HEALTHY LIVING

Abracadabra: The Magic of Sprouting Seeds

Sprouts are far more than tiny, whitish plants that just happen to garnish a gourmet sandwich or an Asian side dish. In fact, in China there are accounts of sprouts being recommended by traditional physicians to treat a variety of diseases, more than 1000 years ago. Today we know that sprouts are nutritionally dense, enzyme-packed superfoods. This is possible because three key changes occur in seeds when you sprout them: nutrition is heightened, anti-nutrition is removed, and healthy compounds are unlocked.

This is all made possible through the process of germination. Take a seed, add moisture and the right temperature — the most vital aspects of the germination process — and a cascade of mechanisms are set into motion that transform the biological makeup of the seed into a sprout. Think about it, every plant-based food starts as a sprout.

The nutritional density of sprouts is incredible, yet understandable when you remember that the act of sprouting allows tiny seeds to explode into life!

Here are some highlights:

NUTRITION: 

Considering the nutritional value obtained versus the calories spotlight just how amazing sprouts can be as a nutritional source.  Regardless of the sprout variety one cup does not contain more than 80 calories, but it will provide roughly 8-16% of daily fiber, 2-15% of minerals, and 11-30% of vitamin C requirements plus many more bio-active healthy compounds.  (These volumes can change depending on what seed you are sprouting).

The germ, endosperm and bran are the three main compartments of the seed containing all the required nutrients and compounds to transform and feed the new plant to be. Germination increases the nutrient content in order to nourish and protect the new plant during its early growing phase, while enzyme activity eliminates growth inhibitors in order to get the growth process underway.

Complex molecules such as starch get enzymatically broken down into simpler sugars to be used up as energy, while at the same time forming fibers along the way, which will eventually become the structure of the plant.  Proteins are also affected and turned into other novel compounds or broken down into their simpler components like peptides and amino acids.   Increments in vitamins such as folate, carotenes, and vitamin C, minerals such as iron, mangnesium, zinc, phosphorus and calcium benefit from the germinating process by reducing the binding effect of storage molecules such as phytic acid.

ANTI-NUTRITION: 

Not all foods are created equal. Any food that actually requires more nutritional resources to metabolize/digest it, robs your body of precious nutrients, or inhibits the function of vital enzymes is considered an anti-nutrient. Seeds have plenty of such compounds in the form of Phytates, goitrogens, canavanine, lectins, alkaloids, lathyrogens, tannins, and other potential anti-nutrients and allergens.  Part of the reason is that seeds are avoiding degradation, damage, fighting off diseases, predators or sprouting under unfavorable conditions  – this creates an archaic immune system in the seed of sorts.  Even after hundreds of years of selective breeding we still can’t completely eliminate some of these anti-nutrients. Some are vital to the seed such as phytates serving the purpose of storing phosphorus essential for plant tissue health when it germinates.  Lucky for us most of these compounds are completely neutralized, eliminated or greatly reduced when sprouted.

HEALTHY COMPOUNDS: 

Sulforaphane is created during the germination stages in brassica seeds such as broccoli.  The body of research carried out looking at the consumption of sprouts containing this compound activated during the chewing stages is nothing short of amazing, including possible protection of neuronal damage and degeneration, acting as an antioxidant, and maintaining the activity of vitamins A, C and E.  Protecting, detoxifying and maintaining proper upper airway cell functions, cancer prevention, and even DNA protection against damage from a variety of sources including pesticide exposure.

GABA is found in sprouted brown rice. This amino acid functions as a neurotransmitter that helps reduce neuronal excitability in the central nervous system as well as playing a key role in muscle tone.

L-Dopa is a precursor for another important neurotransmitter we know as dopamine, and this is found in fava bean sprouts.

These are only a few compounds created during the germination process that serve an important service when consumed; literally thousands of such compounds are created so just think of the possibilities! Amazing, right? Here is a list of other potential benefits associated to sprout consumption (Note: this is a very general overview and not all sprouts share the same benefits).

  • Cardio protection (broccoli)
  • Antioxidant
  • Kidney support
  • Liver support
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Lipoprotein regulating “cholesterol”
  • Blood glucose regulator
  • Weight management
  • Cancer protection
  • Bone density
  • Detoxification support and activation
  • Mood regulator
  • Dental decay

Eating sprouts is not a silver bullet to cover all your nutritional needs or fully take care of your health, however sprouts are an incredible addition to your diet. For key nutritional reasons why you should eat sprouts, read the blog, “Microgreens & Sprouts: Super Simple SuperFoods!

For tips on how to sprout in your own kitchen, read the blog, Tiny Gardens: Sprouting in Your Own Kitchen.

 

References

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