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What Seeds Can You Sprout?

At An Oasis of Healing, we promote a diet rich in living foods. Sprouts are still living when we consume them, which means they are a rich source of plant chemicals, energy, and enzymes. Sprouts, as living foods, are easily assimilated into the body, freeing up energy that can be used to create new, healthy cells, break down tumors, and clean out cellular debris, providing energy for building and regulating the immune system. The increased enzymatic activity in sprouts will also give you more vigor and vitality!

For more information on the Health Benefits of Sprouting, read here.

What Seeds to Sprout?

Many different types of seeds can be sprouted. Sprouts and microgreens are grown from the seeds of many crops, such as cereals, pseudo-cereals, legumes, vegetables, oilseeds, and herbs1. As an example, some of the most common sprouts available on the market are:

  • Legumes, bean and pea sprouts:Lentil, adzuki, garbanzo, soybean, mung bean, green pea, and snow pea sprouts
  • Cereals:Wild rice, kamut, and oat sprouts
  • Pseudocereals:Buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa
  • Vegetable or leafy sprouts:Radish, broccoli, beet, mustard green, clover, cress, and fenugreek sprouts, alfalfa
  • Nut and seed sprouts: Almond, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, and sunflower seed

Nutrition, Bioactive Compounds, and Health Benefits of Specific Sprouted Seeds

Sprouts are a rich natural source of multiple bioactive compounds, with beneficial health effects that can be important in the prevention and treatment of several illnesses, as shown by looking at the nutrition of sprouts from alfalfa, buckwheat and Brassica vegetables3.

What Seeds Can You Sprout?

Alfalfa sprouts3

  • Rich in vitamins, including B complex vitamins, vitamins C and E.
  • Excellent source of trace elements such as copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), and selenium (Se). Essential in many physiological processes, by contributing to control oxidative stress and free radical balance.
  • Manganese (Mn) is a constituent of manganese superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD), a very important enzyme that prevents the effects of free radicals on mitochondria. Manganese can also help stimulate insulin secretion and regulate insulin function, which is very important in diabetic patients.
  • Copper (Cu) is “a component of cytochrome oxidase and plays a critical role as a free oxygen scavenger.”
  • Selenium (Se) forms a structural part of several glutathione peroxidase enzymes which act as regulators in the redox state of various biomolecules.”
  • Germinated seeds contain high content of bioactive compounds, mainly phenolic compounds, and saponins.
  • Phenolic compounds: gallic and caffeic acids
  • Flavonoids: apigenin, kaempferol, myricetin, naringin quercetin, rutin, daidzein, and genistein.
  • Saponins: exhibit key roles in many biological functions. Have shown elevated antimicrobial activity against yeasts and bacteria. Can also inhibit certain enzymes involved in fatty acid synthesis. This inhibitory effect “helps balance the ratio between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.”
  • These bioactive compounds present on alfalfa sprouts are responsible for their antioxidant, antiviral, immune stimulant, antidiabetic, and anti-obesity activities, as well as many other functions.

Buckwheat sprouts3,12

  • Rich source of high-quality proteins, fats, dietary fibers, as well as mineral nutrients.
  • Vitamins: rich in vitamin C and vitamin E.
  • β-carotene, and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
  • Excellent source of flavonoids: orientin, vitexin, rutin, and their derivatives.
  • Antioxidant activity due to the presence of anthocyanins, C-glycosylflavones (orientin, isoorientin, vitexin, and isovitexin), rutin, and quercetin.
  • Potential health benefits associated with buckwheat sprouts include antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypocholesterolemic (plasma cholesterol level reduction), neuroprotection, antidiabetic, and anti-hypertensive effects. Has also been reported to possess prebiotic activity.

Brassica vegetables, such as broccoli and red cabbage1,3

  • High intake of Brassica vegetables has been associated with many health benefits and reduced health risks related to aging, mainly related to the several bioactive compounds present in these vegetables.
  • Bioactive compounds include glucosinolates, polyphenols, anthocyanins, ascorbic acid, carotenoids, and tocopherols.
  • Phenolic compounds, such as anthocyanins and quercetin.
  • Broccoli sprouts contain gallic, kaempferol, chlorogenic, sinapinic benzoic, quercetin, and ferulic.
  • Red cabbage contains acylated anthocyanins which contribute to positive effects on the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Non-phenolic compound: the major non-phenolic compounds of Brassica vegetables are glucosinolates.
  • As explained in the literature: “Glucosinolates are synthesized from a small number of primary amino acids including tyrosine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan. These metabolites are found inside vacuoles and can be degraded by the myrosinase enzyme into simpler, active forms such as isothiocyanates and thiocyanates. Several glucosinolates have been identified in broccoli. Among these, glucoraphanin is the dominant and most known GLs in broccoli sprouts composing 81% of the total glucosinolates content. Glucosinolates in vegetables are inactive, but they can be hydrolyzed to generate the active form, sulforaphane (4-methylsulfinylbutyl isothiocyanate) in plants and upon digestion in humans. Myrosinase enzyme, a family of enzymes involved in plant defense mechanisms and also present in the human gut catalyzes the conversion of glucosinolates into active form improving their bioavailability.
  • Antimicrobial, anti-cancer, as well as anti-obesity properties.

