I have been a long time enthusiast of growing and eating sprouts, and have always believed they are nutritious. Over the years I have enjoyed growing mung bean, alfalfa and radish sprouts, and eating them fresh in salads. Lately I have sprouted buckwheat groats, and incorporated them in energy bars and granola. Until now, I haven’t actually done any research on sprouts, and recently I have been wondering just how nutritious sprouts really are. While researching I found there is a controversy about the nutritional content of sprouts. So let’s take a closer look – at both the nutrition and the controversy.
Many different grains, legumes, vegetables and seeds are commonly sprouted. This includes wheat, alfalfa, mung bean, radish, broccoli, cabbage, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, fenugreek, buckwheat, chickpea, lentil and kidney bean – to name a few.
About the nutrition of sprouts….
Sprouts are literally ‘baby plants’ that contain all the elements a plant needs to reach full growth and maturity. When seeds are soaked, metabolic changes take place that allow the seeds to germinate and sprout. Essentially, during sprouting the complex compounds in the seeds are broken down into simple forms, which:
- decreases the carbohydrate level
- increases the protein, vitamin and mineral level
- makes the sprout easily digestible
- allows the nutrients to be readily available.
The exact nutritional profile varies for each of the different seeds / sprouts. The vitamin content can include Vitamins A, C, E, B and K. The mineral content can include calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorous. More specific nutritional information can be found here: International Sprout Grower’s Association.
One important point: many informational resources talk about a large increase in the percentage of protein, vitamins, amino acids and minerals in the sprouts. This percentage indicates the increase in nutritional content of the sprout compared to the nutritional content of the dry seed. These percentages may seem very large and can easily be misinterpreted. For instance, if the Vitamin A content of a dry seed is extremely small and it increases by 50% during sprouting, the sprout will still have a very small content of Vitamin A. It is all relative.
When a grain or seed is sprouted, it becomes alkaline forming instead of acid forming. One example of this is buckwheat, which is acid forming before sprouting. Most vegetables are naturally alkaline forming, and vegetable sprouts are also alkaline forming. Eating sprouts can help balance the acidity of the standard North American diet, which tends toward too many acid forming foods and not enough alkaline forming foods. An unhealthy acid-alkaline imbalance, with too much acidity in the body causes numerous health issues.
Sprouts are ‘live’ foods, meaning they are foods that have life force and energy. When we consume foods that have life force, our cells take on that life force and energy and they thrive. Our bodies become nourished and our energy level and vibrancy naturally increase.
About the controversy of sprouts…..
Here are six reasons for the controversy:
- Soaking time: The seeds should only be soaked long enough to germinate and start the sprouting process. If the seeds are soaked for too long they can rot and ferment.
- Sprouting conditions: Nutritional content of the sprouts depends on the conditions during sprouting. If the seeds do not receive right amount of water, are kept at the wrong temperature, do not have fresh air, or have the wrong amount of light – the germination process will be poor and the sprouts will likely have less nutritional value.
- Quality of the seeds: The seeds used for sprouting need to be unsprayed and should be sold as a food item. If the seeds are meant for planting, they may have been sprayed or have toxic chemicals on them.
- Quality of the water used: Pure water needs to be used in washing, soaking and rinsing the sprouts. If the water is contaminated in any way, the sprouts will also be contaminated.
- Percentage of nutrients: As mentioned above, the actual percentage of increase in nutrients can easily be misinterpreted. The nutrient percentage increase in sprouts is compared to the nutrient content of the dry seed.
- Food-borne illness: Sprouts are at risk of carrying food-borne illness, such as E. Coli. Small seeds can be difficult to wash thoroughly before sprouting, and the seeds must be rinsed with clean water several times a day. If the rinse water is unclean, or if the sprouts are not rinsed often enough – the conditions are ripe for bacteria to grow and food-borne illness can be the result.
Even after doing research, reading the pros and cons of sprouting, and looking at the available information about the nutrition of sprouts – I am still convinced that sprouts carry a good nutritional punch. For anyone growing their own sprouts – I would recommend diligence in choosing high quality seeds, washing the seeds thoroughly, using clean water to wash and rinse the seeds, and making sure the sprouting conditions are optimal. For anyone purchasing sprouts – I recommend choosing the source as wisely as possible, and buying the freshest sprouts you can find.
Sprouts are very versatile – they can be used in salads, stir-frys, soups, eaten raw as a snack, eaten in a sandwich and much more!
Are you interested in taking your dietary lifestyle and your nutritional knowledge to the next level? Contact me. Let’s chat about it!
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