Why Sprout?

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Sprouting in your kitchen is like having a mini garden in the house year round.

I have been greatly enjoying sprouting recently. It’s been something I’ve done off and on for a few years now, but I am really branching out into sprouting a variety of beans, grains and seeds now and am loving it.

I will be sharing the “how to”‘ of individual legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts soon, but wanted to first explain why sprouts are so great for you.

Consider What a Sprout is

Before we go into the specifics of why sprouting is good for you, allow me to give you a visual for what is happening. A seed (or grain or legume) has many nutritional advantages to you, but many of them are locked up tight by anti-nutrients (such as phytic acid, as discussed here).  It’s almost like a mini treasure chest, but you have to be able to find the right key to open it. Once you start the germinating process, that dormant seed starts to become a live plant. Anti-nutrients are cast away, it changes, inside and out, and when you eat that seed, no longer are you eating just a seed, instead you are eating a tiny little plant. The process of changing seeds into little plants is easy, but the changes that happen is huge.

Here are a few of the things that happen during that process.

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Phytic Acid and Enzyme Inhibitors are Neutralized

Phytic acid binds with calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc, making it hard to impossible for you to absorb those nutrients.  It’s also irritating to your digestive system. By sprouting your grains, legumes or seeds, you are neutralizing phytic acid very effectively. You will also be neutralizing enzyme inhibitors, which unfortunately not only inhibit enzymes in the actual seed, but can also inhibit your own valuable enzymes once they have been eaten.

This is one of the biggest advantages in my mind. I have started sprouting some of my legumes, since the phytic acid in some legumes are especially hard to neutralize.  Your seed/grain/legume will be much easier to digest now that you have sprouted it, and you will also be able to assimilate more nutrients.

(By the way, the another method to accomplish this goal is soaking which includes sourdough. )

Sprouting Aids Digestibility

Beyond even anti-nutrients that are neutralized by sprouting, there are other changes that take place during sprouting that make it easier for us to digest our seeds/legumes/grains.

“Soaking will also help to diminish s0me of the fat content and will help convert the dense vegetable protein to simpler amino acids for easier digestion. The more complex carbohydrates in the foods will also start to break down into the simpler glucose molecules” Wendy Rudell, Raw Transformation

Have you ever had problems with legumes causing intestinal gas? Well sprouting helps break down the complex sugars responsible for that, making them easier for all of us to digest.

Sally Fallon gives us one more reason to sprout our grains as well, saying that “Sprouting inactivates aflotoxins, potent carcinogens found in grains.” Nourishing Traditions, pg 112

Finally, now that the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized, enzymes, which help you digest your food, are free to be produced during the sprouting process and then consumed.

For all of these reasons, sprouting greatly helps digestion.

Other Nutritional Advantages

“The process of germination not only produces vitamin C, but also changes the composition of grains and seeds in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Carotene increases dramatically-sometimes even eightfold.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg 112

Sally also mentions how the Chinese used to carry mung beans when on long journeys at sea. They would sprout and eat the mung beans as they contained sufficient amount of vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Who doesn’t need a little extra vitamin C in it’s natural absorb-able form?  This is a great benefit for all of us.

Sprout People give this nutritional info for sprouts:
“Nutritional info: Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K
Calcium, Carbohydrates, Chlorophyll, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc
All Amino Acids
Trace Elements
Protein: up to 35%”

Sprouts Are More Alkalizing to the Body

Some food is acid forming, and some is alkalizing. We need a balance of acid to alkaline food to maintain good health. Unfortunately, we usually have too many acid forming foods in our diet (stress, and environmental stresses also make our body more acidic). Grains, legumes and meats are generally thought to be acid forming (that doesn’t mean that they are bad, just that they need to be balanced out with alkaline food), fruits and vegetables are alkalizing. By sprouting your grains and legumes, you are helping them become a more alkaline forming food.  Remember that by sprouting you are starting the process of making a plant. So, in a sense, it’s more like eating a plant or vegetable so therefore more alkalizing.


The Practical Aspects of Sprouting

The Method:

I think the reason most people don’t sprout is because it sounds so intimidating. Let me tell you, it’s really not hard at all. And, it takes very little time. I know that we are all busy people, really a busy nation. But sprouting will not take much time, and will give you much in return.

