It’s finally Spring and our environment is starting to sprout. How can we harness the power of sprouting for nutritional health benefits? I get asked this question a lot! The sprouting trend is starting to pop up (no pun intended) in grocery stores and farmers markets for a good reason – sprouts are a tiny, but mighty, food source packed with nutrients.
Soaking and sprouting raw food aids digestion and increases nutrient content, but it can be difficult to figure out the details if you’re new to this topic. Below is my step-by-step guide to incorporating these easy preparation methods into your autoimmune toolbox.
What are sprouts?
Sprouts are basically the beginning of a plant’s life. Soaking raw seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes in water is the beginning of this germination process. Once soaked, you can continue to rinse and drain until the sprouting process begins.
Legumes, especially beans, often get a bad rap for producing unwanted intestinal upset. Did you know that you can mitigate this effect by simply soaking your legumes in water before cooking? Legumes represent a large family of plants. The most common varieties include beans, peas, peanuts, lentils, and chickpeas.
The issue with legumes, along with nuts and seeds, is that they contain anti-nutrients – compounds that prevent us from accessing important nutrients within the plant. The presence of anti-nutrients can lead to the dreaded gastrointestinal upset. To avoid this, purchase your legumes raw and soak for 8-10 hours before cooking (see soaking guide below). This not only aids digestion, but also decreases cooking time.
If you’ve been avoiding legumes due to digestive upset, try soaking and monitor your symptoms. If symptoms improve, then try including more of these foods into your diet to increase fibre, protein, and stabilize blood sugar.
Sprouting takes the game one step further. While soaking releases anti-nutrients before cooking (especially important for legumes), sprouting allows you to eat certain plants (mostly seeds) in a raw state with the added benefit of increased nutrient content. You can sprout almost any type of plant, but I prefer to use organic seeds specific for sprouting (Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds are a great brand). To sprout, you will need the following:
- Sprouting seeds/grains/nuts/legumes
- Glass jar
- Sprouting lid or mesh material with elastic band (I like to use this one)
Once you have your materials in place, you can begin sprouting. Soaking and sprouting times differ for each seed, nut, and grain. Use the following chart as guidance.
|Plant food||Soak time||Sprout time|
|Adzuki bean||8 hours||3-5 days|
|Kidney bean||8 hours||12 hours|
|Chickpea||12 hours||12 hours|
|Lentil||8 hours||12 hours|
|Mung bean||1 day||2-5 days|
|Oats||6 hours||2-3 days|
|Barley||6-8 hours||2 days|
|Corn||12 hours||2-3 days|
|Buckwheat||15 minutes||1-2 days|
|Quinoa||2 hours||1-2 days|
|Millet||8 hours||2-3 days|
|Rice||9 hours||3-5 days|
|Pumpkin seed||6 hours||1-2 days|
|Sunflower seed||2 hours||2-3 days|
|Flax||8 hours||Does not sprout|
|Fenugreek||8 hours||3-5 days|
|Alfalfa||8 hours||2-3 days|
|Sesame||8 hours||1-2 days|
|Cashew||2 hours||Does not sprout|
|Pecan||4-6 hours||Does not sprout|
|Almond||8-12 hours||12 hours|
|Walnut||4 hours||Does not sprout|
Once you’re ready to begin, simply follow these instructions:
- Place seed, nut, or grain in glass jar
- Cover with sprouting lid or mesh material and rubber band
- Fill jar with water and soak according to the above chart
- Drain the soaking water, rinse, and drain again
- Cook soaked legumes, or begin the sprouting process with grains, nuts, and seeds
- Place the jar upside down on a 45° angle (works great in a ceramic bowl or tray to catch those extra drips of water. Keep at room temperature
- Rinse and drain every morning and evening during the sprouting process
- Once sprouted, store in the fridge for use within 3 days
Together, soaking and sprouting can:
✓Increase vitamin and mineral content
✓Allow us to eat more types of high-fibre foods
✓Add flavour to any dish
Powerful Health Benefits
In just a few hours you can begin to increase the nutrient content in your food and avoid digestive upset that you might be familiar with when it comes to legumes. Increasing our ability to digest plant foods helps to decrease inflammation – a symptom all too familiar in autoimmune disease. Adding more legumes into your meal planning can help to increases fibre and protein content in a cost-effective way.
We’re learning more each day about the health benefits of fibre, especially for our friendly gut bacteria (aka the microbiome). Feeding the good bacteria can actually help to modulate our immune system (Gundogdu and Nalbantoglu 2017; Jethwa and Abraham 2017) – which is very important when it comes to autoimmunity.
The nutrients we can access with soaking and sprouting are great for decreasing inflammation and keeping our digestive system happy. Give it a try and add some sprouts to your Spring routine. You’re digestive system will thank you!
Gundogdu, A. & Nalbantoglu, U. (2017). Human genome-microbiome interaction: metagenomics frontiers for the aetiopathology of autoimmune diseases. Microbial Genomics 3. DOI 10.1099/mgen.0.000112.
Jethwa, H. & Abraham, S. (2017). The evidence for microbiome manipulation in inflammatory arthritis. Rheumatology 56:1452-1460.