- 1 Sprouts – What Are They?
- 1.1 Sprouting Benefits
- 1.2 Sprouting vs. Soaking
- 1.3 What should I sprout?
- 1.4 Is There A Problem With Sprouts?
- 1.5 Are Microgreens A Better Solution?
Some seeds and nuts sprout easily at home and are easily grown even in the smallest of spaces. These are one of the best local healthy food with a unique flavor. You don’t need a lot of space when you grow your sprouts.
Sprouts – What Are They?
Sprouts can be eaten cooked or raw and can be added to salads, stir-fries, and other dishes. Sprouts are often germinated seeds or beans (either raw or cooked), so they can be eaten as a healthy snack.
Almost any type of nut, grain, or seed can be sprouted easily at home with minimal equipment. The simple process of sprouting makes it easier to digest beans and grains and increases their nutritional value. We’ll outline the procedure in more detail here, but here is the idea:
There are many benefits to sprouts, just like the plants themselves, but they all share the same benefits:
Lower Phytic Acid and Anti – Nutrient Levels
The growth process breaks down some of the anti-nutrient compounds found naturally in nuts, grains, and seeds, which can make them difficult to digest, especially for autoimmune and digestive maladies.
Plants contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid to bind with magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron making them not readily digestible. This works in nature to keep seeds intact on animals’ digestive tract so they can grow into plants. While this is beneficial for the sprout seeds, it is not so beneficial for us who are trying to extract nutrients from our foods!
By sprouting the seeds, these anti-nutrients, enzyme inhibitors, and lectins can be broken down. Even one day of boiling and sprouting will reduce their content in anti-nutrients. While sprouts act as a natural preservative, they also release more of the bio-available nutrients and essential amino acids it contains.
Beans can potentially cause uncomfortable gas if they aren’t properly soaked and sprouted. By doing this you are breaking down compounds that normally cause gas and digestive disturbances.
Additional Beneficial Enzymes
Researchers estimate that seed sprouts contain up to 100 times more beneficial enzymes than raw vegetables. These plant enzymes are required for sprouts to grow and maintain their cellular health, so they are beneficial to us if we incorporate them into our diets. In addition to providing enzyme inducers that protect against carcinogens, sprouts are also an excellent source of antioxidants.
Added Essential Vitamins & Minerals
Sprouting transforms nuts and seeds into more nutrient-dense foods by increasing their mineral, vitamin, and soluble fiber content and increases their absorbability. It also increases their B-vitamin, carotenoid, and vitamin C content.
One study found that after only 3 days of sprouting, antioxidants like rutin increased by 10 times, especially those beneficial amino acids like lysine. Sprouts are considered a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals.
Develops Protective Compounds
It is estimated that the antioxidant properties of sprouts are powerful defense mechanisms against disease. When one consumes a sprout he or she is getting all the nutrients and health benefits of the entire plant. Different types of sprouts support the body in various ways: They contain antioxidants and enzymes that support cell regeneration and keep free radicals at bay.
Broccoli sprouts have been intensively studied for their cancer-fighting property called sulforaphane, and are often recommended as a result. Sprouts provide 10-100 times as much sulforaphane as mature broccoli plants.
Alfalfa sprouts are quick to grow and a good source of vitamins B and C, as well as zinc and magnesium. They also contain saponins, a nutrient that helps limit cholesterol levels and promotes the immune system.
- Some sprouts provide hydrolytic enzymes that aid the body’s breakdown of food.
- Isoflavones can be found in clover sprouts.
- Sunflower sprouts have high protein, phytosterol, monounsaturated fats, dietary fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- A lentil sprout is a great source of protein and a fun way to consume lentils.
Sprouting vs. Soaking
When soaked in acidic compounds like lemon juice, which is added to warm water for a short amount of time, some nuts, beans, and seeds become much more nutritious.
In sprouting, the formula is usually not acidic, but some type of starting agent is incorporated into the seed itself so that it grows. Some foods, like beans, must be soaked beforehand, but aren’t necessarily required to be sprouted. Other foods benefit from sprouting as well, particularly seeds and some nuts.
What should I sprout?
Interested in what to sprout? Here’s our go-to list:
- The majority of nuts (except pecans and walnuts)
- Almost all grains (if you consume them)
- The most common seeds include broccoli, pumpkin, sunflower, alfalfa, radish, sesame, and chia.
- A majority of beans – lentils and mung beans – can be sprouted
A few notes:
- The red kidney bean should not be sprouted, as this contains a toxic compound once it sprouts. The beans can be soaked after soaking but should be cooked before eating.
- Pecans and walnuts don’t sprout and should be soaked.
- Alfalfa seeds are a controversial plant to sprout as they contain canavanine, which some sources say are harmful to humans because they can inhibit the immune system.
- Chia, hemp, and flax seeds do not typically sprout well, though they can be through very precise methods (I recommend growing them as microgreens instead).
Is There A Problem With Sprouts?
There has been some backlash on sprouts in recent years for their potential to harbor harmful bacteria causing food poisoning. Sprouts have been linked to salmonella outbreaks and E. coli outbreaks in the past.
Seeds can be contaminated by the bugs that cause illness. Getting the seeds properly prepared and sprouting them can minimize the risk of disease. Some seeds can be tested for bacterial growth, reducing the likelihood of problems.
- You can reduce your chances of getting sick from eating fresh sprouts by following these steps
- The sprouting container should be cleaned or sterilized before each use.
- Take precautions to wash hands and surfaces close to sprouts.
- Minimize risk by following a regular rinsing regimen.
The source made the recommendation that you soak sprouts for 10-15 minutes in a lemon juice and cool water solution (1 part juice to 6 parts clean water) before having any for the acidity of the lemon juice helps kill any bacteria on the sprouts.
Overall, sprouts do carry some risks, but they also have a lot of health benefits. Most people get sick more often if they eat meat or eggs than sprouts. Know the food safety risks and benefits beforehand.
Having eaten raw food in the past, we believe sprouting nuts and seeds is no big deal; on the other hand, if you are nervous, you can always switch to soaking first and sprouting after that, then heating them.
Are Microgreens A Better Solution?
We have been trying out microgreens recently, which are very small edible plants (like lettuce, radishes, beets, watercress, spinach, herbs, and greens) harvested when they are young for consumption rather than being grown to full size.
They have many of the same benefits and percentage of nutrients as sprouts, but they are grown in soil and don’t carry the risk of illness. They can be grown indoors or outdoors, and seeds usually sprouted can still be grown as microgreens and have the added nutrients.
The researchers examined 25 varieties of microgreens for vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and other phytochemicals in four groups. All the microgreens tested leaves were four to six times more nutritious than those of mature plants. However, some they had were higher in vitamins than, for instance, red cabbage and daikon radishes.
Growing microgreens with soil and sunlight or a grow light is easier and provides more nutrients and minerals for microgreens than sprouts. They are easy to grow in a simple seed tray and grow light at home. We have already mentioned the ease with which some seeds can be grown as microgreens rather than sprouts, such as chia or flax.