Sprouting your own is a great idea. The sprouting phase of a seed represents the greatest vitality in the life cycle of that plant, says Megan Sheppard.
Q. I have recently started to include bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts in my diet. I seem to have more energy but would like to start sprouting my own as they are expensive to buy.
Which are the best beans for sprouting and is there any risk to sprouting your own?
A. Sprouting your own is a great idea. The sprouting phase of a seed represents the greatest vitality in the life cycle of that plant — the vitamin and enzyme content is the highest during this stage.
Basically, the nutrients are far more easily assimilated since they are effectively pre-digested during the sprouting process.
This means that the simple sugars, amino acids, and fatty acids are all readily bioavailable to sprout eaters.
You can use all manner of seeds, beans, and legumes for sprouting — alfalfa, red clover, radish, mustard, lentils, fenugreek, mung beans, adzuki beans, soya beans, chickpeas, wheat, rye, or sunflower seeds (to name but a few of the most common choices!).
Obviously, you will need to ensure that any equipment you use is clean. You don’t need to invest in any sort of special sprouting products, although sprouting screens that fit onto the mouth of a preserving jar can be handy.
Any 1 litre jar with a wide mouth is ideal, and you simply need to cover it with clean cheesecloth or a plastic or stainless screen.
First, you will need to soak the seeds/beans/legumes. Smaller seeds such as alfalfa, clover, radish, and mustard only need to be soaked for 6 hours; lentils, fenugreek, and mung beans take around 8 hours; while sunflower seeds, chick peas, soya, adzuki, wheat, and rye all need at least 12 hours soaking time.
Use one part seeds/beans/legumes to three parts of water, and when the soaking time is up, drain the seeds and leave in a warm (18-19°C) dark place to germinate.
Rinse twice daily, morning and evening (soya needs to be rinsed four times daily, or it can tend towards rot).
For best results, tilt the jar on an angle with the mouth facing downwards (try using a dish rack to support the tilted jar).
Alfalfa, clover, radish, and mustard seeds will need to be placed in a cooler place with indirect sunlight to trigger chlorophyll production after three days’ germination.
Continue to rinse until sprouts are ready to eat (usually five to six days).
Sunflower seeds only take two days to sprout, while lentils, fenugreek, mung, wheat, rye, chickpeas, adzuki, and soya all take three to five days.
Drain the sprouts well and store in the refrigerator, where they will keep in the covered glass jar for around a week.
Sprouts can, of course, be eaten raw, but they can also be lightly steamed or sautéed.
Lightly heating the sprouts is considered to be particularly useful for those who have poor or weak digestive function.
Q. I was told recently that taking spray vitamins is much more effective than capsules. They seem to be so much more costly though, is it really worth the extra money?
A. There is no convincing evidence to show that oral sprays are better than capsules or tablets when it comes to vitamin and mineral supplements.
Some brands produce higher quality formulations than others — natural is always better than synthetic, and there are ways in which you can maximise the benefits of your supplements.
Vitamins A, D, and E are all fat soluble, so these are usually found in a liquid capsule. It is also important to take these nutrients together with food to optimise absorption.
Vitamin C is water-soluble and needs to be taken regularly since it is flushed out of the body just under two hours after taking it. Both vitamin C and the water-soluble B vitamins work more effectively when they are taken in smaller doses 3-4 times daily.
The other thing to watch for with spray preparations (and powders that you mix with water) is that they often contain unwanted ingredients to sweeten, preserve, emulsify, flavour, and colour the formulation.
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