What is sprouting?
"Sprouting" refers to the process of germinating seeds, nuts or even beans or grains such as rice or quinoa, in order to have them start growing into a plant. When we talk about sprouting in the kitchen, it generally means soaking seeds just long enough until they form a little tiny live plant growth - a sprout! Read on to find out more about sprouting and why it is so popular - and so healthy!
About Sprouts and Sprouting Nuts and Seeds:
Sprouting raw nuts, seeds, beans and grains is one of the quickest, easiest ways to pack a group of nutrients into your body in just one handful. Raw nuts and seeds especially already have so many good nutrients awaiting you, so when you sprout them, the nutritional profile just multiplies. The best way to treat yourself to sprouts is to sprout them yourself; this way they are at their absolute freshest and that means that they lose no nutrition on their short trip from the sprouting jar into the refrigerator. Sprouts harvested and left at room temperature will start to lose their nutritional value within an hour. Thankfully, sprouting is a very simple thing to do. And inexpensive. While many people will try to sell you on fancy sprouting trays and equipment, I've had plenty of success sprouting using nothing more than a mason jar and a paper towel.
Although, I do recommend using cheesecloth instead of a paper towel.
How Sprouting Works:
Basically, soaking and rinsing the seeds will remove it's enzyme inhibitors and the seed will begin to germinate. In this process all of the resting nutrition in the seed will begin to break down into its simplest components.
Proteins break down into separate amino acids, complex starches break down into simpler carbohydrates. Meanwhile, the plant starts to multiply in it's nutrient content to get ready to become a tree or full-sized plant. This results in a fiber-rich food packed with vitamins and minerals as well as protein and sometimes even essential fatty acids.
Why is Sprouting So Healthy?
Sprouts are incredibly nutritious; especially for those on a raw food diet. Studies show remarkable levels of B Vitamins, as well as Vitamins C, E and A (up to 15 times the original content!), and there's plenty of scientific evidence showing an increase of protein, fiber and essential fatty acids in barley sprouts (as opposed to whole grain barley) in particular. In other words, sprouts are a great source of easily digestible nutrition for just about anyone, particularly for vegetarians and vegans, and anyone on a raw food diet who is worried about proteins.
Some folks refer to sprouts as "pre-digested" food due to this breaking down process in the sprouting stage of life. This makes the sprouts far easier to digest than the original seed, bean, nut or grain. The heightened quantity of enzymes is another factor that aids in their digestion. Sprouts can be eaten at any meal to help the digestive process along and keep raw living nutrition pumping through your blood.
How to use sprouts
Tossing a handful of sprouts on to your next fresh green salad is one obvious way to start incorporating sprouts into your diet, but you can also add them to a sandwich or wrap, add a handful to a cold pasta salad or bean salad, and you can even toss a small handful into any homemade smoothie or just about anything else going into your blender. Making homemade hummus? Add in a few sprouts or use sprouted garbanzo beans for example. No one will even notice, and you'll boost the nutritional profile of your already quite healthy hummus immensely!