Walk into most grocery stores nowadays and you’ll notice a booming trend-sprouting. Everything from bread, to crackers, to pasta to cakes seems to have an option with the label “sprouted”, but what does this mean? And what are the benefits of sprouting? And is it worth the increased price tag? In this article, we’re going to break down these questions so you can make the most informed decision possible.
What is Sprouting?
Sprouting involves taking a seed (such as a legume, pumpkin, sunflower seed, nuts, or grains) and emerging it in water. Over time, the seed will start to sprout a tail, which typically grows to about 2-3 times the length of the seed body.
What Are the Benefits of Sprouting?
The process of sprouting increases bioavailability of protein, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin C , and vitamin K. Specific amino acids in sprouted food may become up to 30% more bioavailable. This makes sprouted seeds even more nutrient-dense than their non-sprouted counterparts.
Phytic acid is a nutrient found in plant-foods that bind to iron, zinc, and calcium, making them more challenging for our bodies to absorb. Sprouting seeds decreases the amount of phytic acid by allowing phytic acid to leach into the water when soaking, which is then discarded. Sprouting may also increase the activity of enzymes in seeds that break down phytic acid.
The benefits of sprouting make it a wonderful addition to a plant-based diet.
How to Sprout
To sprout legumes, nuts, seeds, or whole grains; first place seeds in a clean jar and fill almost to the top with water (example: about 2 tbsp of dried lentils will make about 1 cup of lentil sprouts). Cover the jar with a few layers of cheesecloth and let soak for 8-12 hours. After soaking, drain and rinse the seeds 2-3 times through the mesh cheesecloth layer. After the final rinse, tilt jar upside down at a 45-degree angle in a bowl (so the water can drain out) and cover with a dish towel and keep out of sunlight. Repeat the rinsing and draining process 2-3 times per day, for about 2-4 days until you see a tail form that’s about 2-3 times longer than the seed itself. Once the seeds have sprouted as much as you’d like, rinse and drain the sprouts very well and let them sit in a colander to drain and dry for at least 8 hours. Store the seed sprouts in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Sprouted seeds can then be cooked and added to dishes but note that cooking time will likely be reduced by about half. Some sprouted seeds, such as broccoli seeds, can also be enjoyed raw.
Risks of Sprouting
Seeds must be sprouted in a warm, humid environment, making them especially susceptible to bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Because sprouts are typically eaten raw, this can increase the likelihood of transferring foodborne illness.
To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, buy chilled sprouts and immediately transfer to the fridge upon arriving home. Avoid buying sprouts that look slimy or have a strong smell. Always wash your hands before handling sprouts.
Bottom Line – Is It Worth It?
While there are benefits of sprouting, it can be a time-consuming process. Additionally, buying sprouted products is often more expensive than their non-sprouted counterparts. Because of this, it is a personal decision whether the benefits of sprouting are worth the extra time and money.
Sprouting is not a requirement for good nutrition. Seeds that have not been soaked are still a perfectly nutritious part of a plant-based diet and should be incorporated regularly.
Do you like to incorporate sprouted foods into your diet? Let us know in the comments!
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