Which Sprouts Should Not Be Eaten Raw?

Reviewed on 5/17/2021

Sprouts are hailed for various health benefits including boosting heart health and immunity.
Sprouts are hailed for various health benefits including boosting heart health and immunity.

Sprouts are hailed for various health benefits including boosting heart health and immunity. However, there have been concerns about their adverse health effects, particularly when they are consumed raw. Consumption of any of the raw sprouts including alfalfa, radish, beans and clover sprouts may lead to harmful effects. Consuming raw sprouts can cause food poisoning. This may happen because for germinating the seeds for making sprouts, they need to be kept in warm and moist places. These conditions also favor the growth of harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. These bacteria may harm you when you consume infected raw sprouts or after they are slightly cooked below the temperature that may effectively kill these pathogens. Symptoms of food poisoning on consuming raw sprouts are diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting. Most people get these symptoms within 12-72 hours after eating the sprouts. Symptoms are generally self-limiting or easily manageable and rarely cause any life-threatening complications. In people with compromised immunity such as young children, people with diabetes and pregnant women, there may be serious and potentially fatal side effects. Because of the increasing number of reports on illnesses associated with the consumption of raw sprouts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising all people to be aware of the risks associated with eating raw sprouts.

Besides the risk of infections, raw sprouts may also be difficult to digest. This may cause episodes of constipation or diarrhea in some people. Difficulty digesting raw sprouts may also prevent the absorption of various vital nutrients from the sprouts. Thus, people must cook or steam and eat sprouts to get their optimal nutritional benefits.

What is the best way to consume sprouts?

Although not everyone faces any adverse effects on consuming raw sprouts, it is always good to cook your sprouts before you eat them. You may sauté your sprouts for 5-10 minutes with a little butter or oil in a pan before eating them. Alternatively, you can boil your sprouts with a little salt for about 10-15 minutes. You can then have them as such or add a little lemon juice or your favorite seasonings. This will not only enhance the taste but also make sprouts safer and more easily digestible. Cooking is especially recommended for people with weak immunity.

Besides cooking, you must also know how to get the best quality sprouts for you and your family. Always buy fresh sprouts that can be identified by their moist and white roots and crunchy feel. You must not buy sprouts if they are too smelly or slimy. After buying, store sprouts in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator and use them as soon as possible. It is ideal to store them at temperatures below 48°F. You must wash your hands well before handling sprouts and rinse them well under cold water before cooking.


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