Sprouts are making a serious comeback and for good reason! You’ve likely heard of bean sprouts, but did you know that many foods can be sprouted, including grains, nuts, beans, and seeds? In fact, many commercial food companies are selling sprouted foods due to their superior nutrition profile. Is this trend worth the hype?
What is sprouting?
Sprouting simply means to grow, or germinate (essentially, starting a new lifecycle). The sprouting process replicates germination and breaks down a seed, which means less work for your digestive system and better absorption of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin A, iron and calcium. Seeds typically sprout after 3-7 days in a warm, moist setting and the method is exactly the same for nuts, seeds, grains and beans—only the time required for full germination varies.
The soaking and sprouting of seeds may increase the foods digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients. Improved digestion may be due to the reduction in the content of natural compounds called phytates, which normally prevent mineral absorption from many foods. Sprouting may be a good choice for vegetarians who need additional iron and zinc. For individuals with digestive problems, sprouted foods may be better tolerated than other types of grains.
Lastly, sprouted foods may play a role in cancer prevention. Broccoli sprouts have more natural chemicals called glucosinolates than regular broccoli. Animal studies have shown that glucosinolates may be helpful in preventing certain cancers such as bladder cancer. Though research is limited, there is a lot of interest in the power of sprouted foods in fighting various types of cancers.
How to get your daily dose…
Sprouted foods are becoming very popular around the grocery store with sprouted cereals, breads, pasta, tortillas, and even tofu popping up on shelves. Food For Life is making cereals with sprouted almonds, spelt, lentils, chia, and flaxseeds. For people with gluten or wheat intolerance, sprouted bread products are a great option!
You can also easily sprout foods at home, however home-sprouted foods may pose a food safety risk due to the humid conditions required to induce germination. These are the same conditions that could cause harmful bacteria to grow. Due to this risk, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends cooking all sprouts before consuming them to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Individuals with weakened immune systems should avoid home sprouting due to these risks.
To sprout at home, follow these 6 simple steps:
1. Soak seeds (or nuts/grains/beans) overnight with water.
2. The next morning, drain water and rinse with fresh water.
3. Place in a sprouting jar (or mason jar) without any water.
4. Every morning and night rinse with fresh water to keep sprouts wet and clean of mold formation.
5. Make sure sprouts never dry-up by continuously repeating process until your desired length of sprout is reached.
6. Rinse with fresh water and either cook or serve immediately in salads, wraps, smoothies, or just as a snack. Sprouts add nice texture to salads.
What’s your favorite sprouted food?
By: Danielle Rosenfeld, MS, RD, LDN