Guest post: Laura Sanchez, dietetic student, Georgia State University
It wasn’t until I started a plant-based diet back in 2017 that I came across the word “sprouting,” and to be honest, the whole sprouting process went over my head. I was already challenged by learning how to balance meals without including animal sources while playing professional golf in Europe. Once I decided to stop playing golf and pursue a career in nutrition, I became very interested in growing my own foods. As a result, I learned about the art of sprouting—a very versatile, easy, quick, and nutritious way of adding highly bioavailable nutrients to the diet.
What are sprouts?
Sprouts are tiny germinated plants that have begun to grow from the seeds of vegetables, grains, and beans. The germination process usually starts after the seeds have been soaked in water for several hours. Over time, shoots will start to grow out of the seed—this process can occur for two to seven days and the shoots can typically measure up to two (or more) inches long when ready to eat.
Many different types of seeds can be sprouted. Here is a list of the most common types of sprouts available on the market:
Bean and pea sprouts: lentils, chickpeas, adzuki, mung bean, black bean, kidney bean, and green pea
Nuts and seeds: almond, alfalfa, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds
Vegetables: broccoli, radish, beet, mustard green, and clover
Grains: quinoa, oats, Kamut, brown rice, and amaranth
The germination process of seeds is simple, inexpensive, and improves the digestibility and availability of nutrients. During germination, several enzymes become active resulting in an increase in protein and carbohydrate digestibility, which can ease uncomfortable stomach pains and gassiness. Additionally, it enhances some of their vitamin contents, improving their overall nutritional quality. Sprouted foods are rich sources of protein, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and vitamins C and K compared to seeds that are not sprouted.
In addition to being a rich source of nutrients, sprouts have many other benefits:
May strengthen the immune system: This is due to their vitamin C, K, and, to some extent, vitamin A content. These vitamins play a key role in supporting the immune system by reducing immune-related inflammation and environmental oxidative stresses.
May help to maintain blood sugar levels: Broccoli sprouts, for example, contain high amounts of sulforaphane which has been shown to help in the management of type 2 diabetes. This bioactive compound may help regulate blood sugar and support healthy lipid metabolism.
May improve digestion: Sprouted seeds have more maltose which is a more digestible form of carbohydrate. They are also an excellent source of fiber—something that keeps our intestines healthy and feeds our friendly gut bacteria.
May improve heart health: Studies have shown that eating sprouts may increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels which can fight high blood pressure and protect the heart muscle.
Although sprouting may have its benefits, it also has its risks due to its growing environment. Raw sprouts must be grown in warm, humid conditions where harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella also thrive.
The following tips help minimize the risk of contamination:
Buy fresh sprouts that have been properly refrigerated
Avoid sprouts with a strong smell and slimy appearance
Keep sprouts refrigerated at home
Wash hands before handling raw sprouts
The million-dollar question, how do you grow sprouts?
Growing your own sprouts is easy and it only takes a few minutes per day but you can also buy a sprouting kit if you would prefer. However, growing your own can be more fun and less expensive! It is still important to consider reducing the risk of contamination and food safety, so make sure to wash your hands and any sprouting materials between batches.
Here is what you’ll need to start:
Mason jar with lid
Cheesecloth or plastic canvas (shown in the picture)
Seeds or legumes
How to sprout legumes:
Select your legume: Some of the more popular choices include mung bean, lentils, or chickpea. Start with ¼ cup and adjust the quantity as you get more experienced and find sprouts you love.
Soak the legumes: Rinse and soak them overnight for at least 24 hours. Make sure you add enough water to cover all legumes as they will expand.
Rinse and repeat: Drain, rinse, and place in a clean glass jar. Cover the mouth with cheesecloth or muslin canvas and hold it in place with a rubber band. Invert on a wire rack and place in a cool, dark place in your home. Repeat this process twice a day until you see the tail from the sprout.
Allow yourself to be creative: steam or add them to soups, salads, sandwiches, and stir-fries—the sky's the limit!
A note about bean sprouts: Beans can be a bit tricky to digest in general. If you’re sprouting beans, make sure to thoroughly cook them by boiling, pressure cooking, or steaming (this works best with lentils) to improve their digestibility and minimize gastrointestinal discomfort.
TIP: Keep sprouts in an airtight container stored in the fridge. This will help maintain the freshness and quality of your sprouts. The sooner you eat them the better, but they can stay in the fridge for approximately 5 days.
Want more information on sprouting? Visit Food Revolution for tips, tricks and sprouting resources.
Do you sprout? Let us know in the comments below!