You may have already heard a few bits & bobs about soaking & sprouting certain foods but often I find this a subject that people are a little confused about. Common questions that I get asked are ‘what can I soak and/or sprout?’, ‘what does this actually do to the food in question?’ and ‘I am already pushed for time so is it even worth it?!’
The reality is if you are eating a decent amount of nutritious wholefoods such as grains, beans (legumes), nuts & seeds then the answer is probably yes for two main reasons….
Firstly, these foods contain certain ‘anti-nutrients’ which act as a survival & protection mechanism. For example, you may have already heard of phytic acid which has been receiving quite a bit of press of late. This is because it binds to key vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc, meaning they can’t go on to be absorbed by the body. Therefore, all those lovely, nutrient dense green leafy vegetables that you are consuming will not be able to have the maximum effect in the body because the phytic acid has essentially stolen them. This puts paid to the saying ‘you are what you eat’. Rather, I like to think of it as ‘you are what you absorb’. As such, it makes sense to decrease levels of these anti-nutrients where possible.
The second reason is by soaking & sprouting you are activating the seed (or grain or legume) so that it becomes germinated and turns into a ‘live’ plant. Prior to this it is essentially lying dormant; think of it like a locked treasure chest that is waiting to be opened so it can release all of its nutritional goodies. For example, levels of B Vitamins are supercharged, driving up the protein content by as much as 35%! Sprouting also helps seeds (or grains or legumes) become a more alkaline forming food due to the fact you are essentially creating a mini plant. The good news is by increasing the alkaline content of our diet not only are we are helping to cleanse the body but we can also expect a wealth of other health benefits related to improved digestion, skin tone & mood.
How to Sprout?!
Therefore, I hope I have convinced you that it is a worthwhile process. However, there is where there is even better news as it is super simple to do, so there is no need to be intimidated by it. Firstly, you need to soak and whilst different seeds (or grains or legumes) have different soaking times, ranging from 1-12 hours, I think keep it simple and soak overnight, that way you can’t get it wrong. The only exception is buckwheat, which you only need to soak for 15-20mins. Fill the jar 1/3 full of the seed (or grain or legume) and then fill the rest with water. When soaking grains you also need to add something acidic, such as lemon or apple cider vinegar. For nuts & seeds add a little salt to the water. Legumes are fine as they are. The next morning, drain away the liquid and rinse again. You will notice that they already look much plumper and healthier, especially nuts & seeds!
You can stop the process there if you wish and you will already have increased the nutrient value significantly, although make sure to use immediately or keep in the fridge otherwise they will go rancid. However, you can also take things a step further by going on to sprout the seed (or grain or legume). All you need is a sprouting jar, which can be bought online pretty cheaply, or you can make one at home by recycling an old glass jar and covering the top with a bit of muslin, kept tight with an elastic band. Regardless of what you are using, pop your seed (or grain or legume) in to the jar and turn it upside down at a 45 degree angle so that any water will drain away, otherwise they will get damp and mouldy. Ensure you wash the seed (or grain or legume) at least once a day, twice is ideal, and go through the process of turning it upside down each time. The length of time required for the seed (or grain or legume) to sprout varies depending on what it is. For example, sunflower seeds take 1 day, buckwheat takes 2-3 days and wild rice can take 3-4 days. However, you will know you are good to go once you see little sprouts coming out of the seed!
Don’t forget safety
The final thing I wanted to mention is safety. It’s important when sprouting that you use clean jars and never eat any sprouts that are bad, smelly or slimy looking. It is also really important to ensure that you buy your seeds/grains/legumes from a reputable manufacturer, to ensure that there is no pathogenic bacteria contained within.
I hope you found that whistle stop tour in regard soaking & sprouting useful and if you have any further questions then pop me a message, would be more than happy to help any potential soaking & sprouting fans!