Sprouts have been grown by civilizations around the world for more than 5,000 years. Easy to grow and quite economical. We all know that sprouting is the natural germination process by which seeds or spores put out shoots, plants produce new leaves or buds. Sprouted grains or foods are technically “pre-digested” food, as the germination process helps break down naturally occurring more complex nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fats etc.) into smaller and easy to digest form (amino acids, fatty acids, etc). Sprouting of grains causes increased activities of enzymes, improvement in the contents of certain essential amino acids, total sugars, and B‐group vitamins, and a decrease in dry matter, starch, and anti nutrients [efn_note] Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. J. K. Chavan , S. S. Kadam & Larry R. Beuchat [/efn_note].
Comparing nutrients of Raw and Sprouted kidney beans show that nutrient content due to sprouting could increase to very high levels.
|Nutrient||DRI [efn_note] |
Dietary Reference Intake [/efn_note]
|Raw Beans [efn_note] |
“Food Composition Databases Show Foods — Beans, kidney, all types, mature seeds, raw” [/efn_note]
|Sprouted Beans [efn_note] |
“Food Composition Databases Show Foods — Beans, kidney, mature seeds, sprouted, raw” [/efn_note]
|Vitamin C (mg)||90||5.1||416||81.56|
|Vitamin B-6 (mg)||1.3||0.45||0.91||2.02|
|Vitamin K (µg)||120||21.527||0||0|
Health benefits of sprouts
Lot of research has been done on sprouted grains, benefits of sprouts and effect of sprouting on its nutritional content. Almost all the research concluded sprouting greatly enhance nutritional content of food by break down of complex nutrients into easy to digest compounds, reducing content of anti-nutrients, release of unavailable minerals and vitamins and reduction or elimination of toxins or enzymes that interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients. We will discuss all of them in great details to understand why sprouts are good for health.
Breaks down complex nutrients for easy digestion:
Seed of Silene stenophylla were able to grow into plant even after 31,800 years [efn_note] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_viable_seed [/efn_note]. For seed to grow into plant, nutrient must be stored for long period. To enable this natures locks essential nutrients in seeds so that they are protected from the outer environment. This locked nutrients are stable under harsh conditions so that shelf life of seed could be increased. This locked nutrients are difficult to digest by humans and other animals. However when seed germinates, nature ensures that these locked nutrients are broken down into simple and smaller molecules such that seed can use it for their growth. In this process proteins are broken down into amino acids, carbohydrates become simple sugars and fats are broken into fatty acids. This results in increase in fatty acids [efn_note] S.L. Kim, S.K. Kim, C.H. Park, Introduction and nutritional evaluation of buckwheat sprouts as a new vegetable, Food Research International, 37 (2004) 319-327 [/efn_note] , amino acids [efn_note] P.K.J.P.D. Wanasundara, F. Shahidi, M.E. Brosnan, Changes in flax (Linum usitatissmum) seed nitrogenous compounds during germination, Food Chemistry, 65 (1999) 289-295. [/efn_note] and simple sugars in sprouted foods which are easily digested and absorbed in humans. During the process of sprouting it was also observed that growth of unsaturated fatty acids dominates over saturated fatty acid. [efn_note] S.L. Kim, S.K. Kim, C.H. Park, Introduction and nutritional evaluation of buckwheat sprouts as a new vegetable, Food Research International, 37 (2004) 319-327 [/efn_note].
Anti nutrients are compounds that reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.
- Phytic acids, one of the anti nutrients which are common in the hulls of nuts, seeds and grains, has a strong binding affinity to minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. This results in precipitation of this minerals, making them unavailable for absorption in the intestines.
- Raw lentils, contain lectins, anti-nutritional proteins which can be reduced by sprouting or cooking.
Process of sprouting greatly decreases amount of anti nutrients [efn_note] Chavan, J. K.; Kadam, S. S.; Beuchat, Larry R. (January 1989). “Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting”. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 28(5): 401–437 [/efn_note]. As a result, nutrients which were previously unavailable due to anti-nutrients becomes available for digestion and absorption in body.
