Sprouting is essentially the practice of germinating seeds — whether grains, nuts, beans or other kinds of seeds — so that they are easier to digest and your body can access their full nutritional profile.
Sprouted foods are a prominent ingredient in many raw food diets, but they have plenty of benefits for people following any type of diet.
Benefits of sprouting grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds:
1. Decreases Antinutrients & Phytic Acid
Sprouting helps to drastically cut down on the level of carcinogens and anti-nutrients present within seeds. Carcinogens, known as aflatoxins, are present naturally within plant foods including peanuts, almonds, corn and other nuts. These can act like toxins within the digestive tract and may cause a range of digestive problems. And anti-nutrients, including phytic acid, have the ability to leach on to minerals and make them unabsorbable by the body.
According to the Phytic Acid Organization, soaking beans for just 18 hours can reduce the content of phytic acid in beans by up to 70% depending on the kind. The level of phytic acid differs between different food groups, and even within the same food group, but all beans, nuts, seeds, and grains can benefit from soaking and sprouting.
Another study found that sprouted and fermented nuts contained significantly less tannins, another type of antinutrient toxin, than unsprouted nuts did. Sprouting the nuts freed nutrients from being bound and unabsorbable, while also improving the nutrient content of the nuts to some degree.
Because sprouting helps to reduce the presence of antinutrients, improvements in digestibility and nutrient absorption are commonly seen when people switch from unsprouted foods to sprouted foods.
2. Makes Foods Easier to Digest
For many people, eating grains, beans, nuts and seeds is problematic when it comes to digestion and frequently causes inflammation. A major benefit of sprouting is that is unlocks beneficial enzymes, which make all types of grains, seeds, beans and nuts easier on the digestive system. This also helps increase beneficial flora levels in the gut so you experience less of an auto-immune type of reaction when you eat these various forms of seeds.
Especially with grains, these methods also help to break down complex sugars and starches which makes the grains more digestible. In recent studies, the digestibility of storage proteins and starches improved due to partial hydrolysis interactions that took place during sprouting.
Studies even show that grains become easier to digest and break down for those with diabetes after they’ve been sprouted because of changes in the amount of phenolenic acids and enzymes available. Both short and long term sprouting helped diabetics to regulate amylase-enzyme activity that is needed to properly digest glucose.
Even more digestive benefits can be found in fermented grains, because these contain probiotics. Probiotics inhabit the gut flora with healthy “good bacteria”, while decreasing the presence of harmful “bad bacteria”, which helps digestion, detoxification, and nutrient absorption.
3. Increases Nutrient Absorption — B12, Iron, Magnesium and Zinc
According to researchers, sprouting foods for a limited period causes increased activities of hydrolytic enzymes, improvement in the contents of certain essential amino acids, total sugars, and B-group vitamins, and a decrease in dry matter, starch, and antinutrients.
By sprouting seeds, nutrients including amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars in the form of glucose, and even vitamins and minerals become more available and absorbable.
4. Increases Protein Availability
Depending on the exact seed that is sprouted, proteins in the form of amino acids can become more concentrated and absorbable in sprouted foods. Some studies have shown that an increase in amino acids including lysine and tryptophan can take place when seeds are sprouted, however the protein gluten can also decrease in grains when sprouted.
While the concentration of different proteins in sprouted foods seems to vary, most studies indicate that proteins become more digestible when the seeds are sprouted. When a seed begins to sprout, natural chemical changes take place and as a result enzymes are produced to convert nutrients for the growing plant to utilize. As sprouting continues, complex proteins are converted into simple amino acids, making them easier on digestion.
5. Increases Fiber Content
Several studies have found that when seeds are sprouted their fiber content increases and becomes more available. (21) Reports show that sprouting increases concentrations of crude fiber, which is the fiber that makes up the cell walls of plants. When we consume plant’s crude fiber, the fiber cannot actually be absorbed within our digestive tract and therefore it helps to push waste and toxins out of the gut and to regulate bowel movements.
6. Breaks Down Gluten for Easier Digestibility
In a 2007 study done by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, researchers sprouted wheat kernels for up to one week, while analyzing them at different stages to learn the effects of changes in gluten concentrations and other nutrient levels. They found that sprouting decreased gluten proteins substantially, plus it was also able to increase folate and dietary fiber.
Other studies have shown that as time goes on, sprouted flours can further decrease in gluten, while the availability of total amino acids (protein), fats and sugars becomes more easily available.
7. May Increase Enzymes & Antioxidants
According to a 2013 study, sprouting legume seeds can increase their nutritive value by raising phenolic and flavonoid antioxidant levels. When researchers sprouted the seeds, antioxidant levels significantly increased and improved free radical scavenging and anticancer activities when compared to the seeds that had not been sprouted.
One 2007 study found that after sprouting buckwheat for 48 hours, concentration of beneficial antioxidant compounds called rutin were increased more than 10-fold, while another antioxidant flavonoid called quercitrin became newly formed. The researchers then fed rats the sprouted buckwheat for 8 weeks and found significant reductions in levels of dangerous fat build-ups stored in the liver, thanks to the positive impacts of the antioxidants.
China Rose Sprouts