Following up on my article on soaking grains from last week, I thought I would discuss the result of going one step further in your whole grain preparation. If your grains are left soaking for three or more days (not necessary for the nutrient absorption and pre-digestion process, but an option that creates a whole new delicacy) the result is a sprouted seedling. As I explained, soaking helps release the “dormant energy” of the seed, making it more available for use by your body. As it happens, the dormant energy of any grain, seed or legume is the source of life and growth potential that it contains – remember it’s not just food, it’s a plant’s form of reproduction as well. As the growth process begins during sprouting, food enzymes are activated, nutrient levels increase and new vitamins and minerals are taken on. Like the initial soaking process, sprouting eliminates the nutrient blocking enzymes, begins pre-digesting the grain/legume/seed and results in a more nutrient rich and available food for your digestive tract.

With the recent salmonella outbreaks in commercially produced sprouts, what better time to take your grain soaking to the next level and try some at home sprouting? Depending on what you chose to sprout, nutrient contents vary, but all sprouts are healthy nutritional powerhouses. Some of the best grains for sprouting are: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rice and wheat/rye. Other great seeds and legumes to sprout include pumpkin, radish, sesame, sunflower, broccoli, alfalfa, clover, garbanzo, lentil and mung. Avoid sprouting large beans such as black, fava, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, and soy as they can be harsh on digestion and toxic to the body.

Don’t write off sprouts as a past time for hippies and granola lovers. Sprouts can be a delightful addition to a gourmet meal or a simple sandwich. They taste great, add texture and flare to foods and have amazing nutritional benefits.

  • Sprouted wheat contains almost four times the amount of niacin and twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate as un-sprouted
  • Sprouted wheat has a higher protein to starch ratio, which makes its impact on your blood sugar level less extreme. More protein than starch will help maintain energy and satiation longer and decrease cravings
  • Chlorophyll is abundant in sprouts and has intense purification, anti-inflammation and regeneration qualities
  • Sprouts help eliminate excess and stagnancy built up in the body from symptoms induced by stress, diet and lifestyle in modern cultures
  • Sprouts, especially of broccoli seeds, contain high levels of sulforaphane that supports antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and has been researched for its aid in cancer fighting regimens
  • Sprouts contain highly effective and beneficial digestive enzymes that help build healthy intestinal flora and proper digestion and assimilation processes
  • Sprouting cereal grains can produce up to 300 percent more vitamin A
  • A large variety of phytonutrients (naturally occurring plant based compounds) in sprouts have positive health benefits that include combating degenerative disease, aiding in pain relief and anti-inflammation, detoxifying the body, counteracting harmful free-radicals and oxidation and aiding metabolism and immune function
  • Alfalfa sprouts help clean and tone the intestines, remove harmful acids from the blood and contain enzymes that help with the assimilation of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Carotene, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus zinc, vitamins K and P and abundant chlorophyll in alfalfa sprouts provide nourishing and healing qualities.
  • Sunflower sprouts (pictured above) are a rare food form of natural vitamin D, a necessary but usually deficient vitamin for most people. Vitamin D aids in bone and immune system health and plays a role in fighting cancer and cardiovascular disease.

This weekend, while waiting for my homegrown sprouts to work their magic, I picked up some beautiful sunflower sprouts at the farmers market. They were a treat to snack on plain (snappy and fresh — hinting of fresh spring life) as I meandered my way around the remaining booths. Luckily I managed to save a few for last night’s dinner, where they added a perfect crisp crunch to the top of  a black bean, quinoa, sauteed greens and arugula pesto salad.

Check back this Thursday for easy at home sprouting instructions and more recipe ides for the final product.