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DIY Sprouting: Top 5 Health Benefits

The nutrient quality of our food has inarguably gone downhill. There are so many reasons for this: Refined food is cheap and familiar to many, genetically modified foods are becoming the norm, we rely on other countries for our produce in the winter (nutrient quality decreases proportional to time it was picked), produce is becoming heavily sprayed (which kills our friendly gut bacteria when consumed), etc. This topic gets me fired up so let’s quickly transition to the good news: sprouts can help fill this nutritional void.

Sprouting is: 1. Easy 2. Inexpensive 3. Low Maintenance

What are they?

A sprout is a germinated seed of a vegetable, grain, or bean. There are many different varieties that all differ in texture and taste. Sprouts can be added to just about any dish - wraps, salads, stir fries, topping on hummus, etc. to give extra flavour and a boost in nutrition.

Health Benefits:

1. Sprouts are rich in antioxidants, which decrease oxidative stress and inflammation in the body - which is present in all chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, etc. For example, broccoli sprouts contain 20-50x more glucoraphanin (an antioxidant) compared to broccoli. Sulforaphane is also found in high amounts in broccoli sprouts which have exhibited anti-cancer properties.

2. Sprouts are rich in a variety of vitamins, notably Vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for bone health, blood clotting, and regulating many other cellular functions. Just to give an idea on quantity, approximately 1 cup of (alfalfa) sprouts provides 40% of your daily value of Vitamin K.

3. Sprouts contain all the health benefits you’d want: essential fatty acids, enzymes, protein, fiber, vitamins, micronutrients, etc. and are very low in calories. If you’re trying to be mindful about caloric intake, you can go to town on sprouts without consequence.

4. During the sprouting process, minerals (like magnesium and calcium) bind to proteins which increases the bioavailability of both, making them more easily absorbed. This is especially important for those on a plant-based or vegan diets where protein in sources are less bioavailable.

5. They modify our gut microbiome. Plant phenolics (very high in sprouts) have been shown to up-regulate our commensal, beneficial gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria is key for overall health...this could be a whole blog series in itself!

There are different ways that you can sprout. You can purchase trays, special jars, but here I’ve outline the most basic way which I use:

Supplies needed:

-Glass mason jar (1L)

-Bowl or dish (that allows jar to be inverted to drain excess water)

-Cheese cloth

-Elastic band

-Seeds of your choice (I ordered mine from a Canadian company: Mumm’s sprouting seeds, which are organic and non-GMO. Check them out here http://sprouting.com/ )

Instructions are provided on seed package, but all you have to do is: 1. Soak 2. Rinse twice per day. 3. Watch them grow within 5-10 days.

Mold Concerns:

Don’t be fooled (like I was) if you see ‘fuzz’ on your sprouts. These are apparently ‘root hairs’, and it’s a natural thing. Mold can grow on sprouts though in certain situations:

1. High indoor humidity

2. Poor seed quality

3. Insufficient draining between rinses

4. Dirty tray or sprouting equipment

References:

http://www.isga-sprouts.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/MainSproutNutritionPoints.pdf

http://www.isga-sprouts.org/about-sprouts/nutritional-advantages-of-sprouts/

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/isothiocyanates

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-K#function

http://sprouting.com/health_benefits.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23448441

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf2053959