The method is pretty much the same for most seeds, grains, nuts, and legumes, it’s just the time that varies. Sally Fallon has a helpful section in Nourishing Traditions that gives guidelines for how long it takes to grow different seeds.  An easy and frugal method to sprout, which I am currently using, is to fill a mason jar about one third full of desired seed to sprout, and then cover with water overnight. On the top you place a sprouting screen screwed into the lid.   In the morning you drain and rinse it (doing so right through the screen), and then you invert your jar at an angle, allowing it to drain and air to circulate within your jar.  Then all you have to do is rinse 2-3 times per day, and your seeds will turn into sprouts. It’s that easy.

To see how this works, look at my post about Sprouting Grains. I will also update this page with links to my newer posts going over the how’s of sprouting individual seeds.

Eating Sprouts Raw and Safety Issues

Should We Eat Sprouts Raw?

Now raw foodists will disagree with this, but I think that not all sprouts should be eaten raw. In fact, some sprouted legumes are toxic until cooked. Other legumes are still very hard to digest when raw.

Sally Fallon recommends not only cooking sprouted legumes, but also warns against eating high amounts of raw sprouted grains.

“However, we must warn against over consumption of raw sprouted grains as raw sprouts contain irritating substances that keep animals from eating the tender shoots. These substances are neutralized in cooking. Sprouted grains should usually be eaten lightly steamed of added to soups and casseroles.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, page 113

Other sprouts, such as radish, clover, or broccoli should be fine raw. And these are the most delicious ones raw anyways. My only question in regard to these (to which I don’t have an answer) is whether or not broccoli sprouts (which are extremely nutritious) contain the thyroid suppressing elements that raw broccoli contain. Regardless, it is wise not to over consume anything, and one is very unlikely to eat huge amounts of sprouts anyway.

Raw soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds are very good for you raw as well.

Safety When Eating Raw Sprouts

It’s important when sprouting, even more so if you are consuming them raw, that you use common sense in using clean jars, being careful that the jars and sprouts aren’t contaminated. Never eat any sprouts that smell bad, or are slimy or moldy.

You can read the FDA’s safety warning on eating raw sprouts here, and Sprout’s people response here, and also here how this company is making sure that their sprouts are safe.

Conclusion

Sprouts are very easy to grow, and have so many benefits that they are very worth growing. I have some posts planned soon showing how to sprout individual seeds, and also have some yummy recipes to share using sprouts.   I will update this page with links to these directions and recipes, as I post them.

Sprouting Directions and Recipes

Sprouting Grains using the Mason Jar Method

Sprouting Brown Lentils using the Mason Jar Method

The Colander Sprouting Method Explained

Curried Sprouted Lentils with a Ginger Garlic Cilantro Sauce

Some Q & A on Sprouting

…more to come soon!

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Jessica O. says

    Great post Kimi! I have been reading more about this lately. It seems I have not been sprouting my beans long enough…..so I have started doing it a longer period of time….
    Jessica O.

  2. says

    I have always wondered (sorry if my question may seem a little stupid): do you eat only the freshly germinated shoot or the whole grain/seed/legume once sprouted?
    It surely makes more sense to steam or gently cook these if you use the whole sprouts.

  3. KimiHarris says

    Alchemille,
    Yes, you do eat the whole thing! Man, it would be a pain to separate them! ;-)
    Though on second thought, there may be one type of sprout that you do just eat the shoot, but I am not remembering for sure right now. And no, It’s not a stupid question. :-)

  4. Cari says

    I am so excited to begin sprouting my grains and seeds. I have been researching a lot about this process and benefits. Is there any danger in eating raw sprouted seeds while Pregnant???

    • KimiHarris says

      Hi Cari,

      As far as safety when eating sprouted seed while pregnant, I would recommend that you read through a few of the links I listed in the post. I personally think it’s safe (especially if you are able to find a good source of seed, I think many of them are even tested to make sure that there is not bad bacteria present), but use your own judgment there. :-)

  5. Karen says

    I am excited to read your recipes. I have sprouted a few different things, but the family only likes lentils… After they get sick of eating them straight out of a bowl as a snack I never know what to do with them!

  6. Lrimerman says

    This may also be a silly question. My mom used to sprout when I was a kid and I tried it once but didn’t like the results (don’t even remember what I sprouted, but I think if I try different things I will find ones I like). I never cared much for raw sprouts, so knowing that cooking/steaming is acceptable really has me excited. Where do you get the seeds and things to sprout, will any organic sunflower seeds (raw) sprout, etc. or do you need special ones for sprouting?

