Sprouts are obtained through the natural germination process of the seeds. In this process, the seeds give out shoots out of which new plants or buds, or other newly developing parts grow.
Sprouts can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked along with other vegetables and cereals. Germination process introduces several Bioactive components in the seeds such that sprouts easily serve as a functional food.
Sprouting also leads to the removal of some anti-nutrients and increases the bioavailability of macronutrients as proteins and carbohydrates and micronutrients as Minerals and Vitamins.
Sprouts have higher nutritional value than the original seeds
Also, sprouts contain many bioactive compounds such as sulphoraphane, sulphoraphene, isothiocyanates, glucosinolates that boost our immune system, support metabolism, and prevent all types of cancers.
Sprouting has been carried out for centuries and sprouted foods make part of traditional meals in almost all the cultures. It is a highly simple yet highly effective way to introduce essential nutrients to the diet.
To sprout, seeds, nuts, legumes or grains need to be soaked for several hours, then be tied in a cloth or put in a mason jar until they begin to develop a tail-like projection. Soaking is needed before sprouting as it softens the hull and allows the sprout to grow.
Germination and Sprouting Process
Germination process leads to very high metabolic activity inside the seed. Once the seeds are soaked in water, it initiates the growth process which involves oxidation of oils and carbohydrates to release energy.
It also triggers the decomposition of stored proteins to simpler amino acid chains for the physiological growth process. This degradation of complex nutrient molecules to simple ones facilitates the digestion process in the human body. Following changes take place in general:
- Proteins: Changes in total protein content and types of proteins – it shifts towards simpler amino acids and also the production of non-protein amino acids takes place.
- Fats: Triglycerides – Due to hydrolysis free fatty acids are produced such that saturated fatty acids increase in the ratio. Also, unsaturated acids composition moves towards essential linoleic acid.
- Carbohydrates: Polysaccharides or big carbohydrate molecules get decomposed to oligosaccharides or monosaccharides.
Health Benefits and Nutritional Value of Sprouts
Sprouts are one of the highly nutritious foods that you can grow easily indoors. They can be grown in any space, for example, you can grow them in a bowl or in a mason jar at your place. You don’t need any special equipment or even a sunny place.
Everyone should grow and use these as foods for good health. As sprouted foods are consumed during the initial phase of the growth of a seed, the density of nutrients is very high.
After sprouting, the legumes, grains, and seeds become easier to digest as the anti-nutrients break down easily in those foods. People, who cannot digest certain grains can take them after sprouting for better digestion and good nutrition.
It has been seen that the sprouted seeds contain more amount of vitamin C, B, and fiber than the whole grains. Here are some common benefits of sprouting.
- It increases the bioavailability of certain nutrients. For example, phytic acid that forms insoluble complexes with minerals is hydrolyzed. This makes the minerals like Iron, Zinc, and Manganese more available.
- Germinated seeds contain much higher water content than the seeds. For example, mung bean sprouts contain ~93% water, while the dry seeds only have 11% water content.
- It reduces anti-nutrients such as trypsin inhibitors, phytates, and raffinose oligosaccharides. These are either hydrolyzed to secondary compounds or removed during the soaking process.
- Breaks down food nutrients to simpler versions, hence increasing the assimilation and ease of digestion.
- Improves protein quality and quantity by decomposing proteins to simpler amino acids.
- Reduces allergens present in grains such as gluten, hence making them suitable for consumption.
- Germination process also introduces certain phytonutrients such as glucosinolates and antioxidants which benefit our bodily systems such as immunity, metabolism, and circulation. The phytonutrients produced in sprouts, specifically in brassica families such as broccoli, Cabbage, Radish, Cauliflower, and Brussels variations have been studied to prevent cancer.
- Sprouts have antibiotic properties owing to their high concentration of phytochemicals and flavonoid content. For example, pea sprouts can produce such phenolic phytochemicals that act as inhibitors on the pathogenic microorganisms.
How to make sprouts?
Following are the requirements to get started with sprouting. Mung beans are the easiest to handle and hence highly recommended for the beginners.
- Whole grains or dry beans or nuts or seeds
- Large clear jar or a wide mouth container (no necessity of a lid)
- A small piece of natural, breathable fabric like cotton and cheesecloth
- First, you need to soak the seeds that you want to make sprouts for 4-5 hours. Whenever you soak the seeds, you can take one part seeds with three-part water. So that, the seeds can remain dipped in the water properly throughout the soaking process.
- Then rinse and drain the water and transfer them into a mason jar and let them sit there for 12-18 hours. Usually, this step will vary dependent on the type of seed you have chosen and ambient temperature. For example, Mung Beans only take 8-10 hours to germinate in a tropical climate as of Singapore. However, this process will be longer in case you try to gerimante them in a cold region. You can use a sprouting lid or tie a breathable cloth at the top of the jar.
Mung Beans Sprouts – Source: Pixabay
What to look for when choosing seeds for sprouting?
While you are choosing from a wide variety of Organic Sprouting Seeds, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid raw seeds that have been chemically treated.
- Avoid cracked or milled seeds.
- Avoid toasted or roasted seeds or grains as these will not germinate
- Buy seeds for sprouting in vacuum-sealed packages.
- Avoid bulk bins for sprouting.
- Check the line ‘for sprouting’ on the label or package.
Which seeds can you use for sprouting?
You can sprout seeds such as mung bean, chickpeas, alfalfa, wheat, and red beans (add more per availability in your region) to consume. Here are the nutrient contents of these seeds that you need.
- Alfalfa provides enough vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K.
- Mung bean is a rich source of protein, fiber, and vitamins C and A.
- Wheatgrass gives a lot of vitamins B, C, E, and many minerals.
- Lentil sprouts have 26 percent protein and you can eat them without cooking
Don’t eat sprouted kidney beans in raw form as these contain a toxin which may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Always try to eat them after boiling.
Similarly avoid taking raw Quinoa sprouts as these are rich in saponins, which may cause a strong allergic reaction in case of some people and they may get sick.
How to use the sprouts?
Besides nutritional contents, sprouts contain enzymes. Therefore these can be eaten raw or uncooked for better results. You can take them as follows.
Sprouts for Salads & Sandwiches
There are certain sprouts which can be taken with salads. These sprouts can be added into salads, put inside sandwiches, and blended into raw dips and soups. Such types of sprouts are Broccoli, Alfalfa, Radish, Fenugreek, Clover etc.
Sprouts with Dips
If you want to get more goodness of sprouts, take them with a raw dip. You can take sprouted legumes with salad and other seeds for a fulfilling dip. Sprouting seeds needed for this purpose are sprouted lentils, sprouted chickpeas, salad sprouts etc.
Alfa Alfa Sprouts – Source Pixabay
Cooked dishes out of sprouts
There are some dishes which can be prepared from the seeds after sprouting. These include
You can prepare soups from sprouted grains and legumes, such as
- Sprouted Lentils
- Sprouted Peas
- Sprouted Beans of all types
- Sprouted Barley or Other Grains
Sprouts in Stir-fry Dishes
It is also better to add sprouted lentils and the bean sprout to stir-fry dishes. You can add these sprouts with other vegetable curries or fry quickly to preserve the crunch of the sprout.
Sprouted Grain Bread
You can also make flour from sprouted grains and use them for bread. For this purpose, the most evident choices are sprouted wheat, rye, or barley, and you can also add sprouted legumes like lentils and beans to bread dough in small amounts.