Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why Sprout?

Sprouting in your kitchen is like having a mini garden in the house year round.

I have been greatly enjoying sprouting recently. It’s been something I’ve done off and on for a few years now, but I am really branching out into sprouting a variety of beans, grains and seeds now and am loving it.

I will be sharing the “how to”‘ of individual legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts soon, but wanted to first explain why sprouts are so great for you.

Consider What a Sprout is

Before we go into the specifics of why sprouting is good for you, allow me to give you a visual for what is happening. A seed (or grain or legume) has many nutritional advantages to you, but many of them are locked up tight by anti-nutrients (such as phytic acid, as discussed here). It’s almost like a mini treasure chest, but you have to be able to find the right key to open it. Once you start the germinating process, that dormant seed starts to become a live plant. Anti-nutrients are cast away, it changes, inside and out, and when you eat that seed, no longer are you eating just a seed, instead you are eating a tiny little plant. The process of changing seeds into little plants is easy, but the changes that happen is huge.

Here are a few of the things that happen during that process.

Phytic Acid and Enzyme Inhibitors are Neutralized

Phytic acid binds with calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc, making it hard to impossible for you to absorb those nutrients. It’s also irritating to your digestive system. By sprouting your grains, legumes or seeds, you are neutralizing phytic acid very effectively. You will also be neutralizing enzyme inhibitors, which unfortunately not only inhibit enzymes in the actual seed, but can also inhibit your own valuable enzymes once they have been eaten.

This is one of the biggest advantages in my mind. I have started sprouting some of my legumes, since the phytic acid in some legumes are especially hard to neutralize. Your seed/grain/legume will be much easier to digest now that you have sprouted it, and you will also be able to assimilate more nutrients.

(By the way, the another method to accomplish this goal is soaking which includes sourdough. )

Sprouting Aids Digestibility

Beyond even anti-nutrients that are neutralized by sprouting, there are other changes that take place during sprouting that make it easier for us to digest our seeds/legumes/grains.

“Soaking will also help to diminish s0me of the fat content and will help convert the dense vegetable protein to simpler amino acids for easier digestion. The more complex carbohydrates in the foods will also start to break down into the simpler glucose molecules” Wendy Rudell, Raw Transformation

Have you ever had problems with legumes causing intestinal gas? Well sprouting helps break down the complex sugars responsible for that, making them easier for all of us to digest.

Sally Fallon gives us one more reason to sprout our grains as well, saying that “Sprouting inactivates aflotoxins, potent carcinogens found in grains.” Nourishing Traditions, pg 112

Finally, now that the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized, enzymes, which help you digest your food, are free to be produced during the sprouting process and then consumed.

For all of these reasons, sprouting greatly helps digestion.

Other Nutritional Advantages

“The process of germination not only produces vitamin C, but also changes the composition of grains and seeds in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Carotene increases dramatically-sometimes even eightfold.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg 112

Sally also mentions how the Chinese used to carry mung beans when on long journeys at sea. They would sprout and eat the mung beans as they contained sufficient amount of vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Who doesn’t need a little extra vitamin C in it’s natural absorb-able form? This is a great benefit for all of us.

Sprout People give this nutritional info for sprouts:
“Nutritional info: Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K
Calcium, Carbohydrates, Chlorophyll, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc
All Amino Acids
Trace Elements
Protein: up to 35%”

Sprouts Are More Alkalizing to the Body

Some food is acid forming, and some is alkalizing. We need a balance of acid to alkaline food to maintain good health. Unfortunately, we usually have too many acid forming foods in our diet (stress, and environmental stresses also make our body more acidic). Grains, legumes and meats are generally thought to be acid forming (that doesn’t mean that they are bad, just that they need to be balanced out with alkaline food), fruits and vegetables are alkalizing. By sprouting your grains and legumes, you are helping them become a more alkaline forming food. Remember that by sprouting you are starting the process of making a plant. So, in a sense, it’s more like eating a plant or vegetable so therefore more alkalizing.

The Practical Aspects of Sprouting

The Method:

I think the reason most people don’t sprout is because it sounds so intimidating. Let me tell you, it’s really not hard at all. And, it takes very little time. I know that we are all busy people, really a busy nation. But sprouting will not take much time, and will give you much in return.

The method is pretty much the same for most seeds, grains, nuts, and legumes, it’s just the time that varies. Sally Fallon has a helpful section in Nourishing Traditions that gives guidelines for how long it takes to grow different seeds. An easy and frugal method to sprout, which I am currently using, is to fill a mason jar about one third full of desired seed to sprout, and then cover with water overnight. On the top you place a sprouting screen screwed into the lid. In the morning you drain and rinse it (doing so right through the screen), and then you invert your jar at an angle, allowing it to drain and air to circulate within your jar. Then all you have to do is rinse 2-3 times per day, and your seeds will turn into sprouts. It’s that easy.

To see how this works, look at my post about Sprouting Grains. I will also update this page with links to my newer posts going over the how’s of sprouting individual seeds.

Eating Sprouts Raw and Safety Issues

Should We Eat Sprouts Raw?

Now raw foodists will disagree with this, but I think that not all sprouts should be eaten raw. In fact, some sprouted legumes are toxic until cooked. Other legumes are still very hard to digest when raw.

Sally Fallon recommends not only cooking sprouted legumes, but also warns against eating high amounts of raw sprouted grains.

“However, we must warn against over consumption of raw sprouted grains as raw sprouts contain irritating substances that keep animals from eating the tender shoots. These substances are neutralized in cooking. Sprouted grains should usually be eaten lightly steamed of added to soups and casseroles.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, page 113

Other sprouts, such as radish, clover, or broccoli should be fine raw. And these are the most delicious ones raw anyways. My only question in regard to these (to which I don’t have an answer) is whether or not broccoli sprouts (which are extremely nutritious) contain the thyroid suppressing elements that raw broccoli contain. Regardless, it is wise not to over consume anything, and one is very unlikely to eat huge amounts of sprouts anyway.

Raw soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds are very good for you raw as well.

Safety When Eating Raw Sprouts

It’s important when sprouting, even more so if you are consuming them raw, that you use common sense in using clean jars, being careful that the jars and sprouts aren’t contaminated. Never eat any sprouts that smell bad, or are slimy or moldy.

You can read the FDA’s safety warning on eating raw sprouts here, and Sprout’s people response here, and also here how this company is making sure that their sprouts are safe.


Sprouts are very easy to grow, and have so many benefits that they are very worth growing. I have some posts planned soon showing how to sprout individual seeds, and also have some yummy recipes to share using sprouts.

No comments: