Have you ever noticed whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, or chickpeas are “sprouted”? Sprouted food is made by soaking foods like grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours. That process, known as germination, is repeated until the food grows a small tail, meaning it has sprouted.
Whether or not you have a green thumb, you are probably familiar with how seeds work. Seeds contain the raw materials that grow into a new plant when temperature and moisture conditions are right. Essentially, sprouted foods are seeds that have started to grow. The seeds are either dried or mashed and added to other products to stop those baby plants from growing even more.
Some evidence suggests that consuming sprouted food has some benefits. For example, sprouted food supports digestion and gut health by breaking down carbs and proteins. Sprouted food also helps your body absorb more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than average.
Still, sprouted food has some risks, including exposure to bacteria like Salmonella. Read on to learn the basics about sprouted food and some precautions before consuming it.
Studies have shown that consuming sprouted food may have some benefits. Those benefits include improving digestion and gut health and providing high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Sprouted food helps the body digest carbs and proteins. During germination, carbs and proteins break down into smaller molecules that your body can easily absorb.
As a result, sprouted foods might promote gut health. For example, some evidence suggests that broccoli sprouts protect the intestinal barrier, absorbing nutrients and preventing harmful pathogens.
A healthy gut helps protect against and manage gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS causes symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Consuming foods with easily digestible carbs, like sprouted foods, helps keep bowel movements regular.
Makes Nutritious Compounds More Available
During germination, seeds release specific proteins that make nutrients more available. The nutrients give the baby plant the energy it needs to grow. The theory is that the nutrients in sprouted foods are more bioavailable than usual when consumed.
Research has found that you consume compounds like phenolics and folates by eating sprouted foods. Phenolics are a type of antioxidant that helps protect against cell damage. Folates help form red blood cells and support fetal growth during pregnancy.
There are few studies on sprouted food, but the existing ones support the idea that they pack an extra nutritional punch. For example, sprouted food has high vitamin C, B vitamin, and antioxidant levels.
About 90% of adults in the United States do not eat enough vegetables. Opting for sprouted food may help you get enough nutrients if you have trouble eating the recommended five servings of vegetables daily.
Some evidence suggests that antioxidants help protect your cells from free-radical damage. Free radicals are harmful molecules that contribute to illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Still, more research is needed to fully understand antioxidants’ effects on those illnesses.
The nutrition of sprouted food varies depending on what you are eating. For example, the following nutrients are found in one cup of sprouted alfalfa seeds:
- Calories: 31.7
- Fat: 0.23 grams
- Sodium: 1.98 milligrams
- Carbohydrates: 0.69 grams
- Fiber: 0.63 grams
- Added sugars: 0.07 grams
- Protein: 1.32 grams
Generally, sprouted food has a similar nutrient profile as its regular counterpart. Instead, the nutrients in sprouted food are more bioavailable. In other words, the body absorbs higher amounts of those nutrients than usual.
There are videos online that teach you how to sprout at home. Do-it-yourself sprouting may be dangerous unless you know what you are doing. For example, some seeds are treated with harmful chemicals, which get broken down in sprouting conditions.
The conditions required for sprouting are also ideal for growing bacteria like Salmonella, which can make you very ill. Food poisoning from Salmonella causes symptoms like:
- Stomach pain
To avoid illnesses, thoroughly wash and cook the final product (think: sprouted lentil soup or chickpea burgers). Otherwise, stick with brands that have safe sprouting techniques down pat.
Due to the risk of illness, experts advise that children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems avoid all sprouted food.
You probably think of sunflower, pumpkin, and chia seeds when you think of seeds. Other foods with seeds can be sprouted, such as:
- Black beans
- Pulses (e.g., chickpeas, split peas, and black-eyed peas)
Dried foods like sprouted almonds and bread are made with sprouted grains, seeds, and beans. Sprouted grains are also mashed and rolled into tortillas and wraps. You can even find powders to add to smoothies or oatmeal.
Plenty of processed sprouted products, such as pretzels and cereal, are on the market. Try sticking to sprouted products that contain only natural ingredients.
Sprouted foods are grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds that have started to grow. Some evidence suggests that sprouted food supports digestion and gut health and helps the body absorb high amounts of nutrients.
In contrast, sprouted food raises the risk of food poisoning. Certain people, including children, older adults, pregnant people, and those with weak immune systems, may want to avoid sprouted food altogether.