No! Not the little green balls we’ve all been eating for a fortnight, but the kind that are packed with a superb balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fat. I’m talking about the seeds of a plant – one of our finest sources of nutrition.
But there’s something we have to do to them to unlock all of this potential – we have to trigger their growth (germination) into a young plant by soaking them in water for a few days. This process is called sprouting.
What can we sprout?
You might be surprised to hear that we can sprout just about any living vegetation, including beans, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and even some grasses such as barley grass or wheat grass. However, the most common foods that people sprout are adzuki beans, mung beans, soya beans, chickpeas, oats, lentils, mustard, radish, quinoa, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
When sprouted, these all make delicious snacks, especially when added to salads with a good dressing.
The benefits of sprouting
In an age when most fruit and vegetables are grown in artificially fertilised soils and treated with all manner of chemicals including hormones, fungicides, insecticides and preservatives, seeds sprouted at home in a jar are a trusty, easily accessible source of organically grown nutrition.
Not only do many sprouted foods taste great, but they are also highly health-promoting. For starters, as a seed sprouts, the nutrients within increase their concentration in sheer quantum leaps: proteins by about 20%, nucleic acids by 30%, and many vitamins by a staggering 500%!
At the same time, enzymes dormant in seeds spring into life breaking down starch into simple sugars like fructose and sucrose, splitting proteins into amino acids and converting saturated fats into free amino acids. It’s also believed that this high enzyme activity stimulates the body’s own enzymes into greater activity. Interestingly, when dormant, chickpeas, lentils and mung beans are filled with enzyme inhibitors which not only make them difficult to digest – even when cooked – but can also interfere with our ability to absorb minerals in the food.
Sprouting and Cancer
Sprouted seeds are believed to have a number of anti-cancer properties:
- They are high in nitrilosides, namely cyanide and benzaldehyde. These are powerful and potentially damaging chemicals that kill cancer cells but are repelled by normal body cells.
- Chlorophyll, another major ingredient of sprouts, is highly alkalising and has anti-cancer properties.
- Sprouted seeds are high in antioxidants like vitamin C, zinc and selenium, which neutralise ‘free radicals’ – substances produced within our bodies that can damage tissue and accelerate the aging process.
So, how do we sprout seeds?
The best way to sprout seeds is to buy a Sprouter – a 3-tiered tray system.
The process involved is as follows:
- Choose your seeds – organic are best.
- Place the seeds in a bowl and rinse them thoroughly in water.
- Place them in your sprouter and cover them with cooled, boiled water.
- Leave them overnight in a warm, dark place.
- In the morning, rinse your seeds with fresh water and return them to the warm, dark location.
- Do the same in the evening.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until the seeds begin to sprout
- When the seeds have begun to sprout, place them on a windowsill to get some warmth from the sun.
- The sprouted seeds can now be removed form the sprouter.
- Sprinkle the sprouts onto a salad or a stir-fry, or eat them as a snack in their own right.
This handy little graphic is from www.supernaturallyhealthy.org.
Sprouted Salad Recipe
It’s always nice to use a mixture of sprouts, as I’ve done in this recipe.
50g sprouted chickpea and mung bean mix
25g mustard sprouts
½ bunch of watercress
Balsamic vinaigrette dressing or olive oil
Wash and dry the mangetout, chickory and watercress. Toss everything in a bowl and mix the balsamic vinaigrette dressing or olive oil with cracked pepper to taste.