Feb 19, 2014
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Bean Sprouts

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See also Beans.

Nutritional Profile

Energy value (calories per serving): Low

Protein: High

Fat: Low

Saturated fat: Low Cholesterol: None Carbohydrates: High Fiber: Moderate Sodium: Low

Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins, folate, vitamin C

Major mineral contribution: Iron, potassium

About the Nutrients in This Food

Because beans use stored starches and sugars to produce green shoots called sprouts, sprouted beans have less carbohydrate than the beans from which they grow. But bean sprouts are a good source of dietary fiber, including insoluble cellulose and lignin in leaf parts and soluble pectins and gums in the bean. The sprouts are also high in the B vitamin folate and vitamin C.

One-half cup raw mung bean sprouts has 1.2 mg dietary fiber, 31.5 mcg folate (8 percent of the R DA), and 7 mg vitamin C (9 percent of the R DA for a woman, 7 percent of the R DA for a man).

Raw beans contain anti-nutrient chemicals that inhibit the enzymes we use to digest proteins and starches; hemagglutinins (substances that make red blood cells clump together); and “factors” that may inactivate vita- min A. These chemicals are usually destroyed when the beans are heated.

with the bean must be cooked before serving.

Sprouted beans served

The Most Nutritious Way to Serve This Food

Cooked (see Adverse effects associated with this food ).

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food

Low-fiber, low-residue diet

Buying This Food

Look for: Fresh, crisp sprouts. The tips should be moist and tender. (The shorter the sprout, the more tender it will be.) It is sometimes difficult to judge bean sprouts packed in plastic bags, but you can see through to tell if the tip of the sprout looks fresh. Sprouts sold from water-filled bowls should be refrigerated, protected from dirt and debris, and served with a spoon or tongs, not scooped up by hands.

Avoid: Mushy sprouts (they may be decayed) and soft ones (they have lost moisture and vitamin C).

Storing This Food

Refrigerate sprouts in a plastic bag to keep them moist and crisp. If you bought them in a plastic bag, take them out and repack them in bags large enough that they do not crush each other. To get the most vitamin C, use the sprouts within a few days.

Preparing This Food

R inse the sprouts thoroughly under cold running water to get rid of dirt and sand. Discard any soft or browned sprouts, then cut off the roots and cook the sprouts.

Do not tear or cut the sprouts until you are ready to use them. When you slice into the sprouts, you tear cells, releasing enzymes that begin to destroy vitamin C.

What Happens When You Cook This Food

Cooking destroys some of the heat-sensitive vitamin C in sprouts. To save it, steam the sprouts quickly, stir-fry them, or add them uncooked just before you serve the dish.

How Other Kinds of Processing Affect This Food

Canning. Vitamin C is heat-sensitive, and heating the sprouts during the canning process reduces their vitamin C content.

Medical Uses and/or Benefits

Lower risk of some birth defects. As many as t wo of ever y 1,000 babies born in the United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal cord) defect due to their mothers’ not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy. The R DA for folate is 400 mcg for healthy adult men and women, 600 mcg for pregnant women, and 500 mcg for women who are nursing. Taking folate supplements before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first t wo months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

Lower risk of heart attack. In the spring of 1998, an analysis of data from the records for more than 80,000 women enrolled in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard School of Public Health/Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, in Boston, demonstrated that a diet provid- ing more than 400 mcg folate and 3 mg vitamin B6 daily, from either food or supplements, more than twice the current R DA for each, may reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by almost 50 percent. Although men were not included in the analysis, the results are assumed to apply to them as well. However, data from a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2006 called this theory into question. Researchers at Tulane University examined the results of 12 controlled studies in which 16,958 patients with preexisting cardiovascular disease were given either folic acid supplements or placebos (“look-alike” pills with no folic acid) for at least six months. The scientists, who found no reduction in the risk of further heart disease or overall death rates among those taking folic acid, concluded that further studies will be required to verif y whether taking folic acid supplements reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Adverse Effects Associated with This Food

Food poisoning: Reacting to an outbreak of Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 food poisoning associated with eating raw alfalfa sprouts, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warn- ing in 1998 and again in summer 1999, cautioning those at high risk of food-borne illness not to eat any raw sprouts. The high-risk group includes children, older adults, and people with a weakened immune system (for example, those who are HIV-positive or undergoing cancer chemotherapy). Tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1999 sug- gest that irradiating raw sprouts and bathing them in an antiseptic solution at the processing plant may eliminate disease organisms and prolong the vegetable’s shelf life; this remains to be proven.

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