Sprouts can be defined as a shoot of a plant and a new growth from a germinating seed, rootstock, tuber, bud, something resembling growth. Sprouting is the natural process by which seeds or spores germinate and put out shoots, and also produce new leaves, buds and other parts of the plant. These can be eaten raw or cooked which are considered highly nutritious.
PROCESS OF SPROUTING :
Sprouting is also called germination which takes a few days and can be done at home manually. Typically the seeds are first rinsed to remove soil, dirt and the mucilaginous substances. Then they are soaked for from 20 minutes to 12 hours, depending on the type and size of the seed. Soaking increases the water content in the seeds and brings them out of quiescence. After draining and then rinsing seeds at regular intervals, the seeds germinate, or sprout. Every seed has a specific time for germination and if allowed to germinate more, leaves also produce. Seeds which germinate into leaves are called “ Baby greens”. Colanders are the best vessel to sprout seeds.
Many varieties of nuts, such as almonds and peanuts, are sprouted, although the sprouts are very small when eaten. These sprouts are called “soaks”.
- Home sprouting : For home sprouting, the seeds are soaked (big seeds) or moistened (small), then left at room temperature in a vessel. Any vessel used for sprouting must allow water to drain from it, because sprouts that sit in water will rot quickly. The seeds swell, may stick to the sides of the jar, and begin germinating within a day or two. The seeds can be tied up in a muslin or cotton cloth and can be moisturised frequently until the sprouts germinate.
- Pulse Drip Method : In this method, urethane foam mat is laid and pulses are spread on it and watered frequently with sprinklers. This reduces bacterial cross – contamination and allows rapid sprouting.
SEEDS IDEAL FOR SPROUTING :
All viable seeds can be sprouted, and can be consumed raw or steamed based on individual preferences but kidney beans should not be eaten raw . Sprouts are more nutritious than the original beans, and they require much less cooking time. Common sprouts used as food include:
- Pulses/ Legume : Alfalfa, clover, fenugreek, lentils, peas, chickpea, mung beans, soya beans
- Cereals : Oats, wheat, maize, rice, barley, rye
- Pseudocereals : Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat
- Oil seeds : Sesame, sunflower, Almond, hazelnut, hemp, Linseed, Peanut
- Brassica : Broccoli, Cabbage, Watercress, Mustard, Radish, Daikon, Turnip
- Umbelliferous Vegetables : Carrot, Celery, fennel, Parsley
- Allium : Onions, Spring onions
- Other Vegetables and herbs : Spinach, Lettuce, Lemongrass
- Oats, Quinoa : Whole oats cannot be sprouted, but hulled oats can be sprouted. Quinoa can be sprouted easily
- Raw kidneys beans : Kidney beans are unadvisable for sprouting as they contain high amounts of the toxin phytohemagglutinin which can be destroyed only after boiling or cooking them for 30 minutes
NUTRIENTS IN SPROUTS :
The process of sprouting increases the nutrient content of the seeds and reduces the anti nutritional elements that inhibits the absorption of nutrients by the body.
- Sprouting reduces anti-nutritional compounds. Lectins can be reduced by sprouting and cooking. Sprouts are a rich source of digestible form of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein and phytochemicals. This enhanced nutrient content in sprouts is due to breakdown of complex molecules into simpler compound and is later transformed into essential constituents and thus they are called as “pre-digested food”.
- The metabolic activity of seeds increases hydration of sprouts while soaking in water and aids in rapid synthesis of protein, lipids, starch, Vitamin B, Sugars in them and decreases phytates and protease inhibitors.
- Sprouts are also great sources of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds.
- Increase in Protein Quality : During soaking and sprouting of seeds, the conversion of storage proteins into albumins, globulins, lysine, Amino acids during sprouting may improve the quality of cereal proteins and increase the bioavailability.
- Proteolytic Activity : An increase in proteolytic activity during sprouting is desirable for nutritional improvement as it leads to hydrolysis of prolamins, glutamine and proline and converted into lysine.
- Crude fibre : In sprouted barley, crude fibre, a major constituent of cell walls, increases synthesis of structural carbohydrates, such as cellulose and hemicellulose. As cellulose is indigested by human gut, it stays in the stomach for a longer period of time and thus a person feels full, aids in clearing constipation, colon related diseases, Balancing blood sugar levels, Increases satiety.
- Lipolysis : Increased lipolytic activity during germination causes hydrolysis of triacylglycerols to glycerol and fatty acids. Fatty acids and glycerol are the least product into which a fat molecule can be broken down and these get easily absorbed in body.
- Vitamins : Vitamin B, Vitamin E (Tocopherol), Beta Carotene, Vitamin C are actively synthesised in sprouts during germination and they assist in bioactive functions as catalyst for digestion and absorption. Sprouts consist of 30 times higher amounts of B vitamins, Vitamin C when compared with mature plants.
REASONS FOR IMPROPER SPROUTING :
There are various factors which contribute to failure of germination or sprouting in seeds. They are as follows
- Improper washing and cleaning of seeds before soaking
- Leaving seeds in standing water after soaking
- Improperly drying of seeds
- Fluctuations in temperature
- Soiled vessels and cloth
- Improper Ventilation
- Contaminated water
HEALTH BENEFITS : Sprouts offer various health benefits due to its higher nutritive value, easy digestibility and can be consumed by everyone.
- Improves digestion : Sprouts consists of enzymes which boost metabolic processes and chemical reactions which aids in digestion as they break complex molecules effectively and absorb food faster.
- Boosts Metabolism : Sprouts become an active source of protein, niacin which aids in muscle growth, takes care of wear and tear of skin, strengthens lean muscle mass & bones which induces metabolism indirectly.
- Prevents Anemia : Presence of fiber, Iron, Niacin and other micronutrients in sprouts, aids in blood cell formation and treating various forms of anemia. It also reduces fatigue, nausea, Lightheadedness, stomach disorders, Increases concentration and oxygen supply in the body. Iron from sprouts is better absorbed than raw pulses due to reduction of phytates in the sprouting process thereby consumption of sprouts on a regular basis helps to prevent iron deficiency.
- Promotes Weight Loss and Maintenance of blood sugar levels : Sprouts are an active source of fiber which delays emptying of the stomach and thus aids in maintaining weight and blood sugar levels by inhibiting the secretion of ghrelin hormones and reduces unnecessary snacking and munching. It also eases bowel movements as they contain fiber which in turn aids in elimination of waste from the body periodically.
- Promotes heart health : Sprouts has omega – 3 – fatty acids especially Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which is an essential fatty acid which helps to reduce triglycerides in blood. Sprouts also contain Potassium which act as a vasodilator, increases oxygen supply in blood and thus making a person less susceptible for heart diseases such as atherosclerosis, stroke and Heart attack.
- Prevents Neural Tube Defects : Consumption of sprouts during pregnancy provides adequate amount of Vitamin B, Folate which prevents neural tube defects in new born baby or fetus.
- Boost Immune System : Sprouts are a powerful booster for immune system as it contains Vitamin C in excess when compared to other vitamins and minerals which aids in strengthening the immunity to fight against diseases and infections.
- Maintains Eye Health : Presence of Vitamin A, Beta carotene in sprouts act as an antioxidant which protects eye cells from free radicals that helps to prevent glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration. It improves vision and cleans the eyes naturally.
- Relieves Cold sores : Presence of micronutrients, amino acids, lysine in sprouts that are anti-inflammatory aids to strengthen the respiratory tract and reduces asthma, cold sore etc.
IDEAL TIME & AMOUNT OF SPROUTS TO BE CONSUMED :
- Sprouts can be added into smoothies & soups as toppings, and can be consumed as salads, sandwiches.
- The ideal time to consume sprouts is early in the morning as snacks and before major meals.
- Around 100 -150 gms of sprouts are suggested per day for a normal person without any health conditions.
- A person aiming for weight loss, constipation, maintenance of blood sugar levels needs to consume 200 gms of sprouts per day.
Sprouts are one of the great additions to your diet that increases the protein consumption naturally without having any negative impact on the body and also supplies other essential nutrients that are required for growth and development.