Special Care with Sprouts and Microgreens

For the sprouting process, seeds are previously soaked and then maintained in a humid environment conducive to sprouting. This humid environment, rich in moisture and nutrients, is also the perfect environment for the growth of bacteria and associated biofilms. Hence, sprouting also generates the ideal setting for bacterial proliferation. The best way to minimize bacterial contamination is to wash your sprouts with clean water and to rinse them3.

In the case of microgreens, these can rapidly deteriorate after harvesting, which is one of the reasons the prices are usually high, and you can only find them locally. As highlighted by the research, “once harvested, microgreens easily dehydrate, wilt, decay and rapidly lose certain nutrients16.” Certain methods have been tested to try to preserve quality, increment nutritional value, and also extend shelf life, like temperature control and special packaging16. However, we would still highly recommend that you get your microgreens from local producers, freshly harvested, to guarantee the highest quality and safety of your microgreens, and to support local commerce.

Time to get sprouting!

References

  1. Ebert AW. Sprouts and Microgreens-Novel Food Sources for Healthy Diets. Plants (Basel). 2022 Feb 21;11(4):571. doi: 10.3390/plants11040571. PMID: 35214902; PMCID: PMC8877763.
  2. Abdallah M.M.F. Seed sprouts, a pharaoh’s heritage to improve food quality. Arab Univ. J. Agric. Sci. 2008;16:469–478. doi: 10.21608/ajs.2008.15018.
  3. Aloo SO, Ofosu FK, Kilonzi SM, Shabbir U, Oh DH. Edible Plant Sprouts: Health Benefits, Trends, and Opportunities for Novel Exploration. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 21;13(8):2882. doi: 10.3390/nu13082882. PMID: 34445042; PMCID: PMC8398379.
  4. Heslop-Harrison J. “germination”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Aug. 29, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/science/germination, accessed Feb 8, 2023.
  5. Difference Between Germination and Sprouting. Sept 16, 2017. https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-germination-and-vs-sprouting/, accessed Feb 8, 2023.
  6. Gan R, Lui W, Wu K, Chan C, Dai S, Sui Z, Corke H. Bioactive compounds and bioactivities of germinated edible seeds and sprouts: An updated review. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2017;59:1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2016.11.010.
  7. Zhang Y., Xiao Z., Ager E., Kong L., Tan L. Nutritional quality and health benefits of microgreens, a crop of modern agriculture. J. Future Foods. 2021;1:58–66. doi: 10.1016/j.jfutfo.2021.07.001.
  8. Elliott H, Woods P, Green BD, Nugent AP. Can sprouting reduce phytate and improve the nutritional composition and nutrient bioaccessibility in cereals and legumes? Nutr Bull. 2022 Jun;47(2):138-156. doi: 10.1111/nbu.12549. Epub 2022 Apr 21. PMID: 36045098.
  9. Sandberg AS. The effect of food processing on phytate hydrolysis and availability of iron and zinc. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1991;289:499-508. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4899-2626-5_33. PMID: 1654732.
  10. Drozdowska M., Leszczyńska T., Koronowicz A., Piasna-Słupecka E., Domagała D., Kusznierewicz B. Young shoots of red cabbage are a better source of selected nutrients and glucosinolates in comparison to the vegetable at full maturity. Eur. Food Res. Technol. 2020;246:2505–2515. doi: 10.1007/s00217-020-03593-x.
  11. Gawlik-Dziki U., Jeżyna M., Świeca M., Dziki D., Baraniak B., Czyż J. Effect of bioaccessibility of phenolic compounds on in vitro anticancer activity of broccoli sprouts. Food Res. Int. 2012;49:469–476. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2012.08.010.
  12. Giménez-Bastida JA, Zieliński H. Buckwheat as a Functional Food and Its Effects on Health. J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Sep 16;63(36):7896-913. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b02498. Epub 2015 Sep 3. PMID: 26270637.
  13. Guo X, Zhu K, Zhang H, Yao H. Anti-tumor activity of a novel protein obtained from tartary buckwheat. Int J Mol Sci. 2010;11(12):5201-11. doi: 10.3390/ijms11125201. Epub 2010 Dec 17. PMID: 21614202; PMCID: PMC3100852.
  14. Gatouillat G, Magid AA, Bertin E, Okiemy-Akeli MG, Morjani H, Lavaud C, Madoulet C. Cytotoxicity and apoptosis induced by alfalfa (Medicago sativa) leaf extracts in sensitive and multidrug-resistant tumor cells. Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(3):483-91. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2014.884228. Epub 2014 Mar 14. PMID: 24628411.
  15. Almuhayawi MS, Hassan AHA, Al Jaouni SK, Alkhalifah DHM, Hozzein WN, Selim S, AbdElgawad H, Khamis G. Influence of elevated CO2 on nutritive value and health-promoting prospective of three genotypes of Alfalfa sprouts (Medicago Sativa). Food Chem. 2021 Mar 15;340:128147. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.128147. Epub 2020 Sep 23. PMID: 33032148.
  16. Turner ER, Luo Y, Buchanan RL. Microgreen nutrition, food safety, and shelf life: A review. J Food Sci. 2020 Apr;85(4):870-882. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.15049. Epub 2020 Mar 6. PMID: 32144769.