Increase in vitamin:
Vitamins are essential for seed to grow. Hence while growing nature makes sure that seed gets enough vitamins required for their growth. Thus increasing the content of essential vitamins required for growth. Hence sprouts contains a good supply of Vitamins A, E & C and B complex. Like enzymes, vitamins serve as bio-active catalysts that assist metabolism by converting carbohydrate, fats and protein into energy. They are also essential for the healing and repair of cells. However, vitamins are very perishable, and in general, the fresher the food eaten, the higher the vitamin content. The vitamin content of some seeds can increase by up to 80 times their original value within several days of sprouting. Mung Bean sprouts have B vitamin increases, compared to the dry seeds, of – B1 up 285%, B2 up 515%, B3 up 256%. Even soaking seeds overnight in water yields greatly increased amounts of B vitamins, as well as Vitamin C. This increase in vitamins (especially Vitamin B complex) aids cell and muscle of our body to convert calories into energy thereby reducing deposit of new fats.
Increase in anti-oxidants:
Anti-oxidants are chemicals that delay or prevent damage to cells. Vitamin A, C, E, Lutein, Selenium are some of the example of anti-oxidants. Apart from increasing some of the Vitamins (as discussed above) which are anti-oxidants, sprouting also help in increasing bio availability of other anti oxidants too. [efn_note] Y. Takaya, Y., Kondo, T. Furukawa, M. Niwa, Antioxidant constituenst of radish sprout (Kaiware-daikon), Raphanus sativush L, Journal Agric. Food Chem., 51 (2003) 8061-8066 [/efn_note] [efn_note] R. Randhir, Y.I. Kwon, K. Shetty, Effect of thermal processing on phenolics, antioxidant activity and health-relevant functionality of select grain sprouts and seedlings, Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 9 (2008) 355-364 [/efn_note]. A study showed that sprouting can increase antioxidants content to as high as 1000 times [efn_note] M.L. Lopez-Amoros, T. Hernandez, I. Estrella, Effect of germination on legume phenolic compounds and their antioxidant activity, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 19 (2006) 277-283. [/efn_note] . This anti-oxidant rich sprouts helps in weight reduction, delaying aging and and helps to fight against cancers, neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer, Parkinson etc.) and cardio vascular disease.
Increase in cancer fighting phyto-chemicals:
It has been observed in various studies that spouts intake is inversely proportional to risk of cancers. Cancer protecting phyto-chemicals was found in much higher concentration in sprouts when compared to normal plants [efn_note] R. Fernandez-Orozco, J. Frias, H. Zielinski, M.K. Piskula, H. Kozlowska, C. Vidal-Valverde, Kinetic study of the antioxidant compounds and antioxidant capacity during germination of Vigna radiata cv. emmerald, Glycine max cv. Jutro and Glycine max cv. Merit, Food Chemistry, 111 (2008) 622-630. [/efn_note] . This cancer protecting phyto-chemicals were found effective to protect DNA form damage to toxins and oxidative stress. For e.g. consumption of broccoli is inversely proportional to the development of breast cancer
Many studies and experiment conducted have been conducted to understand on benefits of sprouts. Sprouted grains has a higher nutritional content compared normal un-sprouted ones. Various complex compounds are broken down into simple ones which could be easily digested by humans. As a consequence of these changes, the biological value of the sprout protein and essential amino acids and fatty acids increases. The quantity of the anti nutrients decreases, and the utilization of the macro and micro elements is increased owing to germination. Furthermore the sprouts contain sufficient quantity of many such chemicals and nutrients that are proven to be effective in the prevention of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer and Parkinson) and cardio vascular disease.
[efn_note] Dikshit, Madhurima; Ghadle, Mangala (2003). “Effect of sprouting on nutrients, antinutrients and in vitro digestibility of the MACS-13 soybean variety”. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. [/efn_note]