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What's so good about sprouted foods?
It turns out that we haven't been getting all the nutrients we thought we were from the grains and seeds we eat whole because they're locked inside a hard coating that our bodies have trouble breaking down. Make no mistake: Whole grains and seeds are certainly healthful, but we aren't getting everything we could be getting from them, says Toronto dietitian Lydia Knorr.
When these foods are provided certain temperature and moisture conditions, they sprout—or germinate—allowing shoots of fresh growth to break through the shell while still keeping the shell and all its healthy fibre. "The germination process unlocks the nutrients," says Knorr. "It's a means of releasing all the good that's inherent in a grain or seed so we can optimize the nutritional uptake."
What additional nutrients do they offer?
When foods are sprouted, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and antioxidants are more bioavailable—meaning they're better able to be digested and absorbed by the body.
The exact nutrients you get will depend on the food, says Knorr, explaining that the options are endless; just about any grain, seed or bean can be sprouted. You can find sprouted broccoli seeds, mustard seeds, mung beans—and the list goes on. Some studies found that people who ate porridge made of germinated oats were able to absorb more iron and zinc. Another study found that sprouted rice had higher levels of antioxidants.
Can you sprout foods at home?
As the good news about sprouted foods is spreading, more and more people are learning how to sprout foods themselves. It's a great practice, but Knorr cautions home cooks to proceed with care. "The key is you really need the right conditions for it," she says. "Controls and conditions are imperative in any processing of food."â€¨
Harmful bacteria can become a problem when sprouts aren't cared for properly, so if you're going to try your hand at sprouting, do your research. If you don't feel comfortable trying to sprout foods in your own kitchen, look for sprouted foods in your grocery store.
Looking to put more nutrients on your plate? Start with these top 10 superfoods.