Sprouting seeds at home is a simple and rewarding process that allows you to unlock health benefits, from a new source. Sprouts not only add a delightful crunch to your meals, but they also offer you a different way of extracting nutrients from your food source. In this article, we’ll explore the ease of sprouting various seeds, the method to follow, and the incredible nutritional advantages that sprouted seeds offer.
The Sprouting Process
Sprouting seeds is a breeze, very easy to do. You can enjoy a fresh batch of sprouts in just a few days. Different seeds have varying sprouting times, typically ranging between 3 to 4 days. The duration of sprouting is dependent on whether you are aiming for partially sprouted seeds or microgreens. Microgreens are normally ready between 4 – 6 days. This is again very much dependent on the type of seeds.
You can sprout almost any type of seed, that you would normally cook. Red kidney beans are the exception due to the high amount of lectin toxins. Personally, I do not sprout any time of beans. I sprout mung beans, lentils, chickpeas, cowpeas, broccoli, radish, alfalfa, clover, onion, and sesame. I can sprout the majority of seeds apart from beans.
What you need for sprouting:
You need the seeds for sprouting. I use around 30g for a 900ml mason jar. If using smaller jars, start off with a tablespoonful of seeds for small seeds such as broccoli or radish and two tablespoons for bigger seeds such as chickpeas or peas. You need a mason jar and a draining lid (the lid has mesh). The draining lids can be bought from online shops – just search sprouting jars/lids. If you do not have a draining lid, you can also tie a muslin cloth around the mouth of the jar using a string or an elastic band.
How do you go about sprouting?
Give the seeds a very good rinse.
Fully cover the seeds in clean cool water and soak for at least 4 hours, allowing them to absorb moisture and kickstart the germination process. I tend to soak them overnight and drain and rinse them the following morning.
Drain and rinse the seeds thoroughly and rinse and drain. Getting rid of as much water as possible.
Here is where the special sprouting lids help as you can use them to drain. If you don’t have the spouting lids, use a sieve to drain the seeds. Return the seeds to the sprouting jar. Tie the clean muslin cloth over the mouth of the jar with a string or elastic band.
Invert the jar onto a bowl or plate so that there is no standing water. If using a muslin cloth, tilt the jar at an angle so that there is air circulation and the cloth is not sitting on the wet plate/bowl.
Rinse the seeds a minimum of two times per day (e.g., morning and evening) to prevent spoilage and promote continuous germination. If you are at home during the day, you could rinse 3 times. I rinse my sprouting seeds morning and evening.
When ready, rinse the sprouts. Drain them well and transfer them to a storage container and store them in the fridge at less than 5 degrees.
Looking at the health benefits offered by sprouts
Sprouting offers an exciting array of choices, each with its unique blend of phytonutrients, minerals, and health benefits.
Alfalfa sprouts are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, which support immune function and promote healthy eyes, skin, and bones. These sprouts also contain minerals like calcium and iron, contributing to bone health and red blood cell production. Notable phytonutrients in alfalfa sprouts are flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin), coumestrol (phytoestrogen), and saponins. These phytonutrients offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and hormone support.
Red and White Clover:
Clover sprouts offer a delicate and slightly sweet flavour, while providing a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are particularly high in isoflavones, compounds known for their potential anti-inflammatory and hormone-balancing effects. Other phytonutrients in clover sprouts are coumarins, flavonoids and phytosterols. Potential benefits include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Some isoflavones found in red clover have estrogen-like effects which may ease menopausal symptoms. Phytosterols may lower bad cholesterol.
Broccoli sprouts contain a high concentration of sulforaphane, a powerful antioxidant compound with potential anticancer properties. Broccoli sprouts contain glucosinolates which are linked to anti-cancer effects. Additionally, they are rich in vitamins C and K, fiber, folate, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and manganese.
Radish sprouts bring a zesty kick to your salads. They are loaded with phytonutrients such as glucosinolates (anti-cancer fighting properties, detoxification and anti-inflammatory), anthocyanins (anti-inflammatory and immunity support), and flavonoids (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties). They are also packed with vitamin C, providing immune support. They also contain minerals like potassium and calcium, as well as potent antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress.
Beans (mung beans, lentils)
Sprouted beans offer a substantial boost of plant-based protein, fiber, and a variety of minerals, including iron, magnesium, and potassium. They also contain phytonutrients such as saponins, which have been associated with potential cholesterol-lowering effects.
Chickpea sprouts provide a delightful nutty flavor and are an excellent source of protein, fiber, folate, and minerals like manganese and iron. They also contain phytonutrients like flavonoids and phenolic acids, known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Pea sprouts are bursting with vitamins A, C, and K, supporting vision, immune function, and blood clotting. They are also rich in essential minerals such as iron and calcium, contributing to overall health and vitality.
Cowpea sprouts offer a tender texture and a slightly earthy flavor. They provide dietary fiber, folate, and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, promoting digestive health and supporting heart function.
Other benefits associated with sprouting seeds
Increased Bioavailability: Sprouting enhances the availability and absorption of essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, making them more accessible to your body.
Improved Digestion: The sprouting process breaks down complex compounds, making sprouts easier to digest. They also contain enzymes that aid in digestion and improve nutrient assimilation.
Reduction in anti-nutrients: Sprouting activates some enzymes in the seeds. These enzymes breakdown these anti-nutrients such as lectins, tannins and phytic acid. Sprouting reduces the amount of enzyme inhibitors in the seeds compared to none sprouted seeds.
How to incorporate sprouts into your diet
Add sprouts to your salads for a diversity of nutrients and flavour enhancement. You can also top up sandwiches to get in some greens and nutrients into your sandwiches. Adventurous? Throw some of your sprouts into your smoothies to boost the nutritional content. I add the small seed sprouts to smoothies (broccoli, radish, clover, alfalfa, sesame).
If you find the raw flavour, especially of sprouted legumes needs to get some used to, toss them into your stir-fry towards the end of cooking to amplify the nutritional content of your meal.
Sprouts should form part of a balanced and varied diet. When sprouting, hygiene is very important to ensure the food safety of the sprouts. The humid conditions created by the sprouting seeds are the right conditions for pathogenic bacteria to grow. Ensure your sprouting equipment and seeds are very clean. Use clean water to rinse the sprouting seeds. If your health is compromised, consider cooking the sprouts before consumption.