The fundamental reason for sprouting is to increase the bio-availability of nutrients. Grains, nuts, beans, and seeds have protective compounds – phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors (or anti-enzymes) etc., in their hulls and coatings that,
1) keep them from germinating,
2) help them store nutrients
3) protect them from insects and pathogens.
A major function of phytic acid is to trap iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. This is good for the seed, but not so good when your body needs to absorb those minerals. The enzymes that are inhibited by the anti-enzymes are the ones needed to break down nutrients into usable forms by the body (hence making them bio-available).
With the protection and support of these compounds, seeds can remain dormant yet viable for extended amounts of time, as long as they are stored properly and not exposed to water. Once seeds come in contact with water, at the optimum temperature, the phytic acid begins to break down, and the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized.
This unlocks all of the needed enzymes and nutrition for the seed to germinate, develop, and mature into a healthy plant. When they are not soaked or sprouted, only a fraction of the nutrients are available.
We all know that whole foods are much more nutritious than processed foods. But, as we can see by this little bit of understanding, what is present is not necessarily available. The great news is that soaking/sprouting not only breaks down and neutralizes the compounds that are not digestible by the human GI tract, making vital minerals available, it also substantially increases the levels of vitamin complexes A, B, C and E. Necessary soaking times vary, but longer is generally better for most; ten minutes is not enough.
The chart at the end of this article is a handy guide for soaking and sprouting times. Assorted grains can be found your local health food store and limited amounts at your local grocer. Currently we carry sprouts by Higgins and Totally Organics at our store.
The How To:
To sprout, you need to control a few basic things: Water, air circulation, temperature and light. There are some wonderful sprouting aids that can help you manage those details, and we will talk about them next. However, let’s start with the simplest method using a canning jar (or any kind of container really), a screen, a ring to hold the screen in place, and seed.
- Pour the desired amount of seed or grain into a canning jar, attach screen and ring, and wash with fresh water. Pour out water.
- Add water to the jar– roughly 3 times the amount of seed, and let sit. See chart for how long.
- After the seeds have soaked, pour out the water (rinse again if you want). Prop up the jar at roughly a 45 degree angle so the water can continue to drain out and air can circulate in (angle towards sink or put a bowl or plate underneath).
- Twice a day, cover the seeds with water, swirl around, drain out water, and prop the jar back on its side.
- Voilà! In a few days, your sprouts will be ready to eat!
- Use only untreated seeds, suitable for human consumption, and of course NON-GMO!
- Handle the seeds as little as possible.
- Sterilize all the equipment you use for sprouting.
- Use filtered water with no chlorine.
- After the initial soak, do not let the seeds sit in the water or they will begin to decay.
- Keep sprouts out of direct sunlight.
- Keep temperature at an ambient level, roughly 70-80F.
- Store sprouts (not wet!) in refrigerator once they have reached the desired height.
- Grains and legumes benefit from soaking in acidulated water- add a small amount of whey, kefir, yogurt, lemon juice, etc. to the soaking water.
Flowers need a good soak like this too, unless they are already sprouted of course!