The Benefits of Sprouting

Sprouted WheatI know I’m not alone in my passion for food and, despite my best efforts at being lazy, I think it’s about time I recognize and experience the nutritional and emotional benefits of sprouting.

According to the Whole Grains Council, grains like rice, wheat, corn, oats and barley are actually the dormant seeds of cereal grasses. Just like any other seed, under the right conditions of temperature and moisture, these seeds can germinate into young plants, starting the growth cycle anew. And, there is a brief period in this growth cycle, shortly after it has started to sprout, but before it has developed a full-fledged plant, where some of the plants starches have been partially digested, increasing the relative proportion of vitamins, minerals and protein in the grain while simultaneously increasing their bioavailability in the process.

The bioavailability of nutrients in sprouted grains is improved by the breakdown of phytates, the salt form of phytic acid, which normally inhibit mineral absorption during the digestive process. The reduction in phytates generated by sprouting may be particularly important for vegans and vegetarians who are increasingly susceptible to nutrient deficiencies at the hands of a phytate rich diet. Minerals that easily bind with phytates include: zinc, magnesium, calcium and, most importantly, iron, which is typically hard to get adequate amounts from plant foods whose bioavailability is significantly reduced in proportion to the iron found in animal foods.

{Here is a good list of plant sources of iron provided by The Vegetarian Resource Group}

According to Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, sprouting also increases vitamin B and carotene content, which are important in brain activity, mood regulation and eye health.

The sprouting process is also purported to make the starches found in grains more easily digested, especially for sprouted legumes like beans and lentils, which are notorious for their ability to cause an uncomfortable accumulation of gas in the stomach.

Legumes, seeds and nuts can also be sprouted to create the same nutritional benefit and help aid the digestive process. See below.

Tangentially, the oxalates found in foods like amaranth, chard, beets and, most notoriously, spinach, can have a similar effect as phytates and may increase the risk of nutrient deficiency when consumed in excess.

Further, the consumption of oxalates may lead to oxalate stone formation in the kidneys, which may block urine flow and cause severe pain as they are passed. However, some suggest that the intake of dietary oxalates account for approximately 10-15% of the oxalates found in urine and eliminating them from the diet will only have a marginal effect on those highly susceptible to stone formation.

Awakening the Life Force
From a more holistic perspective, sprouting is also believed to awaken the life force within dormant grains so that their energy is more easily conferred to people who consume them regularly. Sprouting also unlocks vital enzymatic activity that “pre-digests” the food and greatly reduces the work that must be performed by our bodies during the digestive process.

Channeling the energy of sprouted grains and minimizing the effort required during digestion greatly reduces the stress placed upon the body and improves the body’s ability to heal and recover from the strain of a fast-paced, often hectic lifestyle.

Sprouting in Action
Because my body rebels when I consume anything containing gluten, I decided that it would be best for me to experiment with one of my favorite legumes, adzuki beans. Adzuki beans originated in China and are of mild taste, which makes them well suited for mild entrées or mashed into a sweet red bean paste that is often utilized in Asian desserts. This little red gems are a staple of the Macrobiotic diet where there are renowned for their ability to impart strength and their support of kidney, bladder and reproductive function. Pretty nice little candidate for sprouting, no?

Sprouted Adzuki BeansSprouting adzuki beans couldn’t be easier.

  • First, soak ½ cup dry adzuki beans in a cool, dry place for 8-12 hours in a large bowl covered with a tea towel or in a tightly sealed mason jar.
  • Next, rinse beans and place in a large stainless steel strainer covered with your tea towel or back in your mason jar with a screen insert and invert to allow them to drain. Just a heads up, its probably best to place a bowl of some sort underneath your strainer or mason jar so water doesn’t drain all over your counter top.
  • Then, rinse your beans every 8 to 12 hours for 2 to 3 days until sprouts reach approximately 1 inch in length.
  • Finally, rinse and add to your favorite soups and salads. A quick word to the wise, sprouts can be eaten raw, but many believe that they should be cooked in order to prevent any sort of adverse reaction.

All sprouts are best stored in the refrigerator and should be good for 1 to 2 weeks.

For those of you lucky enough to be able to tolerate grains, here is a very comprehensive and thorough guide on sprouting courtesy of The Nourishing Gourmet.

Sprouting is an easy and fun way to unlock the powerful energy contained with grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in order to catapult your nutrition in to the next dimension of health.

Sprouted wheat image courtesy of the; Sprouted adzuki bean image courtesy of; featured image from Shutterstock/David Carillet

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About Matthew Lovitt 26 Articles
A holistic nutritionist in the making, Matthew spends the majority of his time trying to unravel the beautifully complex relationship between food, health and spiritual well-being. While this may sound like a somewhat glamorous pursuit, his daily journey towards enlightenment often begins and ends in front of a computer or textbook with the occasional retreat to the kitchen to rejuvenate his mind and body. When not enthralled in his quest to greater understanding, Matthew can be found attempting some insane test of physical endurance on the highways of Arizona, eating peanut butter and banana bagel sandwiches in his pajamas, or watching cartoons with his amazing fiance and puppy. If you're interested in joining Matthew on his journey to health and wellness, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@veggiematthew), Facebook or at his blog.

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