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Sprouts have long haunted the refrigerated sections of health food stores and the insides of vegetarian sandwiches. Those who have been eating sprouts for years know how great they are for your health. When beans are allowed to sprout, enzymes that were dormant are released, creating a healthier product. Sprouts also have protein, vitamins, fiber, and anti-oxidants.
You can make sprouts yourself, and it’s easy! You need just a few inexpensive items that you probably have around the house and some beans and seeds. It requires very little effort and just a few days to make these nutritious little snacks. And making them yourself is definitely the way to go with sprouts. It seems as if they are always in the news these days for being contaminated with salmonella, E. coli, and other harmful bacteria. Outbreaks often start with commercially grown sprouts that you find in restaurants and grocery stores. Avoid the risk of illness by making your own sprouts.
What are Sprouts?
Sprouts are simply the first growth that comes from a seed. What most people think of when sprouts are mentioned are Mung bean or alfalfa sprouts. Mung bean sprouts are the thick and juicy sprouts you find in many Asian restaurants and supermarkets. Alfalfa sprouts are thinner and are often used in deli sandwiches. If you have never experienced sprouts beyond these two, it’s time to make your own. You can sprout Mung beans and alfalfa as well as lentils, chickpeas, adzuki beans, soy beans, and broccoli, clover, and radish seeds, and eat them raw. You can also sprout grains such as wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, and buckwheat. Other beans like navy beans, fava beans, and kidney beans can be sprouted, but it is more difficult to do so and they are toxic when eaten raw.
Why Should You Eat Sprouts?
Eating raw foods as a main component of the diet is a growing trend amongst foodies and those who are interested in eating for health. Raw food proponents believe that when foods are not cooked they retain more of their nutritional value. Heating certainly does destroy come components of foods and vitamins and minerals can be leached out of foods when they are cooked. Sprouts have always been a part of the raw food movement because they provide protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
One of the reasons that beans are so healthful is that they are high in protein, but low in fat. Unfortunately, beans can be tough for you to digest and can cause cramping and gassiness. When beans are sprouted, enzymes are released that make the beans easier to digest. You can get all the nutrition of the beans without the discomfort. When grains are sprouted, they undergo changes that result in higher quality proteins. This makes the grains a better source of protein that they were previously. Because of the protein content, sprouts are a great option for vegetarians or those who want to eat less meat.
Fiber is another main component of whole grains and beans. Once a grain or bean has sprouted, its fiber content increases significantly. Fiber is a nutrient that most people don’t get enough of in their diets. It helps cleanse your colon and reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. It also fills you up without providing significant calories, so fiber is great for maintaining a healthy weight.
It is thought that the increase in protein and fiber in sprouted beans and grains is due to the decrease in starch. As the sprouts grow, the amount of starch lessens while the amount of protein and fiber goes up. Starch is a simple carbohydrate that provides energy, but also plenty of calories. The better carbohydrates to eat are complex ones.
Sprouted beans, grains, and vegetables also contain high amounts of vitamins. This includes significant amounts of vitamins A, C, E, and several from the B complex. Sprouts can have up to 30 percent more vitamins than the mature plant. There are also minerals in vegetables, grains, and beans that when sprouted are more active in the body. In addition to vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, sprouts contain anti-oxidants and other healthful plant compounds that have yet to be studied thoroughly.
Because of all the goodies that can be found in high quantities in raw sprouts, there may be many health benefits to eating them. Claims include  that eating sprouts help with anemia, constipation, and stress. They may improve cardiovascular health, liver health, the appearance and condition of skin, hair, and nails, and the symptoms of menopause.
How to Sprout
Whether all the claimed benefits of eating sprouts are real or not, there is no denying that sprouted grains, beans, and vegetables contain potent amounts of nutrients. Get your family started on eating sprouts by making your own safely.
When you grow your vegetables for your garden from seed, the first shoot that comes up is the sprout. However, you do not need to put your seeds in the soil if you intend to eat the sprout. There is a cleaner, safer, and easier way to coax the sprout from the seed.
- The first step is to rinse your beans or seeds. Contaminated seeds lead to contaminated sprouts, so this is an essential step. Do not sprout seeds that are meant for planting. They are often chemically-treated. Only use seeds and beans that are for eating.
- Fill a glass jar with clean, cold water and the beans or seeds to be sprouted. They will expand, so the beans and water should take up no more than one quarter of the jar initially.
- Attach a piece of cheesecloth to the top of the jar with a rubber band or the outer ring of the jar lid. You can also buy jars that are designed just for sprouting and come with a mesh cap.
- Leave the jar out at room temperature to soak for about eight to twelve hours. Larger beans and seeds will need more soaking time.
- After soaking time, drain the water from the jar. Add more fresh water to rinse the seeds and drain again. Leave the jar tilted up on its side so that excess moisture can drain out over time. Make sure air can still circulate into the jar as it drains.
- Repeat the rinsing and draining step two to four times a day. You cannot let the beans dry out completely. Keep doing this until you have sprouts of a desired length. Lentils and Mung beans are the quickest and will take only a day or two. Alfalfa sprouts should grow to at least an inch and others to a half inch, but it is really a matter of preference.
- If you are sprouting alfalfa, leave the jar of sprouts next to a sunny window for an hour or two. This will cause the little leaves to develop chlorophyll and turn green.
- The final step for any type of sprout is to rinse them thoroughly in a colander or sieve and let them drain well. To store them, put the sprouts in a sealable bag or container with paper towel and keep them in the refrigerator.
You can eat your sprouts raw, but you can also cook most of them. Do not cook alfalfa sprouts, as they are too delicate and will turn to mush. Lentils will cook quickly in four to five minutes, while chickpeas will need around fifteen minutes. It is advisable to cook them sometimes because eating too many sprouts raw could be detrimental. There are some compounds in raw beans that could have adverse effects if consumed frequently and in large quantities.
©2012 Off the Grid News