Once any vibrant seed—a whole grain, legume, bean, nut, or seed—is soaked in enough water for long enough to breakdown its protective phytic acid, germination is started and soon a young plant is born. In its earliest few days, the plant first unfolds as a sprout—a tender stem whose job it is to burrow through the soil to the sunlight before leaves begin to unfurl.
Sprouts vividly reveal the life force of a seed miraculously coming to life. They are one of the most nutrient-dense foods imaginable; they detoxify the liver; support the immune system (T-cells); and, they are full of life force energy. Sprouts are biogenic, alive foods that appear to pass their essence (RNA, DNA) as a live force when eaten (see below).1 Sprouts contain all the nutrients and energy to support a mature plant; when we eat sprouts, we acquire the essence of the mature plant, but without the bulk. Growing sprouts in your home is easy to do in any season, but is especially timely in the spring after a diet of heavy, mucus-forming foods.
Sprouts and Health. Shoots and sprouts are tender and loaded with nutrition to help support the plant on its journey to maturity: When a seed sprouts, it starts quickly to develop a rich array of nutrients to support the mature plant that it is to become. According to Steve Meyerowitz, who has devoted much of his life to the science of sprouting, in the first 5-10 days, young seedlings attain their greatest nutrient density; vitamins increase many-fold; and complex starches are broken down to make beans and grains more digestible. (As a related point, sprouting can prevent allergies to wheat or other offending grains.) According to Steve Meyerwitz, with the germination of a seed:
- “Nutrients are broken down—protein into amino acids, fats into essential fatty acids, starches to sugars, and minerals chelate or combine with protein in a way that increases their utilization. This…increases nutrition and improves digestion and assimilation…the reason sprouts are considered predigested food.”
- “Proteins, vitamins, enzymes, minerals and trace minerals multiply from 300 to 1200 percent. Chlorophyll develops in seeds that become green plants. Certain acids and toxins that can interfere with digestion are reduced or eliminated. Size and water content increase dramatically.”2
Ann Wigmore, an early pioneer in the science of sprouts and particularly wheatgrass, calls sprouts biogenic (alive) foods, to distinguish them from bioactive raw fruits and vegetables. Biogenic foods—sprouted grains, beans, nuts and seeds—are able to transfer their life energy to us when we eat them. This may shed light on why David Wetzel of Green Pasture.org believes that first-growth spring grasses provide a stem-cell component that underlies the mysterious health benefits of X-factor butter oil. (See January/February 2012 newsletter on vitamin D).
Working with Ann Wigmore, Viktoras Kulvinskas discovered that nucleic acids (think DNA, RNA), which are key elements of cell growth and regeneration, increase by as much as 30-fold through sprouting. Kulvinskas, in his out-of-print, technical booklet, Sprout for the Love of Every Body, analyzed many of the health benefits of sprouts. I want to quote some highlights, particularly to help any of you who may have health conditions and are thinking of using sprouts as a part of your therapy:
“The seed is a storehouse of food energy intended for early growth and development of the new plant. The chemical changes that occur in the sprouting seed activate a powerful enzyme factory, never to be surpassed at a later stage of growth. The sprouts are predigested foods. The rich enzyme concentration can lead to heightened enzyme activity in your own body metabolism, thus leading to regeneration of the bloodstream.” (p.16)
“Wheat…in 3 days of sprouting doubles in weight and a very sweet tang is introduced. Much of the original starch has been converted to natural sugars. Grain becomes less mucus-forming after sprouting. By the fourth day, gluten undergoes a qualitative change, becoming crumbly.” (pp. 21, 22)
“Because sprouts are predigested food, they have a higher biological efficiency value than whole seeds, raw or cooked. Less food is required, yet more nutrients reach the blood and cells. Sprouting increases the quality of proteins, likewise it removes the inhibitor factors [like phytic acid]. One of the easiest proteins to assimilate is chlorophyll. The sprouting process, under the action of light, creates it. Chlorophyll has been shown in many instances to be effective in overcoming protein-deficiency anemia.” (pp. 32, 33)
“Phytin is very frequently present in many seeds, hence eating a diet rich in seed, beside the high protein complications, can result in a tremendous loss of important minerals, in spite of the fact that seeds are rich sources of such minerals. However, the mineral losses because of the high phytin concentration become insignificant if one sprouts the seeds.” (p. 40)
“Sprouted seeds are the best sources of natural chelates. In the germination process, the complex proteins of seeds are broken down into amino acids. The acids are hooked up to a mineral and a vitamin, forming a natural chelate, called an enzyme. …seeds when sprouted are the highest natural source of enzymes, hence of chelated minerals.” (p. 42)
“Dr. Benjamin Frank, in Nucleic Acid Therapy in Agiing and Degenerative Disease, found that nucleic acids [DNA and RNA are the best known forms] within nuclei of all living cells can have a dramatic effect on aging. Sprouts have a regenerating effect on the human body because of the high concentration of RNA, DNA protein, as well as other essential nutrients which can be found only in a living cell.” (p. 68-71)
Growing Sprouts—Counter-top sprouting.
Growing sprouts can be as simple or complex as you wish it to be. You can purchase professional sprouting equipment such as vertical sprouters and sprout bags, or you can simply have fun with good seeds and a large jar fitted with a mesh top.
Counter-top sprouting can be done in any home and during any season. It requires no long-term commitment and makes no mess. You need neither yard nor soil, hoe nor gardening gloves. All that is required is a large jar; a screened lid; good, organic sprouting seeds; water; and a few consecutive days when you can rinse, shake, and drain the sprouting seeds each morning and evening. This step keeps the seeds cool and moist.
Sprouting seeds takes a week or less. You may want to grow sprouts regularly; or you might prefer to dabble now and then, washing the jar and setting sprouting aside until you are once again in the mood. For children, growing sprouts in a jar on the countertop is a perfect first-growing adventure, one that can encourage eating greens, the major food missing from their diets.
The simple steps for sprouting are:
- Put about 2 tablespoons of sorted, organic seeds, or ¼-½ cup grains, beans, or legumes in a clean two-quart jar fitted with a screen top (or a square of cheese cloth, nylon, or mosquito netting) held in place by a canning jar ring, string, or strong rubber band. This screened opening permits easy rinsing, draining, and air ventilation. Use a one-gallon jar if you choose to sprout more seeds, though keep in mind that while 2 tablespoons looks like a small quantity of seeds, sprouts need plenty of space to grow and to prevent overcrowding.
- Cover the seeds with plenty of filtered water that is free of chlorine, and let it sit overnight, or about 8 hours. Some seeds require only 6 hours of soaking, while beans and grains with tough exteriors may benefit from a soak as long as 24-36 hours. There are also mucilaginous seeds that require no soaking at all, although this may not be the best approach for sprouting seeds like this. For more information on seeds and soaking times, you can refer to www.sproutpeople.org.
- At the end of the soaking period, and with the screened lid firmly in place, pour off and discard the water.
- Cover the seeds with plenty of fresh water, swish them around inside the jar, and drain once again. Then turn the jar upside down and set it at an angle; a dish drainer works well for support. Keep the seeds out of direct sunlight, though ordinary room light and indirect sunlight are both fine. A room temperature of 60-70 degrees is ideal because growing sprouts produce heat. Rinsing the sprouts morning and evening prevents them from overheating in a jar that traps heat; it also keeps the sprouts moist. [If you grow sprouts in warmer temperatures, you may want to give them cooling baths more frequently than twice a day.]
- Repeat the above step twice a day, morning and evening, for several days, until the seeds are well-sprouted and, if applicable, starting to turn green (not all sprouts are green in maturity).
- When you are ready to harvest your sprouts (grains are sweetest and beans/legumes have the highest protein levels after just 2-3 days; greens need longer in order to develop chlorophyll), rinse them and then pour them onto a towel to air dry. Place dry sprouts in a covered container, lined with a paper towel, and refrigerate. They should keep for a week or more and can be used in salads and sandwiches, or for juicing.
Note: Because sprouts are cleansing and detoxifying, they may work less well for older people in the “winter, drying-out” phase of life. At age 64, I find I need a good complement of sweet round and root vegetables plus good fats and oils in all seasons of the year, and I must consume sprouts sparingly.
Viktoras Kulvinskas, Sprouts for the Love of Every Body
Steve Meyerwitz, Sprouts, The Complete Guide to Sprouting; www.sproutman.com
Ann Wigmore, The Sprouting Book; The Wheatgrass Book
Copyright 2012, Pathways4Health.org