Sprouting is a practice that has gained popularity among health enthusiasts in recent years.
Sprouted grains and legumes are claimed to be higher in nutrients and more easily digestible than unsprouted varieties.
Some research even suggests that they may protect against certain types of disease and aid weight loss.
This article takes a closer look at sprouted grains and legumes and their health benefits.
Sprouting, also known as germination, is a common practice used to improve the digestibility and nutritional value of seeds, grains, nuts or legumes.
It involves soaking the food for up to 24 hours and then draining and rinsing repeatedly over several days.
Sprouted grains and legumes can be cooked and added to dishes or dried and ground into flour for use in baking.
Sprouted grains are also commonly used in products such as bread, chips, pasta and pizza crust.
The process of sprouting is said to increase the concentration of several nutrients, decrease antinutrient content and provide many other health benefits.
Summary Sprouting is a process that involves soaking, draining and rinsing seeds, grains, nuts and legumes for prolonged periods to improve their digestibility and nutritional value.
Studies indicate that sprouting may increase the nutrient content of grains and legumes even more.
In fact, sprouting has been shown to enhance the amino acid profile of foods, increase their protein concentration and improve the quality and availability of vitamins and minerals (4).
For example, one study found that sprouting cowpeas resulted in 4–38 times more vitamin C and 9–12% more protein. The digestibility of the protein in cowpeas was also improved by up to 20% (5).
Another study showed that sprouting buckwheat increased both the nutritional value and amount of disease-fighting antioxidants in the final product (6).
Summary Whole grains and legumes are high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Studies show that sprouting can improve protein content and digestibility and enhance levels of vitamin C and antioxidants.
Antinutrients are compounds that reduce the absorption of certain nutrients within your body.
Some antinutrients, such as phytic acid, lectins and protease inhibitors, are especially concentrated in grains and legumes.
Sprouting can be a simple way of reducing the antinutrient content of foods and enhancing the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
This could increase the absorption of protein and important minerals, such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and manganese (11).
Summary Sprouting grains and legumes decreases the number of antinutrients, which may increase the absorption of protein and minerals, such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and manganese.
If you’re trying to lose a few extra pounds, you may want to consider adding sprouted grains and legumes to your diet.
They also contain a good amount of protein, which can reduce appetite and overall calorie intake (13).
What’s more, several studies have found that higher intakes of whole grains and legumes could be linked to greater weight loss.
For example, one study in 1,475 people showed that those who regularly consumed beans had a lower body weight and smaller waist size than those who never ate this food.
Additionally, bean consumers had a 23% reduced risk of increased waist size and a 22% lower risk of being obese (14).
Another large study in nearly 45,000 people observed that eating more whole grains was associated with decreased body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference in both children and adults (15).
Summary Sprouted grains and legumes are high in fiber and protein, which may help reduce appetite and calorie intake. Consuming whole grains and legumes has been linked to lower body weight and waist circumference.
Sprouted legumes and whole grains are packed with fiber, which may benefit blood sugar control.
According to one small study in 11 people with impaired blood sugar control, consuming sprouted brown rice for six weeks significantly reduced blood sugar levels, compared to white rice (18).
Another study in 2,027 people showed that those who ate legumes regularly tended to have lower levels of fasting blood sugar than those who didn’t (19).
Summary Sprouted legumes and whole grains are high in fiber, which can reduce blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that eating sprouted legumes and whole grains could be linked to lower blood sugar.
Thanks to their excellent nutrient profile, consuming sprouted grains and legumes may be good for your heart.
In fact, one study following 9,632 adults over 19 years found that those who ate legumes at least four times per week had a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate them less than once per week (20).
Similarly, a review of 45 studies showed that eating three servings of whole grains per day was associated with a 19% lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 12% lower risk of stroke (21).
Summary Eating sprouted legumes and whole grains can help lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol and may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
In addition to being rich in essential nutrients that can promote overall health, sprouted grains and legumes are also incredibly versatile and easy to add to your diet.
They can be cooked and used in soups, stews, dips and risottos, while raw legumes can be incorporated into salads to add a bit of crunch.
You can also dehydrate and grind up raw or cooked sprouted grains and legumes to make a flour and use it in your favorite baking recipes.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s best to opt for whole-food sources of sprouted grains and legumes rather than pre-packaged products such as chips and crackers.
The latter are not only often full of sodium, additives and questionable ingredients but generally also heavily processed, depleting them of potential health-promoting properties.
Summary Sprouted grains and legumes can be consumed raw or cooked in a variety of recipes. Opting for whole-food products over pre-packaged and processed foods can maximize the potential health benefits.
Compared to whole grains, sprouted grains and legumes are higher in important vitamins and minerals but lower in antinutrients that inhibit their absorption.
They may reduce blood sugar, promote heart health and aid weight loss.
What's more, they’re easily prepared and added to many recipes and dishes.
Try making sprouted grains and legumes a part of your healthy diet to take advantage of their many health benefits.