And once these microbes manage to get inside the seed, the same humid and warm conditions that help to grow the sprouts help the germs to thrive as well. If a pregnant women eat raw sprouts these microbes can get into her bloodstream causing many health issues that get in the way of the healthy progression of the pregnancy.
However, this doesn’t mean one has to stay away from this nutrient-dense food during pregnancy. Properly cooked sprouts are safe to eat during pregnancy. “Properly cooked” doesn’t refer to cooking sprouts on a low flame. On the contrary, sprouts should be cooked on a high flame until all the sprouts are steaming hot.
Therefore, if you wish to eat your favorite moong sprouts during pregnancy make sure it is well cooked. You can have well-cooked bean sprouts during pregnancy without much worry about contamination.
Nutritional Profile Of Sprouts
Sprouts are a nutritionally dense food. However, that doesn’t mean that new vitamins and minerals will be added to a particular seed or grain. On the other hand, sprouting enhances the existing nutritional value of the food.
According to a source, as per research conducted at Cornell University way back in 1946, the vitamin A and vitamin C content of seed increases to 300% and 500% respectively after sprouting. Likewise, according to another source,
- Antioxidant property increased to 300-470% in sprouted Amaranth
- The dietary ﬁber content increased to 6.1-13.6% and the antioxidant property also considerably increased in sprouted Brown rice
- Sprouted whole grains are more nutritious than their unsprouted counterparts
- Sprouting increases the bioavailability of certain minerals in many food grains
Thus, as you see, even though the type of nutrients in lentils, legumes, grains, and seeds won’t change, its concentration definitely multiplies during the process of sprouting. The nutritional value of sprouts varies with the variety. The nutritive value of a moong dal sprout will not be the same as a channa sprout.
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However, in general, the sprouted counterparts contain markedly more Vitamins, minerals, fibers, and enzymes than the unsprouted grains and seeds. Likewise, the protein content of sprouts is significantly high. It is also rich in oxygen content. It is low in calories and has plenty of antioxidant properties.
Benefits Of Eating Sprouts During Pregnancy
Sprouts can be a super healthy addition to your daily pregnancy meals. Sprouts provide all the necessary nutrients which are important for the healthy progression of the pregnancy. Abdominal pain during pregnancy can cause considerable discomfort and stress.
Most of the gas-producing starches in grains and seeds will be eliminated during the processes of sprouting. So even if some seeds carry a risk of intestinal gas, its sprouted version may not.
The bioavailability of many minerals and vitamins is very high compared to its counterparts. So, eating sprouts is an inexpensive way to get enough vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. However, it is important to take all the precautionary measures before including them in your pregnancy diet.
Here are some of the top benefits of eating sprouts during pregnancy:
1. Sprouts during pregnancy aid digestion
As already discussed above the enzyme content in sprouts are high when compared to its counterpart. These enzymes help to boost the metabolic process and improve digestion. Also, these enzymes break down the food more efficiently.
The sprouting process also converts the complex nutrients in seeds and grains to simpler forms so that more nutrients will be absorbed by the body. This is very important during pregnancy.
For example, the starch in normal seeds and grains will get converted into simple sugars like glucose and fructose after sprouting. Likewise, proteins will change to amino acids. Similarly, the fats get converted into a simpler form of fatty acids.
The level of dietary fiber in sprouts will also be relatively high than normal grains and seeds. This also helps with bowel movement and helps to prevent constipation to an extent.
2. Helps with the growth and development of the fetus
The protein levels in sprouts are remarkably high. For example, on sprouting, the protein level of moong raises by 30%. Protein is very important for the growth and development of the fetus. It also contains a good level of Vitamin A, another element that plays an important role in fetal development
Related Reading: 18 Foods To Eat To Increase Fetal Weight During Pregnancy
3. Boosts blood circulation
Sprouts contain a significant amount of iron and copper. It helps to increase the red blood count. It also strengthens capillaries. This is very important during pregnancy. The blood volume will increase up to 50% during pregnancy and eating sprouts during pregnancy helps to strengthen blood vessels and also to increases circulation.
4. Having sprouts during pregnancy can boost your immunity
Sprouts contain a significant amount of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Vitamin C boosts immunity. The antioxidant property of Vitamin A helps to strengthen immunity. Therefore, eating sprouts during pregnancy can help to fight off or prevent infections.
