Health Benefits of Sprouts

Sprouting raw grains, seeds and legumes is considered one of the best ways to enhance the nutrients in the food that we eat. Sprouts are one of the most nutritious food. This is because, when food is sprouted, it improves its digestibility and nutritional qualities. All edible grains like wheat, barley, maize, wheat and rice, seeds like alfalfa, fenugreek, sesame, and legumes like mung, bengal gram, peas and beans can be sprouted.

The grain is considered a sprouted grain, during the brief period in its cycle when it has started to sprout, but has not developed into a plant. The outer layer, which is called the bran, splits open and the beginning of a young shoot becomes visible. Some of the starchy portion of the grain gets digested by the shoot. By sprouting whole grains, we increase their vitamin, mineral and fibre content, lower their glycemic index and increase bioavailability, which is the ability of the body to make use of nutrients like calcium.

Raw nuts and seeds already have a lot of nutrients in them. Sprouting them multiplies their nutrition. Soaking the seeds and rinsing them helps to remove the enzyme inhibitors. The seed begins to germinate and the nutrients in the seeds start to break down into simpler components. Proteins break down into amino acids and amides. The complex starches break down into simpler sugars. Fats and oils are converted into more simple fatty acids by the action of the enzyme, Lipase.

The vitamins, minerals, ascorbic acid and proteins increase substantially with corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrates content. Due to this breaking down process, the food becomes easily digestible (often referred to as ‘pre-digested food’). This is because the food has already been acted upon by the enzymes.

Legumes like beans lose their gas producing quality. Oligosaccharides are considered responsible for gas formation. Oligosaccharides are large molecules which are not broken down or absorbed by the human body as other sugars are, as the human body does not produce the enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides. When beans start sprouting, the oligosaccharides is reduced by 90 per cent. In the book ‘History of Soy Sprouts (100 CE To 2013): Extensively Annotated Bibliography’ … by William Shurtleff, there is a reference to soya beans where the ”concentration of oligosaccharides decreased with germination”. Thus sprouting is a simple way of removing most of the oligosaccharides, which cause flatulence or intestinal gas in humans from soya beans.

There are reports of many studies that have proven the phenomenal health benefits of sprouts. German researchers have found that the process of sprouting decreased gluten proteins and  increased folates. Longer germination process led to a substantial increase of total dietary fibre, with soluble fibre increasing three times and insoluble fibre decreasing by half. Korean researchers fed hypertensive rats for five weeks with raw buckwheat extract and germinated buckwheat extract and compared the results. They found that the rats that were fed the germinated buckwheat had lower systolic blood pressure. In Japan, a few men and women with type-2 diabetes were randomly asked to eat either white rice or sprouted brown rice three times a day. They reported that “blood concentrations of fasting blood glucose, fructosamine, serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerol were favorably improved on the sprouted brown rice diet but not on the white rice diet”

Korean researchers found that when buckwheat was sprouted for 48 hours, it developed anti-fatty liver activities that led to a significant reduction in fatty liver in mice after eight weeks. They found that sprouting the buckwheat, increased the concentration of rutin quercitin, which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Forty-one breast-feeding Japanese mothers were randomly divided into two groups, one eating white rice and the other sprouted brown rice, for two weeks.  When psychological and immune tests were done with both groups, the group who had consumed sprouted brown rice, was found to have decreased levels of depression, anger, hostility, and fatigue, and a significant increase in immune system function.

In a study in the ‘The Journal Sprouting of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, December 13, 2006;’ it was found that the folates in rye increased by 1.7- to 3.8-fold, depending on germination  temperature. In a study on the effects of different processes on rye, they came to the conclusion that thermal treatments – including extrusion, puffing, and toasting – leads to significant folate losses. But, when  rye was sprouted and then heat-processed, losses were minimized, showing that sprouting helps to retain nutrients during food processing.

For those of us who want to include raw food in the diet, this is a very healthy way to go about it. Sprouts can be included in salads, sandwiches and rolls to add that crunch to the food. It can also be eaten as it is, a tablespoon at a time.