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.
Benefits of eating sprouts daily
- Good for digestion. The enzymes present in the seeds help to facilitate the digestive process. The enzymes break down the food more effectively during digestion, which helps us absorb nutrients better.
- Aids weight loss. Sprouts are not only full of beneficial nutrients, but they also are low in calories, which is the reason a lot of weight watchers have them as a snack. The fibre present in the sprouted grains makes us feel full. Sprouted mung beans, and fenugreek seeds are good weight-loss options to include in your daily diet.
- Keeps heart healthy. Sprouts are a rich source of fiber and potassium, both of which are considered good for heart health. The fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids present in sprouts help to lower cholesterol levels. Hence sprouts may help to prevent heart related diseases.
- Proteins are easily digested.
- It increases the nutrients in the grain or pulse.
- The B vitamins increase by 5-10 times.
- Vitamin A and C increase quite substantially
- Helps build immunity. Sprouts help in boosting the immune system and cleanse the body. Toxins from the cells and lymphatic system are removed.
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 quercetin, 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.
Cooked versus raw sprouts
What is the right way to eat sprouts?
For those who have been eating sprouts raw and have not been affected by it, they can continue to eat it raw. Some experts say that cooking the sprouts make the nutrients in it more accessible. It is digested easier. There is also the fear of food poisoning while eating raw sprouts, especially when you buy it from the market. Raw sprouts may sometimes have bacteria in it like E coli and Salmonella. Hence you can cook it slightly or just saute it for a few minutes in a pan to get rid of the bacteria.
The best way is to sprout the grains and pulses at home so that we can avoid the risk of food contamination.
How to make sprouts
First of all you can sprout any grain, seed or nut. You can use any of the legumes or seeds from the market. It is very easy to do and here are the steps
- Wash the seeds and soak for about 10 hours. You can put the seeds in a glass jar and pour water over it. The water should be at least double the amount of seeds. Cover it with a cheese cloth or a thin cloth and secure it with a rubber band. Best to soak it overnight.
- After 10 hours, drain the seeds. Just tip it over the sink till all the water is gone.
- Add more fresh water and rinse the seeds and remove the water completely. Tie a clean cheese cloth over the jar and keep aside in a spot which does not receive sunlight. You can keep it on your kitchen counter if convenient.
- You have to rinse and drain everyday. You will start seeing your seeds sprouting in a couple of days. Keep repeating the process, till the sprouts are 1/2 an inch or one inch long.
- Once you are satisfied with the length of the sprouts, you can rinse and drain one final time and then lay the sprouts on a clean towel to let them lose moisture for around half an hour to one hour.
- Place the sprouts in a clean jar and refrigerate them. Store for up to a week.
Take care to wash the grains and pulses well before sprouting as raw sprouts have a higher chance of food poisoning due to contamination.
There are no known side effects but people with low immunity should avoid sprouts, for the same reason that they may be at higher risk for infection.