Sproutsare an easy and inexpensive way to add nutrients to your diet. You
don’t need any outdoor space, pots or soil. All you need is a seed tray or a
jar and some counter space. When you soak and sprout a seed you are changing it
from a dormant state to a live plant. This unlocks all of its goodness. And
honestly you will never eat anything more fresh than a homemade sprout.
Sprouts are a tasty addition to
salads and can be sprinkled on stir-fries, crackers and used as a filling in
wraps. Sprouted pulses and legumes are delicious eaten raw but can also be
cooked if desired. Although cooking will inactivate the valuable enzymes the
sprouts contain, the reduction in anti-nutrients means that they are still
preferable to the non-sprouted form. Almost any seed, nut or legume can be
sprouted and consumed raw. There are a few exceptions such as walnuts and
pecans that will not sprout (or at least not before also growing molds and
rotting away –yuk). Also be cautious with red kidney bean sprouts and sprouts
from any of the solanacea family of plants (tomatoes, aubergines, peppers,
potatoes, rhubarb). The former can be eaten once cooked, but the latter contain
solanine in the green parts and it is best avoided altogether. Chia, flax and
hempseeds are also not so easy to sprout but can be grown as microgreens
instead. Some people advocate sprouting grains, however as they still contain many
anti nutrients including gluten even after sprouting we do prefer to direct you
towards more nutritionally valuable options.
The Benefits of Sprouting
For the most part sprouts contain
higher levels of nutrients than their full grown counterparts when compared by
weight. Sprouts are higher in protein and lower in starch than the actual
plant. Nuts and seeds also have a much higher vitamin content particularly
vitamin C, B-vitamins and carotene. They also contain higher levels of antioxidants
Sprouts contain an abundancy of
enzymes which, as we get older our bodies produce less and less of. Enzymes are
catalysts which facilitate chemical reactions in the body. They are needed for
metabolic pathways in the body such as di
gestion, respiration and other
important life functions. When an enzyme is lacking it can lead to disease and
since as we get older we produce less of them we need to get enzymes from our
The enzymes in sprouts are readily
available and easily digested. Since enzymes are destroyed through cooking,
heating and roasting roasted nuts will no longer contain these enzymes.
Elimination of anti-nutrients
Nuts, seeds, grains and pulses all
contain anti-nutrients which block the absorption of certain nutrients
rendering them of no value to us. The reason for this is that being seeds i.e
the reproductive material of plants they are specifically engineered to pass
through the digestive tract of animals unscathed. It is quite clever really as
they will then find themselves in a cushy little pile of…. well ….
fertilizer!. In some cases these anti-nutrients can do more than just withhold
nutrition but can even cause harm via different pathways. However, many of
these little powerhouses such as nuts and seeds are valuable foods that it is
worth the exposure to these anti-nutrients. The great news is that soaking
reduces the amounts of anti-nutrients making these foods precious gold nuggets
and even more so when sprouted. Even in the case of beans and pulses which
often create a lot of gas, sprouting will ensure they are more easily digested.
Some of the anti-nutrients which need to be neutralized are:
Phytic acid which binds to
iron, zinc, calcium and b vitamins as well as some proteins and starches.
Enzyme inhibitors which
deactivate the enzymes that our body uses to break down protein or starches.
Lectins which can cause
immune reactions, blood clots, tissue damage in the gut lining and changes to
Saponins which can cause
damage to the intestinal lining and red blood cells. However, their action is
not very strong and is only of concern when coupled with other anti-nutrients.
How to Get Rid of Anti Nutrients
Soaking nuts, seeds and pulses will
help reduce the amounts of many of these anti-nutrients and adding a teaspoon
of lemon juice to the water will speed up the elimination process even more.
This is why many people soak their nuts before dehydrating them to their former
crunchiness. Sprouting helps to break down the anti-nutrients even further
making all the nutrients in the sprout bioavailable. In fact, soaking and sprouting for just one day (one day
sprouting????) can reduce the anti-nutrient content by 90% or more. As
mentioned above grains still have a lot of anti-nutrients including gluten even
after soaking and sprouting so these should still be avoided.
Most popular sprouts
Mung beans, lentils, broccoli
sprouts, mustard seeds, cress and alfalfa are amongst the most common to
sprout. You can also sprout chickpeas and make sprouted hummus. Sunflower
seeds are very quick to sprout.
How to sprout
Follow the instructions on the
packaging for soaking times as every seed will be different. If in doubt soak
overnight. Pour the seeds into a bowl and cover with water. Add a teaspoon of
lemon juice and cover with a lid leaving it to stand for the required time.
Once ready to be sprouted rinse your seeds thoroughly and pour them into your
seed tray or sprouting mason jar. They should have enough space so they are not
overlapping. Water them twice a day. As soon as you see a little tail it means
they are ready to be consumed. The shorter the tail, the tastier they will be.
However, the longer the tail the more nutritious they will be. Rinse well
before eating and if storing in the fridge it is best to pat them dry with a
kitchen towel to avoid mold build up. They will keep for a few days in the
Precautions when sprouting
Since a moist environment is
maintained for a few days, this can become a breeding ground for bacteria and
molds. For this reason, it is important to check carefully before rinsing if
any mold has formed. To prevent growth of unwanted organisms it is important to
maintain a well ventilated environment. Make sure to open the sprouting jars
and shuffle the sprouting trays regularly. Molds will be easy to spot as they
generally present as furry areas and/or yellow or dark spots. However, if all
the tails (and only the tails) are furry in the same place what you are looking
at is the starting of a root network and not mold. Broccoli sprouts tend to do
this a lot. If there are molds throw away the sprouts. Always wash the seed
trays and jars thoroughly with warm water and soap between each new batch.