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Clover sprouts are the newly emerged plants from clover seeds. Many people eat clover sprouts for their mild taste, nutritional benefits, and anti-cancer properties. They add them to salads and sandwiches and puree them into green smoothies. Alfalfa and clover sprouts are the two most common types of sprouts grown and eaten.
Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, clover sprouts have a lot of nutritional punch for such a small plant. These plants contain vitamins A, E, and K, among others, and small amounts of calcium, iron, and other minerals. They also contain beta carotene, folate, and chlorophyll, as well as 4 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. As sprouts are a plant source of protein, they need to be eaten in conjunction with other plant sources of protein to provide all the essential amino acids the body needs. Like many plant-based foods, clover sprouts are extremely low in calories and high in fiber, which makes them a filling option for dieters.
Another health benefit of eating clover sprouts is a high isoflavone and antioxidant content. Isoflavones are especially valuable to menopausal women because they help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and have a preventive effect against heart disease and osteoporosis. The antioxidants in sprouts can help prevent cancer. Red clover in particular contains genistein, a compound that prevents angiogenesis in cancerous tumors, effectively starving them and keeping tumors from forming a blood supply.
Unfortunately, commercially produced sprouts are at risk of being contaminated with E. coli or salmonella bacteria. About half of all food-borne illnesses have been traced back to sprouts. They are vulnerable because they are eaten raw and can be exposed to contaminated manure during production. This has led the US Food and Drug Administration to recommend that sprouts be cooked before consumption.
Some of the risks associated with eating clover sprouts can be avoided by sprouting them at home. Many health stores and online companies offer sprouting kits to help consumers grow their own. Sprouting kits help make growing sprouts easier, because the process involves several days of rinsing and draining clover seeds until tiny sprouts appear. Clover sprouts will also require some indirect sunlight to help them develop a healthy green color that indicates the presence of chlorophyll and improves their nutritional profile. If they are allowed to yellow, they will grow sweeter, which can be a benefit if a sweet-tasting sprout is desirable.