The word “sprout” may draw up images of beans or alfalfa. But did you know sprouts from whole grains, nuts and other legumes are becoming more popular? Sprouting is an old trend that has recently come back on the scene. Read on to learn more about whether this trend is right for you.
Plants are designed to prevent growth until conditions are just right. When the environment is favorable, enzymes within the plant seeds are activated to breakdown starch into smaller molecules that are easily digested for growth. Sprouting involves allowing seeds to rest in a warm, moist environment for 1 -3 days to reach a stage between seed and new plant. Consuming sprouts from grains like barley, wheat and spelt, legumes such as lentils, peas, lima and kidney beans, vegetables such as broccoli and radishes, and nuts including almonds, walnuts, cashews and peanuts is becoming more mainstream and may have promising health benefits.
What's in it for me?
Because complex molecules are broken into simpler pieces during plant growth, consuming sprouted plants is often easier on the digestive system and may be beneficial for those with grain allergies. Many people also say sprouting changes the flavor profile of certain plants. For example, sprouted grains are said to be sweeter than whole grains. This change may help make undesirable foods more appealing. Sprouts are also thought to be richer in vitamins and minerals because the plant has digested more starch making nutrients more plentiful. However, research has shown that nutrient content varies widely depending on the type of seeds used, conditions for sprouting and length of time the seeds were sprouted.
What are the risks?
The environment needed for sprouts to form is the same environment in which some bacteria thrive. Because of this, raw sprouts, like fresh produce, carry a risk of contamination that can lead to foodborne illness. The FDA recommends that purchased sprouts be stored under refrigeration, served cooked, and not offered to children, pregnant women or the elderly. Have you jumped on the sprouting bandwagon? Leave your tips for safe sprouting, favorite products and recipe ideas below.
Written by Angela Stancil MS, RD, LDN