Sprout into Spring
Sprouting plants to use as food is a controversial subject. Yeah, humankind has been doing for millennia, but food safety (or what we consider official food safety) is a rather odd topic these days. Some claim that sprouts are crawling with a load of harmful bacteria that will surely kill us by meal’s end. Some claim health benefits from sprouting that, if it were all true, would mean the end of hunger and disease by… oh, say the end of June. I’ve got a feeling the truth, as it often is, is somewhere right in the middle.
Let’s look at life from a seed’s point of view: being digested is not your goal, propagating your own species is however. Therefore, nature has taken some precautions to make digesting seeds and grains a bit harder than you might expect considering their prevalence in our diets (think grains, cereals, breads, etc). There are a number of substances in seeds and grains that attempt to hinder, and even harm, our digestive process in the seed’s journey toward becoming a plant. However, when you allow the seed to become a plant, many of those substances disappear and digestion by the eater of the seed becomes easier and more productive.
As the seed begins to turn into a plant there is an upsurge in antioxidants and enzymes; both of which are needed for the baby plant to fight its own battles against disease, environmental stresses, and attacks. Those same antioxidants and enzymes are brilliant for us too.
I’ll be honest; there isn’t a lot of science yet showing that something like bread made from sprouted grains is always packed with more nutrition than ‘regular’ bread; but we have learned enough to know many sprouted grains are higher in fibre, riboflavin, folate, and thiamine than conventional grains. Logic alone would seem to indicate that starting with a product that we do know has less of some harmful substances and a lot more of some helpful ones would likely mean the end result isn’t too terrible. I’m just saying.
Another nice thing about items such as sprouted grain breads is that they actually go through less processing. That alone, as stated by R Dhaliwal, RD (Simon Fraser University) contributes to a product with higher nutrition.
As for actual sprouts, those crispy, fresh, tasty (they taste like Spring!) wee plants are as healthy, or more (in some cases a great deal more), as any other fresh yummy veggie we enjoy. If you’re buying organic, well-handled seeds, keeping your equipment clean (be it an 5 layer specialty sprouter or a mason jar covered in old panty hose held in place with a rubber band), and eating them while fresh and crunchy, you are getting the ultimate in local, fresh produce.
With flavors ranging from spicy to sweet, and an endless variety of seeds to choose from (kamut, buckwheat, chia, sunflower, green pea, adzuki, alfalfa, clover, broccoli, radishes, mung, etc) sprouting can be a fun project for the kids and a healthy addition to your diet. Oh, and I gotta share – sprouted grains are lower in carbs too! They make me happy in all kinds of ways.
-Mona Sims CNPA