I like everything about sprouts. Their crunchy texture, their fresh taste and of course their nutritional profile. I like that my children think it's a bit of a novelty to get involved in the process. On my son's request, we took our 'Mung Bean Machine' (which looks like this) into his daycare a couple of months ago to demonstrate to the children how we sprout things at home. Better do it now while he still thinks mung beans are cool, I thought to myself at the time.
Seeds and legumes are equipped with their own special protective mechanisms to prevent them being digested well. This is really very clever considering that the sole purpose of a seed is to grow into a plant which produces more seeds. If they are consumed in their pre-sprouted form they are not that happy about it. They want to move through your digestive system as quickly and unaffected as possible and carry on with their mission to grow. It is in the seeds best interest to irritate your digestive tract in order to do this.
Legumes and seeds are known to contain a range of anti-nutrients, with phytic acid being the most prominent. Phytic acid in our diet binds to minerals, such as calcium, zinc and iron, preventing their absorption and use in our body. Research has shown sprouting to be an effective way of reducing phytic acid levels in mung beans, with greater retention of nutrients than other forms of preparation, such as cooking (1).
Like most other things related to health matters, phytic acid is not purely negative in it's action in our body. It can function as an antioxidant through its ability to bind with iron and prevent oxidative reactions (1). For this reason I feel it is not necessary to worry too much about occasionally raw seed or unsprouted legume consumption. Balance, and listening to your body, is what I recommend in this circumstance.
Sprouting is great for those with sensitive digestive systems and also those who show signs of a mineral deficiency. It is also an economical way to add another nutritious and versatile vegetable into your daily food.
What to sprout
I recommend starting with mung beans and sunflower seeds until you get your confidence up. They are quick to sprout and produce a reliable result. As you get more comfortable with sprouting you can experiment with alfalfa, chickpeas, whole lentils, buckwheat and quinoa. Sprouting is an art form, and variables of each batch of seeds does sometimes makes the outcome a little unpredictable. Generally though, if you produce the right conditions for seed growth (light, moisture and air) you should be rewarded for your efforts.
Simple sprouting instructions
- Choose your sprouting vessel: a clean glass jar, sprouting jar or sprouting tray.
- Place a few tablespoons of mung beans or sunflower seeds to your jar or tray. Keep in mind they expand considerably as they grow.
- Rinse the seeds at least 3 times per day, straining off excess water each time. If using a regular jar, fill it with water, then place a small strainer over the top and turn upside down securely on your dish rack. Alternatively, place a square of muslin cloth secured with a rubber band for the same effect.
- Keep your sprouting vessel in a position of indirect sunlight. I like to keep mine near the sink so I remember to rinse them regularly. Your sprouts needs to be able to drain freely.
- After approximately 3 days transfer the freshly rinsed and drained sprouts to a container in the fridge.
- Sprouts store for up to a week in refrigeration. Your sprouts should look and smell fresh and clean.
Note: If you are sprouting other seeds and legumes, keep in mind that some need to be soaked beforehand. I don't soak my sunflower seeds or mung beans as I have great success without it, and I love to keep my kitchen projects simple. Sprout People is a great resource for anyone wanting to delve deeper into the world of sprouting, which includes soaking times for different projects.
Wishing you much sprouting success!