Raw Sprouts: Good or Bad?

The FDA categorizes sprouts as a potentially hazardous food, which means they can carry illness-causing food bugs. Does this mean you should steer clear of them?

The FDA categorizes sprouts as a potentially hazardous food, which means they can carry illness-causing food bugs. Does this mean you should steer clear of them? Not necessarily.

Good?

Raw sprouts like alfalfa, clover, radish, onion and mung bean add color, texture and flavor to dishes. They can be enjoyed cold in sandwiches and salads or warm in stir-fries.

Sprouts are also a nutrient-dense food. One cup of alfalfa sprouts has a mere 8 calories and is a good source of vitamin K. It also provides a slew of other nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, folate, copper and manganese.

Bad?

Over the past 16 years, there have been at least 30 reported illness outbreaks associated with raw or lightly cooked sprouts. Most of the outbreaks were caused by E. Coli or salmonella. In these outbreaks, the seed was typically the source of the bacteria. Although there are various approved treatments to destroy harmful bacteria on seeds and testing is done during sprouting, there’s no guarantee that all the bacteria will be destroyed.

Think homegrown is safer? Not necessarily. Even if the sprouts are grown under sanitary conditions in your own home, the source of the bacteria is in the seed itself. The bacteria will happily multiply while the seed is sprouting.

Folks with weaker immune systems like older adults, infants, young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid raw sprouts.

Bottom Line: If you have a strong, healthy immune system, eating raw sprouts shouldn’t be a problem.  If you’re worried or have a compromised immune system, be sure to eat thoroughly-cooked sprouts and avoid raw or slightly-cooked ones. When dining out, hold the sprouts and be wary pre-made salads and sandwiches which contain them .

Keep Reading

Next Up

Raw Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

Think you're not a raw kale lover? Think again, and try this recipe, it's converted many.

Try It Today: Raw Food

What better way to go oven-free in the height of summer than trying out some raw cuisine? I decided to get the full raw food experience by dining at Pure Food & Wine, a popular raw food restaurant in New York City and spoke with Sarma Melingailis, owner and author of Living Raw Food.

In The Know: Good Cookin' Good Lookin'

Take a cue from these busy chefs and search your kitchen for makeshift beauty products.

Trending Now — Sprouted Grains

Curious about this ancient — yet newly revitalized — culinary concept? Find out what the hype is over sprouted grains.

All About Sprouts

Sprouts: buy these little green nutritional powerhouses at the store or make your own at home using seeds, a glass jar and some cheesecloth.

Shellfish: Good or Bad?

Once taken off the menu for being too high in cholesterol, it turns out that shellfish can be a tasty part of a heart healthy diet.

Cookbooks for Good Eggs

Here are four favorite egg cookbooks from past and (recent) present: the best, the most-charming and the most-beautiful egg books from Food Network's shelves.

Kombucha: Good or Bad?

Find out if the popular fermented kombucha tea is worth the hype.

Good Calories, Bad Calories?

What’s more important, what you eat or how much you eat? Dietitians are often asked this question …are all calories created equal?