My top tips on how to make sprouts, and also why we should be including sprouts in our diet. The health benefits of sprouts include helping us to better access important minerals in nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. This is especially important for those following a plant-based, vegan or vegetarian diet.
I have been dabbling into sprouting foods since my early university days, but back then I was too poor to buy a proper sprouter. I’ve used everything from nut milk bags to glass jars and cheesecloth. If your a first-time sprouter, prepare to become addicted. Sprouting is one of the simplest things you will do in the kitchen -all you need to do is remember to water your sprouts, no green thumb required!
Why Should I Start Sprouting?
Sprouting Foods Increases Nutrition
Plant foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes contain a compound called phytates. Phytates bind to minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc and decrease the absorption by our bodies. This decrease in bioavailability of these essential minerals in the body is especially important for vegans and vegetarians. Sprouting foods helps to break down the phytates, increasing our bodies’ ability to absorb these minerals.
Sprouting Foods For Vegetarians and Vegans
Sprouting is especially important for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet as dietary requirements of many of these minerals are higher due to the presence of phytates. Luckily these dried foods also contain an enzyme called phytase which is activated when these foods are soaked or sprouted. Phytase’s job is to separate the phytate from the essential minerals, thus improving the absorption and bioavailability.
*Note: A small amount of phytates may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol and blood glucose levels. They may also protect against some cancers.
What Are The Health Benefits of Sprouting?
Sprouts Are High In Antioxidants
Aside from improving the bioavailability of certain essential minerals, sprouts are also high in phytochemicals which are important in fighting free radicals. See my previous post What Are Antioxidants Good For for more information on phytochemicals and their importance.
Which Sprouts Are Highest In Antioxidants
Sprouting foods is a great way of boosting phytochemicals and this can be seen in broccoli sprouts and fenugreek seeds which are particularly high in beneficial phytochemicals. Sprouting wheat also greatly increases its content of the antioxidants vitamin E, along with vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Why Is Sprouted Bread More Healthy?
Sprouted bread anyone? For those of you that don’t tolerate conventional bread, a literature review on the sprouted grains found that the digestibility of proteins and starch are improved due to their partial hydrolysis during sprouting. Sprouting of quality flour also increases our body’s ability to access the minerals in the grain including zinc, by breaking down the phytates.
Sprouting, Food Sustainability and Food Security
Sprouting Food Decreases Food Miles
Sprouts are indispensable in the winter months when fruit and vegetables are hard to come by. Instead of relying on fruits and vegetables from as far off as Mexico and the Philippines sprouts can be grown right on our own countertop!
Sprouting And Food Security and Access To Low-Cost Food
Sprouts are also very inexpensive and are great when we think about what healthy eating looks like on a budget. Nutrient deficiencies are also a concern in developing countries where diets are often composed primarily of foods that are high in phytates. Sprouting could be used as a great benefit to help deliver vitamin, minerals and protein in an easily digestible and assimilated form.
What Foods Can I Sprout?
Sprouting Legumes and Lentils
As easy place to start is legumes. Sprouted puy lentils are used in the recipe below. Sprouted chickpeas make excellent hummus! Sprouted sunflower seeds are also used in the recipe below and are super delicious.
Sprouted quinoa is a popular choice and is a great addition to tabouli recipes. Sprouted bread allows for better access to the minerals in the flour, including zinc. It also improves the digestibility of proteins and starch by their partial hydrolysis during sprouting.
Other commonly sprouted seeds include alfalfa, fenugreek, radishes and peas. Any sprouting seed mix is also a good idea and any good health food store will have some good ones.
Where to Start in the World Of Sprouting
Resources For Starting To Sprout Foods
If you are new to sprouting, websites such as Sprouters.Ca are a good place to start.
How To Make Sprouts
If you are into DIY then all you need to start sprouting is a glass jar (start with 1 litre), some netting (either nylon tulle from a fabric shop or grey fibreglass screen from a hardware store) and an elastic band to hold it all together. Then;
- Use 1-4 tablespoons of your desired seeds,
- Put the seeds in the jar and cover with your netting and secure netting on the opening of your jar with an elastic band,
- Add water and swirl around, then drain.
- Add water again, about 1 cup, and soak for 4-8 hours.
- Now all you need to do is remember to rinse the sprouts twice a day.
- After each rinse, remember to drain the water and let the jar sit propped up on an angle. I usually let my jar sit on a 45-degree angle against a wall with the unused lid of the jar below to catch any runoff water.
- Your sprouts should be ready in 3-6 days, or when sprouts or 3-5cm long.
- To store your sprouts screw on the lid of your jar and keep in the refrigerator.
I use a Sprout Master, (pictured above) and it is super easy. Just add water and rinse twice daily. You can also have a variety growing at one time.
Want Some More Recipes Featuring Sprouts?
Check out this favourite recipe that uses and feature sprouts!
Summer Sprout Salad
- 6-8 cups salad greens or kale (de-stemmed and torn)
- 1/2 cup baby tomatoes halved
- 2 springs spring onion sliced, white and green
- 1/2 long cucumber sliced
- 1 bell pepper deseeded and sliced
- 2 small carrots grated
- 1/2 cup fresh herbs chopped
- 1 cup sprouts (I used a combination of sprout mix, puy lentil and sunflower seed sprouts)
For the dressing
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp mustard seeded
- 1 tsp honey unpasteurized
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 6-8 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper ground
- Combine prepared salad ingredients in a bowl.
- For the dressing, option to blitze the ingredients in a small blender until well combined. Alternatively, mince the garlic well and combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. You can also add all the ingredients to a jar with a screw lid and shake to mix.
Make It VeganUse maple syrup in place of honey.
Important ConsiderationsEating sprouts raw comes with the risk of foodborne illnesses. It is recommended not to consume raw sprouts if you are pregnant or immunocompromised.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.