Sprouted Seeds — What are They?

Sprouted seeds have become trendier in the past few years, showing up in snack foods, fancy restaurants, and in all the different aisles of our grocery stores.

Sprouting is meant to emulate the environment in which seeds sprout underground – water, oxygen, and proper temperature. By doing so, the seeds will begin to germinate which means it grows by putting out shoots directly out of the seed. Some grains you could sprout include whole lentils, peas, chickpeas, and barley amongst many other whole grains and seeds. As seeds germinate, there are chemical and physical changes that happen, resulting in unique characteristics.

In addition to their health benefits, sprouted seeds require little preparation or cooking, and are extremely versatile. There are many types of sprouted seeds that you can find/grow, each with their own unique flavour profile, texture, and uses, and can be used at many stages in their development. For example, they can be cooked in soups or ground into flour when the seeds begin to split, used as a sandwich ingredient when they’re thin and frilly, or tossed into salads or sauteed when they begin to grow their leaves.

Benefits of Sprouted Seeds

Here are my top 5 benefits that give sprouted seeds the upper hand when compared to their un-sprouted counterparts.

1) Packin’ a Punch

Seeds and grains innately contain tons of important vitamins and minerals — they are meant to contain everything a plant needs to grow, after all! However, with a little sprouting, one of the most notable changes that occur is the drastic increase in many essential nutrients.

They contain several B vitamins such as folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, all of which are required for energy metabolism. In addition, they contain important minerals such as copper, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron as well as vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

2) Digestion’s the Name of the Game

As seeds germinate, the energy and nutrients stored inside begin to change as it prepares for its journey from seed to sprout, to eventual plant.

One important thing that happens is that enzymes become activated and begin working their magic; complex starches and proteins are broken down and nutrients are liberated. This partial digestion that happens during the sprouting process makes it easier for our digestive system to break down the foods and results in the nutrients being more readily absorbed. 

3) Fibre, Fibre, Fibre!

Fibre is a critical part of every diet. Sprouting seeds increases the amount of fibre contained as the little plant develops, providing an easy way to boost your fibre intake when they’re added to your dishes.

Soluble fibre in these sprouted grains helps improve bowel movements, decrease blood cholesterol, helps you feel fuller and more satisfied longer, and acts as a prebiotic to support your gut microbiota.

4) “Gluten” Who?

Gluten, which is found in many grains and grain products, is a protein that results in the chewy, stretchy texture that many bread lovers live for!  However, gluten can also result in gastrointestinal discomfort or adverse reactions, most commonly seen in individuals who are gluten intolerant or suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). 

Sprouting breaks down a significant portion of gluten contained within the seeds, allowing those with more mild gluten sensitivities to enjoy a larger variety of grain products. If you are sensitve to gluten, sprouting your grains may reduce discomfort. However, if you are allergic to gluten, sprouting your grains won’t get rid of the gluten and you will need to stick to a gluten free diet. If you are eating a gluten free diet, check out my delicious gluten-free recipes such as the GF spice cake or GF apple, pear, and berry crumble!

5) Bye-Bye, Anti-nutrients

Many plant foods naturally contain what are called “anti-nutrients” such as phytic acid in grains and legumes, and tannins in tea or coffee. These compounds, although non-toxic, can prevent the absorption of nutrients from the foods you eat. By sprouting your seeds, these compounds break down, allowing more nutrients to be absorbed from these jam-packed goodies! Other ways to reduce anti-nutrients include soaking in water and cooking.

How to Sprout Your Own Seeds

Rather than purchasing your sprouted seeds from the grocery store, which may put quite the dent in your wallet, you can actually sprout your own seeds right at home! And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need expensive equipment or a fancy set-up. 

All you need is:

  • 1 500 ml Mason Jar
  • 2 Tbsp of Your WHOLE seed(s) of Choice (alfalfa, mung bean, radish, chickpeas, etc.)
  • Cheese Cloth/Mesh
  • Rubber Band
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Choose a large enough jar that will allow space for the sprouts to grow. Put your seeds into your mason jar, barely cover with water, and secure your piece of cheesecloth or mesh over the jar opening with a rubber band.
  2. Let sit overnight to jumpstart the germination process.
  3. Drain the water and rinse the seeds and drain the water again. Re-cover with cloth/mesh.
  4. Set the jar upside down on an angle to allow for air circulation and water drainage. Store in a dark, room-temperature place — this replicates the normal sprouting environment for the seeds! If you don’t let it breath at an angle, the environment will be perfect for mold and spores to grow.
  5. Repeat the rinsing, draining, and storing process 2-3 times a day to keep the seeds clean and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. 
  6. Do this for 2-6 days (depending on your seed choice) and your sprouts will be ready to enjoy! 

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Blog Contributor

This blog was written with the help of UBC nutrition student, Gilbert.

References:

“How to Sprout Seeds in a Jar” [May 8th, 2019] https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/sprouting/how-to-sprout-seeds-jar/

“What Are the Benefits of Sprouting Seeds?” [May 8th, 2019] https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-sprouting-seeds-2304.html

“How to Reduce Antinutrients in Foods” [May 8th, 2019] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-reduce-antinutrients

“10 Best Benefits of Sprouts” [May 8th, 2019] https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/sprouts.html