It happens to me every week. I go to the market, see the packages of sprouts, give them a quick ponder, and inevitably keep walking. I know they are supposed to be good for me but they can be a little pricey, not to mention who knows how long they've been sitting there, losing their precious nutrients to the glamour of the market shelves.

Recently, however, I came across an article on how to sprout at home and I was intrigued. So I gave it a try. And now I'm hooked! Sprouting at home is remarkably easy; so easy that my 6-year-old did it, and had fun. Even better -- he actually liked the sprouts. All you need are your seeds or legumes of choice, cheesecloth, a rubber band, a large, wide-mouthed jar and water. The most popular choices for sprouting are alfalfa seeds, red clover seeds, radish seeds, mustard seeds, lentils, fenugreek, mung beans, wheat berries, aduki beans, garbanzo beans and sunflower seeds.

Place 1 part seeds to 3 parts water in your jar, making sure not to overcrowd the container. Remember the seeds are going to need plenty, and I mean plenty, of room to sprout as they will more than triple in volume. Cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Let soak overnight. Tip the jar upside down and drain the water out. Rinse with fresh water, then drain again and stand jar, mouth-side down, in a colander or dish rack to allow for good drainage and air circulation. Keep in a warm, dry, dark place -- you can simply cover the setup with a towel or bag in your kitchen -- making sure to repeat the rinse and drain process twice daily. Your sprouts should be ready after three to five days and will keep for up to a week if stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Complicated? Not so much. And the best part is that your minimal investment of time and energy will result in a maximum return on nutritional value as sprouts embody peak vitality in the life cycle of plants. In other words, the plant is at its nutritional peak in sprouted form. It makes sense too. The seed is getting ready to burst into a full grown plant so needs all the macro and micro nutrient reserves it can gather. Not only are the sprouts loaded with nutrients, but these health-promoting, disease-fighting, does-a-body-goodies are in their most bio-available form. That means they are quickly and easily absorbed by our bodies since they are already in their most basic form. Starches have been predigested into simple sugars, fats into free fatty acids and protein into amino acids. Talk about an instant nutrition! The Chinese have been consuming sprouts for thousands of years for their therapeutic properties as well as their nutritional ones. The concentrated amounts of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytochemicals and antioxidants in sprouts help protect against cancer and heart disease, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, detoxify and cleanse the body, flush toxins from the system, support the immune system, and protect against cell mutations.

As one of most nutritionally complete foods, sprouts are a simple addition to any diet. They add great crunch to spreads, salads or sandwiches, and can even be tossed into soups and stir-fries at the last minute.

For more information on sprouts, check out www.sprouts-as-medicine.com

Jennifer Spaide received her master's degree in human nutrition from Columbia University. She is a mom, personal chef and freelance writer residing in New Canaan. As founder of GreenChic, Jennifer is dedicated to inspiring individuals to get fresh in the kitchen and eat their way to a healthy life. You can contact Jennifer at 203-247-2002 or jennifer@thegreenchiclife.com. Visit www.thegreenchiclife.com to learn more.