Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds for consumption of which they can be cooked or eaten raw. This process initiates a chemical and biological change in the seed that brings about dramatically improved nutritional quality and significantly reduces anti nutritional compounds. It is for these reasons that consuming sprouted foods has gained in popularity in recent years, especially among those wanting to maintain raw nutrient rich foods in the diet.
There are a wide variety of seeds that can be sprouted such as: alfalfa, clover, chickpea, soybean, lentil, and seeds from cereals including oat, rice, rye, wheat, and maize. Seeds from just about any viable food source can be sprouted and consumed. For many, the most recognizable use for sprouts is in a salad but they can be used anywhere their un-sprouted counter parts can be used such as in flour for the baking of bread and similar items.
Seeds of course are the key reproductive component of plants and we rely heavily on seeds from a variety of plants for our food supply. As with all living things, plants invest a great deal of energy and resources into their seeds that will be critical for the propagation and continuation of the species. These seeds are loaded with nutrients, but when it comes to human consumption of these seeds there is a caveat as plants impart these seeds with nutrients in such a way that is not immediately recognizable. And as mentioned, some compounds called anti nutrients, such as phytic acid and gluten, can actually be harmful to us when consumed.
Perhaps the best example here is the very common seed of the wheat plant. In its dormant un-sprouted state the wheat seed, like all seeds, contains anti-nutrients. Two common anti-nutrients in wheat are phytic acid that is made up of high levels of phosphorus, and gluten which is a complex protein. Both of these aspects of the seed are critical components for nourishing the seed as it begins its journey from dormancy to germination to young sprout and finally, to adult plant that will produce seeds and begin the process again.
Many animal species have digestive systems that contain adequate amounts of particular enzymes that are necessary for breaking down and digesting such aspects of seeds and thus gaining full nutritional benefit. But not so is the case for the human digestive system, whereas phytic acid can cause bloating, gas and discomfort and, of course, we now know all to well the adverse affects gluten can have in the diet of many people. And because we lack the enzymes to properly digest these anti-nutrients we simply cannot adequately access the abundance of stored nutrients properly.
This is where the benefits of sprouting comes into play. Again, using the wheat seed as an example: Take a dormant wheat seed high in anti-nutrients such as gluten and phytic acid and sprout it and these anti-nutrients are significantly reduced and, in some cases, nearly eliminated. But they are not simply gone. They have been transformed into much simpler forms of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, living enzymes and other easily absorbed and assimilated nutrients.
To help put in perspective as to just how dramatic this transformation really is, here is something to consider. There have been several recent studies that demonstrate that some seeds in their dormant stage will have little to no detectable amounts of certain nutrients such as vitamin C for example. But take that same seed and sprout it and now it can have as many as 100 times the vitamin C content and this is the case with not only vitamins but minerals, proteins, enzymes, fiber etc. Of course, every seed is different and will bring forward its own unique spectrum of nutrients. But one thing is certain, all of their nutrients will be more readily available with less digestive discomfort as a result of sprouting.
Adding sprouted foods to the diet is really quite easy as many manufactures of foods such as breads, pastas, and rice etc. have a long history of using sprouted ingredients. Of course the best options would be organic sources as they would ensure seeds without pesticide and herbicide residue and would not be genetically modified in anyway. There are more and more varieties of fresh organic sprouts to be found in the produce department as well. One may also choose to sprout their own seeds right in their own kitchen with the help of simple easy to use home sprouting kits. They are as easy as choosing your seeds, soaking and rinsing the seeds per directions and within a few days you have sprouts. This is a fun and interactive way to get the kids and the whole family involved and open up the discussion of improved health and digestion.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains.