Alfalfa Sprouts Nutritional Information

Alfalfa sprouts annotated

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman  

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Sprouts are seeds that have been watered and germinated to produce a thin stalk and leaflets. They are harvested when they are about three to five days old. There are many varieties of sprouts, including mung bean, alfalfa, broccoli, clover, and soybeans.

The leafier the sprouts are, the more their nutritional content is similar to green leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Sprouted legumes (beans) have a higher carbohydrate content unless the seed itself has been removed before sale.

Sprouts are easy to grow at home. A tablespoon of alfalfa seeds, for example, will sprout to fill a quart jar. Almost any seed or legume can be used for sprouting. Be sure to buy seeds labeled "for sprouting."

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts

  • 1 cup raw alfalfa sprouts: 0.1 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 0.6 grams fiber and 8 calories
  • 1 cup raw mung bean sprouts: 4 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 2 grams fiber and 31 calories
  • 1 cup raw pinto bean sprouts: 10 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 1.5 grams fiber and 64 calories

Glycemic Index and Load

As with most non-starchy vegetables, they don't test the glycemic index of sprouts but assume that it is very low due to the low amount of carbohydrates. Glycemic load factors in the amount of food that is eaten and a glycemic load of less than 10 indicates it is very low and should have little or no effect on blood sugar or insulin reaction. Here are the estimated glycemic loads for three types of sprouts:

  • 1 cup raw alfalfa sprouts: 0
  • 1 cup raw mung bean sprouts: 2
  • 1 cup raw pinto bean sprouts: 4

Nutritional Value

Sprouts are a fair source of a variety of nutrients but aren't very high in any one, probably because they aren't very dense. If there is a significant amount of green leaf attached they have a nutrient profile similar to leafy green vegetables, including lots of vitamin K. Some studies have shown that some of them have fairly high levels of phytonutrients, many of which have antioxidant properties.


Sprouts are highly perishable and for that reason, must be used soon after being purchased, preferably in a day or two, but no more than three days. Regulations were implemented in the handling of sprouts to reduce the risk of foodborne illness that was associated with them in the past. When choosing sprouts look for ones that are firm and firmly attached to their stems. They should be a rich green at the top. The stems at the bottom should be white in color. The container should not be moist or smelly. If you are buying them in-store, be sure to look for the International Sprout Growers Association seal.


Sprouts should be washed after being purchased and stored cold at all times. As temperature and humidity increase, the potential for bacterial growth goes up. The risk is higher when consuming them raw, such as on a sandwich or in a salad. Cooking may reduce the risk for some foodborne illnesses, but not all.

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