As a child, I placed some grapefruit seeds into a cup of water and waited for something to happen. I wondered: Would little grapefruit tree roots emerge? Could a whole grapefruit form? I felt I was on the cusp of discovery. My little experiment could be HUGE. After ten long minutes, I checked to see if anything had changed. Nothing new. Just the same seeds floating in a cup of water. Feeling utterly defeated, I gave up on my experiment and emptied my plastic cup of its contents.

While I could not sprout my own seeds, manufacturers and other individuals have championed the process. Health food stores are now teeming with sprouted goods, and there are many tried-and-true methods for sprouting your own seeds at home.

Becky Hughes

I myself am a consumer of sprouted grains. For the past four years, I’ve been substituting regular bread for sprouted grain bread. Now, I actually prefer sprouted bread to regular bread. It's denser, less bland, and surprisingly filling. If I eat an Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffin with olive oil and sea salt at 8 am, I’m full until 1 pm. 

My wonder for sprouting has deepened. The process seems so rudimentary, but it’s amazingly transformative. What does it even mean for a food to be sprouted? Don’t all foods that we eat sprout at some point in their lives? Exactly why do already good-for-you foods become even-better-for-you foods when they are sprouted?

I’ve done my homework on what makes a food “sprouted,” and I’m excited to share that info with you. 

To begin, let’s talk about the growth mechanisms of a seed. Within a seed husk, there are several compounds that inhibit growth. When environmental conditions are just right, the growth inhibitors are deactivated, and the seed begins to germinate. 

Seeds that are destined to become sprouted foods are placed in warm, wet environments for about 3-7 days. The growth inhibitors are deactivated, and the seed partially germinates.

When the growth inhibitors are deactivated, nutrients like vitamin C, folate, and iron become more available. Your body can then easily absorb these nutrients, making sprouted foods nutritionally superior to unsprouted foods. Grain, legumes, vegetable seeds, and nuts can all be made more nutritionally dense through sprouting.

There are several other benefits to eating sprouted foods. The sprouting process reduces a food’s carbohydrate content and increases its protein content. Sprouted grains also have lower levels of gluten and higher levels of soluble fiber. This is why breads made from sprouted grains, rather than whole grains or refined grains, are better for you. Finally, sprouted foods are easier to digest, making them good dietary substitutions for people with sensitive stomachs.

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Sarah Silbiger

Unfortunately, there appears to be no regulation in the production of sprouted foods. Companies that produce sprouted goods are held to no sort of standard, so they can “sprout” foods in any way they please. Another downside to sprouted foods is the risk of bacterial contamination.

The warm environment that is needed to facilitate sprouting is also conducive to bacterial growth. So be careful when eating raw sprouted foods. Luckily, most sprouted foods are cooked, which kills off any bacteria that may have been present.

Interested in sprouting your own seeds? The process is easy and inexpensive. Check out the various ways to sprout your own seeds here