5. Improves eyesight
Vision changes are common during pregnancy. Vitamin A plays an important role in improving vision. Sprouts are an excellent source of Vitamin A. it is also loaded with antioxidant agents that help to protect the cells of the eyes from free radicals.
6. Helps to maintain blood pressure
It is important to regulate blood pressure during pregnancy. Sprouts contain a significant amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3 help to reduce the excessive stress on blood vessels. This helps to regulate blood pressure during pregnancy. Besides, sprouts also contain potassium that helps with regulating blood pressure.
7. Helps reduce acidity
Sprouts are alkaline in nature. Eating sprouts during pregnancy thus helps to neutralize excess stomach acids. Including well-cooked sprouts in pregnancy, salads help to reduce acidity, a common issue during pregnancy.
Risks And Precautions When Eating Sprouts During Pregnancy
Even though highly nutritious, there are some risks associated with eating sprouts during pregnancy. Also, it is very important to follow some precautionary measures if you want to consume sprouts during pregnancy.
Risks of consuming sprouts during pregnancy
Sprouting is a process of germination. The container in which the sprouts are in is a good medium for the microbes to thrive as well. If the sprouting seeds are grown in unhygienic mediums the risk of contamination is very high.
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If there is any contamination, bacteria like E Coli or Salmonella also thrive in the same container. Once the outer surface cracks as a part of germination, these bacteria enter the sprouts.
Once a pregnant women consume these sprouts (uncooked) loaded with the microbes, bacteria will get into the bloodstream. This will bring about infections like listeriosis. Listeriosis during pregnancy can be life-threatening as it increases the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and premature birth.
Likewise, some sprouts even though nutritious are not recommended during pregnancy. For example, excessive intake of horse gram sprouts during pregnancy can potentially increase core body temperature which is not safe during pregnancy especially during the initial months of pregnancy.
Precautions when consuming sprouts during pregnancy
Always eat well-cooked sprouts. Cooking sprouts thoroughly means heating them until they are steaming hot. Cooking kills bacteria. Hence the risk of contamination will significantly get reduced
Now the mother can reap the nutritional benefit of sprouts without the fear of infections. There is another benefit to cooking sprouts. The irritating elements in the sprouts also get deactivated during cooking.
Related Reading: 9 Common Infections During Pregnancy You Should Be Aware Of
Growing sprouts at home and eating them fresh would be more beneficial for a pregnant woman rather than going for ready-to-eat sprouts available in the market. This way, at least one can make sure the grains are sprouted in a hygiene condition. Also, never preserve the sprouts for too long either. Once roots have erupted, eat them as soon as possible.
How to cook sprouts?
Common methods of cooking sprouts to kill bacteria include boiling, steaming, and frying.
- Boiling: Boiling sprouts until they become steaming hot and draining water is an easy and quick method to kill the bacteria in sprouts. After this, you can eat them as they are or can add them to salads
- Steaming: According to one research, steaming the sprouts locks more nutrients than boiling. Therefore this is an excellent method to adapt for cooking sprout.
- Frying: Fried sprouts are very common in Asian cuisine and frying sprouts in high flame also help to kill the bacteria
There are quote some concerns regarding consumption of sprouts during pregnancy. However, if the sprouts are properly prepared and cooked, they can be great sources of several nutrients. And it is undoubtedly beneficial for the growth and development of your little one, in addition to being good for your health.
You can reap the health benefits of bean sprouts during pregnancy only if it is thoroughly cooked. Any sprout that is not cooked until steaming hot is not safe during pregnancy.
Yes, you can have channa sprouts during pregnancy but only after thoroughly boiling them. Eating raw sprouts increases the risk of bacterial infections like listeriosis.
No. Eating raw sprouts is not at all safe during pregnancy. It increases the risk of food-borne illness which can create many complications during pregnancy.
When it comes to eating sprouts during pregnancy, just like any other food, moderation is the key. Overeating can invite many unwanted side effects. 100 to 150 grams (a small bowl) of sprout can be considered ideal during pregnancy.
The best time to eat sprouts is to have them as a mid-morning snack. You can also make it a part of your lunch. However, it is better to avoid eating sprouts during dinner.