Sprouts – wonder food
Sprouts are said to be rich in digestible energy, bioavailable vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and phytochemicals, as these are necessary for a germinating plant to grow. These nutrients are essential for human health.
“The desirable nutritional changes that occur during sprouting are mainly due to the breakdown of complex compounds into a more simple form, transformation into essential constituents and breakdown of nutritionally undesirable constituents.”
Sprouts are considered as wonder foods. They rank as the freshest and most nutritious of all vegetables available to the human diet. By a process of natural transmutation, sprouted food acquires vastly improved digestibility and nutritional qualities when compared to non-sprouted embryo from which it derives.
Sprouted foods have been part of the diet of many ancient races for thousands of years. Even to this day, the Chinese retain their fame for delicious mung bean sprouts. Sprouts provide all the essential vitamins and minerals. They should form a vital component of our diet. Sprouting requires no constant care but only an occasional sprinkling of water.
All edible grains, seeds and legumes can be sprouted. Generally the following are used for sprouting :
Grains : Wheat, maize, ragi, bajra and barley.
Seeds : Alfalfa seeds, radish seeds, fenugreek seeds, carrot seeds, coriander seeds, pumpkin seeds and muskmelon seeds.
Legumes : Mung, Bengal gram, groundnut and peas.Benefits
There is an amazing increase in nutrients in sprouted foods when compared to their dried embryo. In the process of sprouting, the vitamins, minerals and protein increase substantially with corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrate content. These comparisons are based on an equivalent water content in the foods measured. Analysis of dried seeds, grains and legumes shows a very low water content. But this increases upto tenfold when the same food is converted into sprouts. For accurate comparison each must be brought to a common denomination of equal water content to assess the exact change brought in nutritional value.
Sprouted mung beans, for instance, have a 8.3 increase of water content over dried beans. Hence the nutritional value of sprouted and dried mung beans can be compared by multiplying the analysed nutrients of sprouted mung beans by the factor of 8.3. Based on this criterion, the changes found in sprouted mung beans when compared with the figures for the beans in the dried state are as follows –
Energy content –
- Calories Decrease 15 per cent.
- Total carbohydrate content Decrease 15 per cent
- Protein availability Increase 30 per cent
- Calcium content Increase 34 per cent
- Potassium content Increase 80 per cent
- Sodium content Increase 690 per cent
- Iron content Increase 40 per cent
- Phosphorous content Increase 56 per cent
- Vitamin A content Increase 285 per cent
- Thiamine or Vitamin B1 content Increase 208 per cent
- Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 content Increase 515 per cent
- Niacin or Vitamin B3 content Increase 256 per cent
- Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C content An infinite increase
The increase in protein availability is of great significance. It is a valuable indicator of the enhanced nutritional value of a food when sprouted. The simultaneous reduction in carbohydrate content indicates that many carbohydrate molecules are broken down during sprouting to allow an absorption of atmospheric nitrogen and reforming into amino-acids. The resultant protein is the most easily digestible of all proteins available in foods.
The remarkable increase in sodium content supports the view that sprouted foods offer nutritional qualities. Sodium is essential to the digestive process within the gastro-intestinal tract and also to the elimination of carbon dioxide. Together with the remarkable increase in vitamins, sodium materially contributes to the easy digestibility of sprouts.
Dried seeds, grains and legumes do not contain discernible traces of ascorbic acid, yet when sprouted, they reveal quite significant quantities which are important in the body’s ability to metabolise proteins. The infinite increase in ascorbic acid derives from their absorption of atmospheric elements during growth.
Sprouts have several other benefits. They supply food in predigested form, that is, the food which has already been acted upon by the enzymes and made to digest easily. During sprouting, much of the starch is broken down into simple sugars such as glucose and sucrose by the action of the enzyme ‘amylase’. Proteins are converted into amino acids and amides. Fats and oils are converted into more simple fatty acids by the action of the enzyme lipase.
During sprouting, the beans lose their objectionable gas producing quality. Research has shown that oligosaccharides are responsible for gas formation. For maintenance of health, some amount of gas production is necessary but it should be within safe limits. As the process of germination ends and sprouting begins, the percentage of oligosaccharides is reduced by 90. Sprouts contain a lot of fibre and water and, therefore, are helpful in overcoming constipation.
Sprouts are an extremely inexpensive method of obtaining a concentration of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. They have in them all the constituent nutrients of fruits and vegetables and are ‘live’ foods. Eating sprouts is the safest and best way of getting the advantage of both fruits and vegetables without contamination and harmful insecticides.