    I have lots of dried beans and legumes in my pantry, are those acceptable or do I need to buy ones that are ready to sprout?

    • KimiHarris says

      Lrimerman,
      Steaming or cooking certain sprouts not only makes them more digestible, but I think they taste better too. :-)
      And you should do just fine with sprouting the beans and legumes in your pantry, by the way. That’s what I am doing!

  7. michele says

    Hi Kimi,

    Can you recommend a good resource to obtain stuff for sprouting, like bigger Mason jars, etc? I am REALLY enjoying and benefitting from your posts. I have 9 kids and I work very hard providing the best nutrition i can. You are becoming an important part of that and I am grateful.

    • yves says

      I would like to show you what I use. http://www.sproutamo.com

      This little thing is so incredible it makes sprouting rice and anything else effortless.

      I am sprouting brown rice in 12 hours (after an initial overnight soaking). I don’t even have to rinse the grains every couple hours.

      It doesn’t require electricity or timers or anything!

  8. Rosy says

    What about rice? I have seen wheat, beans, and legumes, but no rice? Is this because rice can be digested as it is? Or would sprouting rice be beneficial too? I find that I am craving more rice and less noodles, and breads, which works out fine as I am learning how to make them more digestible. ; )~ I hope to try the sourdough soon, mmm pancakes……Sorry.

  9. says

    The seeds and sprouts do not contain goitrogens (the thyroid suppressing element you mentioned). The goitrogens develop as the broccoli grows beyond a sprout.

  10. says

    I enjoyed reading about sprouting very much. It’s still a little overwhelming to me to think about actually doing it yet, but I look forward to your posts on the subject.

  11. says

    Yes ! What an excellent post, thank you. I have been so very interested in sprouting and this post has encouraged me to just do it! One question, how long will your sprouts last before you need to eat them? (maybe you posted this already and I missed it…sorry !)
    Blessings ~ Kristy

  12. says

    Thank you so much for the information AND motivation! I’ve been wanting to get into sprouting!

    I have two questions. 1) Kristy already asked – how long do they last?
    2) Can you share recipes and/or links to recipes/cookbooks that use sprouts? That’s one of the intimidating parts to me right now – not knowing what to do with them once I sprout them! We like alfalfa sprouts on our sandwhiches, and I’m assuming you can throw them in salads….what do you put the cooked sprouts on? Any suggestions for getting a picky toddler to eat them? :)

  13. Kathy says

    I am sprouting dried navy beans for the first time and I was shocked that it actually worked. I soaked them in a bowl, the rinsed and covered the bowl with a towel. I have rinsed 2 times daily and will be able to cook them tomorrow or Monday. Also when I have used a mason jar to sprout I have used the fine mest bags that you get shallots in to cover the jar and drain the sprouts since I didn’t have an actual mesh strainer. It worked fine. I have enjoyed reading all of the information on these sites. It is very helpful especially when you are first starting out.

  14. gen says

    I have a couple of questions…

    I am interested in sprouted flours. I followed nourshing traditions on bulgar flour (sprout grain, dehydrate, and finely grind), but it is grainy like sand. Cooked peanut butter cookies stayed grainy-uneatable. Makes a good mush though.

    How do I get usable sprouted flour?

  15. MShipton says

    Sorry, but I have to ask regarding the “acidifying/alkalyzing” portion of this – is this real science or just conventional wisdom? How can a fruit be alkalyzing? I can’t think of a single basic fruit – they all contain acid.

    • KimiHarris says

      MShimpton,

      There is definitely controversy over the acid/alkaline issue. For example, Dr. Price felt that this whole idea was silly because he felt that many of the tribes he visited were in fine health without following some of the basic principles of the “acidic-alkaline” diet. Even the idea of your blood being acidic seems strange to many because your blood only becomes acidic if you are quite sick. However, I personally find that regardless of why this is true, when I more closely follow the “alkaline” rules of eating, I feel better. I do think that we can eat too many grains and meat, and too few vegetables at times, and at least for me, eating a higher amount of vegetables helps me feel good. I have a post on the backburner addressing this topic, look for it at sometime in the near future.

      As far as fruits go, you will find that there is a lot of variety on what foods are alkalining, but many fruits are generally considered “alkaline” food.

