Germinated Foods: Passing Trend or Scientifically Proven Benefits?

Sprouts of all kinds have found their way to our menu. What are their nutritional benefits?


10/30/20233 min read

pasta dish on white ceramic bowl
pasta dish on white ceramic bowl

In recent years, the awareness of proper nutrition and its impact on our health has increased, leading to a rise in the popularity of sprouted foods. Despite this, one question remains: are sprouted foods a fleeting trend or do they offer scientifically proven benefits?

Germination is a process that many of us are familiar with from childhood when we would germinate seeds in class by placing dried beans on wet cotton wool and watching the process of a root emerging. Sprouts, or seedlings, are the result of germinated seeds and can be consumed raw, added to salads and smoothies or cooked as a nutritious addition to meals. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans, grains such as wheat, and even nuts such as almonds can be germinated for consumption. This type of food is considered beneficial for overall health, as legumes are rich in dietary fibre and protein, while whole grains are an excellent source of Vitamin E and the Vitamin B complex.

To determine whether sprouted foods offer more health benefits than their unsprouted counterparts, we must first understand the process of germination. A seed consists of three main components: the seed coat, endosperm, and embryo. The endosperm provides the nutritional material for the seedling during germination. During this process, the seed is exposed to humidity, and the percentage of water absorbed by it increases, causing it to awaken from its dormant state. This awakening involves physical and chemical changes, including the weakening of the seed coat, activation of enzymes, breakdown of nutrients, and creation of proteins used by the seedling during its development.

Here's some information on why sprouts are such a superfood:

  • Nutrient-Dense: Sprouts are rich in essential vitamins and minerals. They're an excellent addition to any healthy diet, and if you're looking to take your nutrition game to the next level, sprouts are a must-try.

  • Soaking Seeds: To initiate the sprouting process, soak your seeds, beans, and grains. Soaking not only activates enzymes that promote growth, but it also neutralizes phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that blocks mineral absorption.

  • The Germination Process: As the sprout grows, it produces phytase, an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid, making nutrients more accessible. Germination also produces amino acids, Vitamin A, and B vitamins that nourish and sustain the sprout.

    Here are some examples of sprouts and their textures:

  • Seeds: They are wispy little tendrils, such as sesame, radish, broccoli, and alfalfa.

  • Beans or Legumes: Crisp and crunchy, with a delicate sweetness, such as mung beans, lentils, and adzuki beans. Please note that kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, and haricot beans require cooking.

  • Grains: Have a firm, chewy texture, such as rye, buckwheat, oats, and barley.

  • Tree Nuts: Almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts don't sprout, but soaking them can increase their nutritional content.

    After soaking your seeds, beans, or grains for up to 12 hours, they're ready to be sprouted. IMPORTANT: Be mindful of food safety while sprouting, and ensure that you don't overwater them, which can cause mould or bacteria to form.

The benefits of sprouting are numerous. The enzymes released by sprouting seeds not only aid digestion by neutralizing phytic acid, but they also convert complex carbohydrates and proteins to simple sugars and amino acids that are easier to digest. Sprouts are also rich in fibre, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. They provide raw materials to build a robust immune system and help replenish our stores of digestive enzymes, which are essential for maintaining vitality and healing.

Finally, here are some ideas for using your sprouts:

  • Make a salad with tomato, cucumber, spring onions, and fresh herbs. Instead of lettuce, try adding some sunflower microgreens.

  • Make a raw version of tabbouleh with mung bean sprouts, tomato, spring onions, mint, and parsley.

  • Add fresh alfalfa sprouts to your favourite smoothie.

  • Add a cup of lentil sprouts to soups and stews right before serving.

  • Snack on mung beans and adzuki beans.

  • Add broccoli or red clover sprouts to your sandwiches and wraps.

  • Sprinkle some sprouts atop your favourite meal, such as radish sprouts.

  • Add sprouted beans to stir-fries or fried rice.

Germination isn't just for science class anymore, folks. Legumes, grains, nuts - you name it, they can be sprouted for a delicious and nutritious addition to your meals. And the best part? They're sustainable and eco-friendly too! Just be sure to handle them with care and cook them well to avoid any nasty surprises. Happy sprouting! 🌱