Sprouted Foods – Are they actually healthier?
Have you started to notice sprouted foods in grocery stores? Sprouted trail mix, pasta, nuts, seeds, bread – they are popping up everywhere. Are they actually more nutritious than non-sprouted plant foods? We’ve done the digging to find out the basics.
What is Sprouted?
When you think of sprouts, alfalfa and bean sprouts may be the first that come to mind but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Every sprouted food is a type of seed. Picture sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds – but that’s not all. Chickpeas, green peas and split peas are seeds as well. Some grains, including lentils, are known as a “pulse” which means they are harvested for their seeds. These can also be sprouted, as well as some legumes, quinoa, oats and nuts.
How Sprouting Works
Sprouting is the process of bringing a seed to life. You are most likely familiar with how seeds work. They consist of the raw materials that grow into a new plant when temperature and moisture conditions are ideal. Sprouted foods are essentially seeds that have begun to grow but aren’t baby plants yet. If a food is sprouted, it’s still very much living and growing.
Once a seed sprouts, the nutritious properties of the seed are released so the baby plant has more energy to grow. The theory behind eating sprouted foods is that those nutrients are more available to us as well, and they are easier to digest.
The sprouting process involves soaking the seeds, nuts or grains in water and rinsing them repeatedly until they begin to grow a tail-like feature. This mimics Mother Nature’s process of turning a seed into a plant. For most seeds, nuts, grains and legumes the sprouting method is more or less the same; it’s just the time that varies.
Enhanced nutritional value
The biggest benefit of sprouted foods is their enhanced nutritional value, as we mentioned above. Studies show sprouted cereal grains are higher in amino acids and B vitamins and contain less starch.
Sprouted foods improve digestion. The raw materials in the food that become available when it’s sprouted come in enzyme form. Enzymes are crucial to digestion, as they are responsible for breaking down the food and increasing the absorption of nutrients. They would be a good choice for someone with a sensitive gut.
Enhanced natural flavours
Sprouting often enhances natural flavours without compromising nutritional value. We recommend Living Intentions for their sprouted seeds and trail mixes. Sky Island Organics offers a great selection of sprouted trail mixes and nuts, including walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios and brazil nuts. View their selection.
Promising scientific research exists about the benefits of sprouted foods. A study by the International Plant Grower’s Association outlines the benefits of eating sprouted foods and their anticancer properties. The Whole Grains Council lists additional benefits.
Sprouting at home
Sprouting is not difficult, but there is a risk of bacterial contaminiation. There are some great online resources for sprouting foods at home. Seeds should be purchased from a certified supplier and the seeds and container should be sterilized before sprouting.