How to Eat Alfalfa Sprouts the Right Way
We’ve all heard about different blend of superfoods. There’s wheatgrass, then there’s chlorella, kale, spinach, quinoa, chia seeds…
But have you heard of alfalfa sprouts?
Adorably Amazing Alfalfa Sprouts
These cute shoots are actually germinated alfalfa seeds. Despite their tiny size, these sprouts contain a ton of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that can greatly benefit the body.
So how nutritious are alfalfa sprouts exactly? Let's check out then, shall we?
It is an essential component of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is the substance responsible for carrying oxygen to cells throughout the body. Moreover, it can help maintain a healthy metabolism, improve brain and muscle function, regulate body temperature, and treat anemia, insomnia, and fatigue.
This nutrient is a big help in building and repairing tissues, and the production of body chemicals, enzymes, and hormones. It can also aid in managing blood glucose levels and weight, protecting the heart, and amazingly slowing down aging.
Fiber not only helps maintain a healthy digestive system, but also significantly lowers the risk of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, strokes, heart diseases, and some gastrointestinal diseases.
It's a very important vitamin for maintaining a healthy metabolism and brain function as well as for healthy blood clotting. It also promotes heart health, helps fight cancer, and aids in building healthy bones, gums, and teeth.
And on top of all these nutritious goodness, alfalfa sprouts is a good source of calcium, vitamins A and C, and some B vitamins. It also has a low glycemic index (LGI), which makes it ideal for people with diabetes.
Alfalfa Sprouts: A New Darling of the Health World
They are quite common in Oriental dishes. However, it is only recently that alfalfa sprouts are gaining popularity in the United States.
And more and more people are beginning to trust these tiny sprouts. Why exactly? It's because studies show that they are very effective in fighting two of the most common health problems in the country—diabetes and cancer. No wonder people are turning to alfalfa sprouts as garnishes to practically any and every dish—salads, soups, sandwiches, stir-fries, and burgers. You name it, they'll put alfalfa sprouts in it.
A lot of people are even growing their own little alfalfa gardens. It’s easy and simple, and doesn’t require much maintenance. And what’s best about growing your own alfalfa sprouts? You can be sure they are fresh, natural, organic, and healthy.
Alfalfa Sprouts Precautions
Of course, as with many other produce, there are a few precautions you should take note of when it comes to alfalfa sprouts.
In fact, according to FoodSafety.gov, young children, pregnant women, nursing women, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems should avoid consuming raw sprouts.
Why? Because alfalfa sprouts have this tendency of being easily contaminated. They may contain some types of deadly bacteria, such as E. coli. There are also some reports of people getting infected with salmonella and listeria after eating alfalfa.
Mike Doyle, the director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, even said that he considers “sprouts to be among the most risky foods sold at retail.” This is probably because the sprouts are often grown in unsanitary environments that are practically ideal for bacteria.
How to Eat Alfalfa Sprouts
Now I know it sounds scary. However, there are ways to ensure that you are handling and consuming sprouts the right way. As long as you prepare alfalfa sprouts correctly, you will significantly reduce the likelihood of you getting foodborne illnesses.
If you prefer to eat your store-bought alfalfa sprouts raw, then the first step is for you to wash your hands with warm water and soap before you actually touch the sprouts. This ensures that you won’t be introducing any other kind of bacteria to the sprouts yourself.
When you’re certain your hands are thoroughly clean, remove the alfalfa sprouts from the container and place them in a clean colander. Run the colander under cool running water for about 1 minute. Toss the sprouts while doing so. This rinses off the surface dirt. According to Food Safety, washing your hands before and after handling alfalfa sprouts and rinsing the sprouts completely is important. This will ensure that no bacteria will be passed on to the other foods that will be mixed with the sprouts.
Before actually mixing these sprouts in your salad or layering them in your sandwich or your wrap, make sure to properly drain them before eating them. Lay them out on a clean paper towel to ensure even drying.
And to make sure that you are getting fresh alfalfa sprouts, check if they look crispy and that they have buds. Avoid soggy or dark-colored sprouts to avoid possible food-related illnesses. Lastly, make sure to dispose of your leftover alfalfa sprouts within four days after purchase.
Another option to safely add alfalfa sprouts to your diet is to get them from a health supplement capsule or green juice such as Life Essentials.
Homegrown Alfalfa Sprouts
If you’re tending to homegrown alfalfa sprouts, here's what you should do. First, mix 1 gallon of water with 3 tablespoons of bleach. Then soak your sprouting equipment in this solution for around 5 minutes. While these are soaking, go ahead and thoroughly clean your own hands before handling the alfalfa sprouts or the disinfected equipment.
Afterward, in a small saucepan, pour in food-grade 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and bring up the temperature to 140℉. You can monitor the temperature using a cooking thermometer.
Put the alfalfa seeds in a metal strainer, and then submerge the seeds in the peroxide. Do this until the temperature returns back to 140℉.
Take out the strainer from the pan and rinse the seeds under cool running water for about 1 minute. Don’t forget to wash your hands again before handling the disinfected seeds.
Go ahead and sprout the seeds as you normally would. Don’t forget to skim off any hulls or floating empty seeds from the water’s surface in the sprouter. Once the seeds have sprouted and are ready for eating, follow the steps of washing alfalfa sprouts above.
I understand the cleaning process can be long and a bit of a hassle. But they are the only way to ensure that your alfalfa sprouts are safe to eat. And as they say, better safe than sorry, right?
Cooking Alfalfa Sprouts
Other experts believe that cooking the alfalfa sprouts ensures that the bacteria, if any, will be eliminated. But that means the sprouts have to be thoroughly cooked. According to the British FSA, a "thorough cooking" means “until they are steaming hot.”
However, some recipes suggest adding the sprouts to the dish at the last minute. You can then cook them for no more than 30 seconds. Unfortunately, this quick cooking method will not bring the alfalfa sprouts to the temperature required to kill bacteria.