Posted on May 10, 2014
Written by Vijaya Jain MSc, MS, RD, CDN
What will grow fast and easy in any climate? What requires no soil or sunshine to grow? What provides an easy to prepare food that offers numerous nutrients and health benefits?
Sprouts first became popular in the 1970s as a healthy option for those striving to improve their food choices. As the nutritional and health benefits of sprouts have become more known, bakers, chefs, athletes, food manufacturers and others are all looking at different ways to incorporate sprouts into popular foods.
Cereals, grains, lentils and legumes form the basis of vegetarian diets. While continuing to be the time-honored choices for the preparation of meals with adequate protein, low in fat, and high in fiber, these same foods can be transformed into more nutrient-dense servings with the addition of sprouts.
What makes sprouts nutritious?
Sprouts are very nutritious, as they contain all the elements that a plant needs for life and growth. The simple process of sprouting brings out many enzymes in germinated seeds, legumes, and grains, making them easier to digest. It also increases the amounts and bioavailability of protein, vitamins and minerals, transforming them into nutrition powerhouses. Overall, sprouts provide excellent quality nutrients and, by weight, are the rich sources of an array of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.
Are there different kinds of sprouts?
Yes! Besides the more popular sources—namely alfalfa and beans, sprouts can also be obtained from many other grains, including wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat, brown rice, etc., which we generally eat in their more traditional milled-flour forms. Sprouting grains increases many of the grains’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in milled grains, such as lysine.
Where can I buy sprouts?
Finding ready to eat sprouts in regular grocery stores makes them very accessible. Natural food stores and online stores usually offer a wider variety of sprouts, ready to be used or seeds, grains, and beans that can be sprouted at home.
How can I grow sprouts at home?
- You can grow your own sprouts by following these simple directions:
- Buy seeds, grains, lentils and beans that are guaranteed and look healthy
- Start with small amounts
- Measure ½ cup of item (seeds or grains or beans) you want to sprout.
- Wash thoroughly and place the washed seeds in a glass jar for smaller sized seeds/grains or in a medium sized bowl for the larger sized beans
- Add 2 cups of water, mix well, cover with a lid or thin piece of muslin cloth May need to add more water for larger sized beans- to allow for proper soaking.
- Leave overnight at room temperature for adequate soaking to occur.
- Drain out water and rinse the soaked seeds, grains or beans gently
- Place the soaked, rinsed seeds, grains or beans in a glass jar for smaller sized items and the larger beans in a colander lined with paper towel or thin muslin cloth.
- Set aside the glass jar, or colander at room temperature. Choose a spot with minimum or no direct light.
- Repeat the rinsing and above step for 3 to 4 days for the smaller seeds and grains to complete sprouting. Larger beans will require about 6 days to sprout fully.
- Store sprouts in glass jars or plastic containers in refrigerator.
- Use the refrigerated sprouts within one week.
To preserve their maximum nutritional value eat sprouts raw in salads or as snacks Sprouts will enhance cooked dishes as well. The list below provides easy ways to include sprouts in your diet:
- Eat them fresh and uncooked, as a snack
- Steam and add spices of your choice
- Stir-fry with other vegetables (mung bean, alfalfa, radish, or other sprouts)
- Add to tossed salads (alfalfa, mung beans, or mixed lentils sprouts)
- Top sandwiches with alfalfa sprouts along with other vegetables and cheeses
- Blend into fruit juices or shakes (mung bean, lentil, cereal or grain sprouts)
- Stir into soups and stews (mung bean, lentil, cereal and grain sprouts)
- Combine in rice dishes (lentil, mung bean, fenugreek or other sprouts)
- Mix into pancake or waffle batter (buckwheat, rye, wheat or brown rice sprouts)
- Grind to a paste to make sandwich fillings
- Top omelets or scrambled eggs
- Incorporate into your favorite veggie burger mix
- Add to vegetarian sushi and wraps
- Mix with soft cheeses or salsa and serve as a dip
Buy sprouts next time on your next shopping trip and discover how easy they are to fit into any meal!
Want to learn more about sprouts? Check out the following sources: