My kids think sprouting is fun. When I first started sprouting, I was sprouting wheat berries in order to dry them and grind them into a flour that I could use to make bread. I eventually gave up making the bread, mostly out of laziness. If properly preparing grains was so much work, was it really worth all the effort? Maybe yes, maybe no. If it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t bother with grains at all. But, I have kids. They still like their sandwiches. So, I do buy a couple of loaves of sprouted grain bread from the grocery store per month.
Then I started exploring all the other kinds of sprouts: sprouts for gardening, sprouts for salads, sprouts for stir fries. They’re a cheap vegetable, easily grown all year indoors and with limited space, and surprisingly nutritious.
Today, I’m pleased to announce a giveaway from one of my sponsors, Julie at Cultures for Health. Julie has graciously decided to give one of my lucky readers a 3-Tray Stackable Sprout Garden!
But First, Why Sprout?
You may be surprised at how many things you can sprout: grains, legumes, seeds, and even some vegetables. Sprouting neutralizes many of the anti-nutrients in grains, legumes, and seeds — essentially turning these tiny seeds into more easily digested vegetables. It also dramatically increases the nutrient-density of the food. For example, when comparing sprouted wheat to unsprouted wheat on a calorie-per-calorie basis, the sprouted wheat contains:
1. four times the amount of niacin
2. nearly twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate
3. five times the amount of vitamin C
4. significantly more protein and fewer starches and sugars
If you’re a regular reader at this site, you’re familiar with my stance on grains. (In short, don’t eat them unless they’re sprouted, soaked, or fermented. And, of course, sprouting is best.)
Sprouting also greatly increases the digestibility of grains, legumes, and seeds. I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of intestinal gas or bloating after eating beans or other legumes. You’ll be happy to know that sprouting the legumes before cooking them helps break down the complex sugars responsible for creating the gas, making them easier to digest.
Second, What to Sprout?
You can sprout just about any raw seed, but some are more traditionally eaten as food than others. That’s because some sprouts are actually toxic! The tiny little plants have some stiff defenses, designed to make them unappealing to natural predators. In most cases, you can simply cook the sprout and take care of any potential toxins or anti-nutrients that way. Or, if you still want to eat the sprout raw, you just have to let it sprout for longer. The more mature the tiny plant becomes, the less these potential toxins are present.
For example, did you know that alfalfa sprouts (the beloved food of the raw health food community) are actually high in the toxin canavanine when compared to most sprouts? In Nourishing Traditions (p.113), author Sally Fallon elaborates:
Tests have shown that alfalfa sprouts inhibit the immune system and contribute to inflammatory arthritis and lupus. Alfalfa seeds contain an amino acid called canavanine that can be toxic to man and animals when taken in quantity (Canavanine is not found in mature alfalfa plants; it is apparently metabolized during growth).
Based on my limited research into canavanine, I’m not as quick to judge alfalfa sprouts. A 150-pound human would have to consume 14,000 milligrams of canavanine all at once for it to be toxic at the same level it is toxic in mice. (source) Even in the most generous portions of alfalfa sprouts, you’re likely only going to consume a few milligrams of canavanine at most.
That said, alfalfa sprouts aren’t traditionally eaten as food. Traditionally, they’re grown into fully mature alfalfa plants and subsequently fed to animals. In my book, traditional wisdom always beats out modern nutritional science. So, while I think alfalfa sprouts are probably okay as an occasional indulgence (particularly when allowed to sprout for longer or when cooked), I wouldn’t take that risk if I were suffering from arthritis, lupus, or other inflammatory diseases.
Other sprouts make great additions to salads when eaten raw. My favorites are broccoli, radish, and mustard. I love sprouting lentils before adding them to soups or stews, and my favorite sprout for stir fry meals are mung beans (the Chinese have sprouted mung beans for thousands of years.)
Now, For That Giveaway!
This week, I am giving away a 3 Tray Stackable Sprout Garden worth $29.95. With it, you can sprout in much larger quantities than just using jars with sprouting lids. And, you’ll take up less valuable counter space doing it! The kit comes with a sprouter, drainboard, covers, 3 sprouting trays, 2 oz. certified organic alfalfa sprout seeds, sprouting instruction booklet, and a manufacturer lifetime replacement warranty.
It’s a great way to make sprouting easy and convenient, whether you’re sprouting grains, legumes, or yummy salad veggies!
This contest is now over. The winner will be announced Monday, February 21st. In the meantime, you can click on the link below to get 15% off all sprouting supplies at Cultures For Health!
(photo by ksbuehler)