Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sprouting Goodness

First, yes, if you are one of the people who stops by the actual blog, I have been changing my banner quite a bit. This picture was taken in our backyard where our landlord builds log cabins. I am trying, although very slowly, to change it so it's more "me". We will see if I'm successful, but until then I think I'll leave this one up.

Buckwheat groats, Brown Rice, Oats, and Quinoa that I sprouted at home
I promised some sprouting info in my grains post a while back. If you are not familiar with the wonderfulness that is sprouting, this post is for you. I have dabbled in sprouting in the past. But can now say, I am an avid sprouter, a sprouting advocate (spradvocate ?) if you will. I have been a sprouting, dehydrating, soaking, cooking fool the last couple months, and I'm ready to share with you what I have learned.

Basic concept: Sprouting begins the process of germination for a plant. Therefore, when a seed, nut, legume, or grain is soaked, it thinks that it is about to need to reproduce itself. So it begins to break down it's natural protections and begins a metabolic process that makes it more readily nutritious to us. Sprouting and germinating are fairly the same, where the "sprout" means that the seed/ nut/ legume/ grain has successfully germinated. So if you get a little tail when you're done, you have successfully germinated :) For the purposes of this post, I will just refer to a grain, nut, legume as a "seed".Can you see the little tails?

First, here are some things that take place in the sprouting process, where a seed begins to ready itself to grow. These are processes that both help a plant grow from a seed to something bigger, but also help us out if we eat them in the sprouted/ germinated state:
  • Complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, which are more easily used by our bodies. Complex carbs are also used to make more proteins.
  • Triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol, which are more easily assimilated by our bodies.
  • Storage proteins (proteins that seeds/ nuts/ grains/ legumes have that are more difficult to digest) are broken down into amino acids, some of which are changed into essential amino acids, which our bodies need and cannot make on their own.
  • The seed of a plant also begins to make vitamins, especially the B complex
The sprouting process not only does all of these things, but it does something else that is significant. Phytates, or phytic acid, help protect all seeds in the natural world. For example, a wheat berry has an outer phytate covering that protects the seed throughout the digestive tract of an animal (or human) who eats it. If you think about it, it's pretty intelligent design because the seed has the potential to make it through the digestive tract unharmed and land in a pile of fertilizer. Perfect formula for a new wheat plant! However, you can see the implications for us. We cannot readily digest these seeds and grains because our bodies don't naturally break down phytic acid.

Luckily, phytic acid is also the storage site, or unit, for minerals in seeds. Therefore, when these seeds begin to grow themselves, AKA: the sprouting/ germinating process, they break down their own phytic acid in order to access their stores of minerals. Great for them (although, they may be eaten before they grow big :), and more importantly, great for us! Not only does the sprouting process break down the phytic barrier, which makes them hard to digest, but it gives us access to more readily available minerals, for example zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Fun fact: a study done of nutrition facts of bread made from both buckwheat and sprouted buckwheat found that the sprouted bread contained 2 times as much calcium, and 1 1/2 times as much magnesium. This was due to the fact that the minerals were not bound up by the phytates.

The benefits of sprouting don't end here; but even if they did, one would have good reason to start experimenting with sprouting! There are many more things that sprouting does for the end product, for example makes more fiber. Sprouted flours (made from milled sprouted grains or seeds) taste sweeter as well- so not as much sugar is needed when baking with them.

I hope that you will try some sprouting at home. Check out this chart for an idea on how long to soak and then sprout your seeds. But there are many sites out there where I found my how to's. The internet has a wealth of info; eHow is a great starter site.

Where to Find Sprouted Seeds, Nuts, Legumes or Grains:

References:
  • "Nutritional Improvement of Cereals by Fermentation" from Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (1989), by: J. K. Chavan and S. S. Kadam
  • "Nutritive Value and Chemical Composition of Pseudo-cereals as Gluten-free Ingredients" from International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition (2009), by: L. Alvarez-Juvete, E. K. Arendt, and E. Gallagher
  • The Maker's Diet (2004) by Jordan Rubin

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