One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to significantly increase the nutritional profile of your diet is growing your own sprouts and microgreens. Homegrown sprouts are loaded with vitamins, minerals and enzymes, and they’re much cheaper than store-bought varieties.
When you grow your own sprouts you can choose amongst the many seeds available for sprouting. This means you can create your own personalized blends and constantly rotate different varieties of sprouts. Plus, when you grow your own you always have access to fresh, healthy sprouts.
Benefits of Eating Sprouts
Not sure if sprouting is worth the time and effort? I think you’ll be convinced after learning about the wonderful benefits of eating freshly sprouted seeds. Here are some key reasons that sprouts are so wonderful for our health, as reported by the Hippocrates Health Institute:
1) Sprouts contain live, active enzymes. A plant’s enzyme levels are highest from germination until 7 days later. At this time, the sprout contains 100 times more enzymes than the fruit or vegetable eventually will!
2) When seeds sprout, the carbohydrates are converted into simple sugars which makes them easier to digest and assimilate.
3) Fats are broken down into fatty acids which are more easily digested and absorbed.
4) Complex proteins are also broken down into a more digestible form: amino acids.
5) When seeds sprout, vitamin concentration is increased 3 – 12 times!
6) Minerals become bonded to amino acids, which makes them easier for the body to absorb.
7) The cell walls of the sprouted plant are delicate and easily digested.
8) Sprouted plants contain phytochemicals that protect us from disease.
9) Sprouts are rich in antioxidants.
10) Sprouted plants contain much more water and up to 300% more fiber!
Best Sprouts for Gut Health
Different sprouted plants have different nutrient profiles. You’ll want to experiment to see which ones suit you best. Try to eat a variety for optimal nutrient consumption. Start with these sprouts, which are especially beneficial for gut health:
Broccoli sprouts are anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic nutrients. Consuming broccoli sprouts decreases your risk of cancer, improves your cardiovascular health and improves your cognitive function. Broccoli sprouts stimulate production of glutathione and have antimicrobial properties that promote a healthy diversity of gut flora.
Sunflower sprouts, often referred to as sunflower greens, help us produce Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs). ILCs are an important part of our immune response. They line our digestive tract and support a healthy microbiome. Sunflower greens are also rich in many essential nutrients: zinc, vitamins A, C, D, and E, folate and B complex, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium! Sunflower greens also contain a lot of chlorophyll, which cleanses our blood, reduces inflammation and restores a proper pH to the body.
Clover is most famous for its detoxifying quality. It removes toxins from the body by enhancing liver function and cleansing the blood. Clover sprouts are anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and rich in a slough of vitamins and minerals. Clover also contains a special phytochemical called genistein which prevents the growth of cancerous tumors. It’s also a great source of healthy fiber to keep your microbiome happy!
Fenugreek is known for relieving digestive complaints including stomach ache, constipation and inflammation of the GI tract. It’s often used to treat ulcerative colitis, due to its powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Fenugreek also has benefits for the reproductive systems and is shown to increase libido in men and production of milk in breastfeeding women.
These are some great sprouts to start with, but by no means a complete list of those you should consider cultivating!
Other popular seeds for sprouting include alfalfa, radish, beet, mustard green and cress. You should also experiment with sprouting beans like lentils, garbanzos, mung beans and black beans. You can even try grains and nuts! Seeds for sprouting can be found at health stores and ordered from online specialists at sites like this.
How to Grow Sprouts
What you’ll need:
There are two basic methods for growing sprouts: the jar method and the tray method. Both require basic and inexpensive equipment that can easily be sourced online or perhaps from a local health resource.
The jar method requires nothing more than a mason jar with a mesh lid that will allow water to pass but not your seeds. (Simply search online for ‘Sprouting Jars’ and you’ll see there are lots of options!) Place a couple tablespoons of seeds in your jar, fill it with water and allow it to soak for 8-12 hours. Pour out the water. Place the jar upside down. Every twelve hours, rinse seeds with fresh water and return to upside down position. The sprouts will be ready in 3-5 days.
The tray method involves a soil-based growing medium and works better for longer, leafy sprouts like sunflower. Place an inch-deep layer of soil in a growing tray (available online or from garden stores). Seeds must be soaked for 12 hours, then rinsed and drained every 12 hours for 2-3 days before they can be sown in the soil. Place the tray where it will receive gently filtered sunlight. Continue to rinse twice daily by spraying with water and allowing excess moisture to flow from tray. The sprouts will be ready to harvest in 3-5 days.
Enjoying Your Fresh Sprouts
Sprouts can be added to almost any meal or dish to increase the nutrient composition of your meal and infuse your plate with live enzymes for boosting digestion.
- Add them to your smoothies for a nutty, creamy effect.
- Sprinkle sprouts over an entree to add complex flavors and a crunchy texture to your dish.
- Use sprouts on sandwiches in place of, or in addition to, leafy greens.
- Add fresh sprouts to sushi rolls and vegetable wraps for a healthier lunch on the go.
- Sprinkle sprouts over a salad, or use bulk sprouts in place of greens as a base for your salad.
- Include sprouts in blended soups or as a garnish for chunky soups and stews.
- You can even throw them in a juicer and combine them with other vegetables and fruits for a tasty and healthy beverage.