      As far as the sprout issue go, you don’t have to agree with the acid/alkaline viewpoint to feel that it’s a good thing to do. Sprouting does make the grains become closer to a vegetable and most of us will find that an advantage! :-)

  16. Claire says

    If you don’t have time to sprout…like me, just buy Shiloh Farms Essential Eating Sprotued Flours. They are the finest available. Essentialeating.com.

  17. says

    Great info! I think sprouting is a easy way to incorporate Living Foods in your diet..I will definitely experiment with the Easy Sprouter..So far,I have been using glass jars and cheese cloth and I had success with sunflower seeds and radish..
    Keep you posted..
    Laura

  18. says

    i didn’t know you could eat the sprouts… i had a lentil fall behind my faucet and it sprouted, so i put it in a little earth to see what would grow out of it. today i also put some lentil, peas, beans and soy beans on cotton wool to see what will happen!

  19. Nina says

    My family enjoys sprouted spelt or wheat crackers. I keep my sprouts in the freezer if I don’t use them right away- so they are always handy ( I hope I’m not destroying any of the nutrients.) To make the crackers, I just put the sprouts in my food processor with some sea salt and oil (usually coconut) or butter. Keep processing until this forms a dough ( adding more oil or water if necessary.) Roll out on a baking stone or pan lined with parchment or oiled, cut into squares, poke with fork, and dehydrate or bake on a very low temp until dry and crispy! We sometimes add honey or sucanat and cinnamon, or herbs and garlic, sesame seeds, or freshly ground flax seeds. Enjoy!

  20. says

    I’ve recently gotten into soaking/sprouting & dehydrating buckwheat for a crunchy granola cereal. But now I wonder if I should be concerned since I’m not technically cooking the sprouted grain ( you cited Sally Fallon as stating that raw grains can be toxic and should be cooked). I imagine it’s a matter of quantity yes? Any thoughts about this? If I dehydrate the buckwheat at a higher temperature, won’t it lose some of the benefits of the sprouting? Thanks so much – I love reading your posts!

  21. lindsey bell says

    I’ve been sprouting our pinto and black beans according to NT instructions and I’ve noticed that after they’ve been cooked, they smell TERRIBLE after a day or two. Even opening the refrigerator, I can smell them. Is it connected to sprouting do you you think? Are they okay to eat? They taste fine, and even smell fine after they’ve been heated.

  22. Jackie says

    Quote: “Soaking will also help to diminish s0me of the fat content and will help convert the dense vegetable protein to simpler amino acids for easier digestion. The more complex carbohydrates in the foods will also start to break down into the simpler glucose molecules” Wendy Rudell, Raw Transformation Have you ever had problems with legumes causing intestinal gas? Well sprouting helps break down the complex sugars responsible for that, making them easier for all of us to digest.”

    Reply: I’m not sure why you’re saying this as though it’s a good thing – if it turns into a simple carbohydrate it’s basically turning into sugar thats immediately turning into fat. It’s no longer considered a “good (complex) carbohydrate” which the body uses up as energy. It’s the same reason I don’t eat white bread. If you have serious digestion problems you should just cook the grains longer and drink a lot of water. Doing this actually prevents constipation.

    • Rachel says

      Jackie, this process isn’t breaking down “good” carbohydrates into “sugars” as you might understand them. Instead, it’s breaking down the undigestible carbohydrates (e.g. cellulose, or plant fiber) into ones that the body can use as fuel. The body needs glucose, as it’s the preferred fuel for most tissues. This is the same process that the bacteria in your gut do too, only they are not as efficient and create gas in the process. There is actually a lot more to the science of carbohydrates than just “simple” or “complex.” Those terms are very simplified and not scientific.

  23. Raj says

    Hi
    Good post. I keep reading that not all sprouts give the same advantage over their dry counterparts.
    I like all sprouts & always eat them cooked – but does the protein content reduces in sprouts?
    I am more interested in lentil, black bean, mung, peas & chick pea sprouts.
    Does protein reduces when you sprout the above?
    Regards

  24. says

    Very interesting, but are there any studies to back up all these wonderful claims?
    I have been searching for a while, and have found many sites that make the same posits you do, but not a single one has any sort of authority or reference behind them.

    Or, as they say on the net – “[citation needed]” ;)

  25. Leslie says

    How long do organic seeds last if refrigerated? Would there ever be danger of them going bad? I have had 3 different kinds in my refrigerator for about 10 years. Just forgot they were in a drawer. Just started sprouting again. The radish seeds were wonderful! I’m just sprouting alfalfa & clover and they smell a little funny…

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