Sprouting: The Unconventional Way to Prepare Whole Grains and Beans

Most people who enjoy Chinese food have heard of bean sprouts. You can even buy them in a can at the store. But what many people don’t know is that you can actually grow a variety of raw bean sprouts and whole grain sprouts. The sprouting process softens the grains and beans, retains the nutrients better than boiling, and adds greens to a bean and grain dish without any extra money or ingredients.

Benefits of eating bean sprouts

Mung bean sprouts have gained popularity as a healthy, tasty ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Most canned bean sprouts contain preservatives and aren’t as fresh and nutritious as the raw version. Raw mung beans contain only 31 calories per cup, and are packed with vitamins C and K, iron, folate and fiber.

Really, all beans — sprouted or otherwise — are high in fiber and are highly nutritious and delicious. Other bean varieties that can be sprouted include chickpeas, lentils, black beans and adzuki beans.

Like mung beans, lentils are tiny and quick to cook. When sprouted, one cup of lentils packs only 82 calories and is high in fiber and protein without any dietary fat. For such a small bean, lentil sprouts are nutrient-dense, with folate, potassium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E.

Chickpeas are also receiving a lot of attention as more and more Americans begin to experiment with dishes, like roasted chickpeas and hummus. There are a surprising amount of chickpea varieties to sprout, including brown, black and beige in small or large sizes. Sprouted chickpeas are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate and vitamin A.

Black bean sprouts are larger and thus need to be cooked before consuming. If eaten raw like other bean sprouts, black bean sprouts can be difficult to digest. They are also more difficult to sprout, but when they do, they produce beautiful purple sprouts. These sprouts contain calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, niacin and vitamins A, B, C and E.

Adzuki bean sprouts retain their vibrant red color even when cooked. Adzuki beans resemble kidney beans in color and some have a spot similar to black-eyed peas. These sprouts contain all the essential amino acids except for tryptophan. They are also high in calcium, niacin, iron and vitamins A, B, C and E.

Perks of sprouting whole grains

Just as with beans and legumes, when you sprout whole grains, they plump up and release a tail-like sprout. I specify “whole grains” because the germ and bran must be intact for the grain to sprout. Husked, milled, pearled or rolled grains will not work. Amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, kamut, millet and oats can all be sprouted.

Like with bean sprouts, you can expect the texture to be more prominent in raw sprouts and the cooking time to decrease for pre-cooked sprouts. According to US News and World Report, sprouted grain breads are easier to digest for those who feel bloated after eating conventional breads. Sprouted grains are lower in starch and contain more protein, vitamins and minerals when compared with their unsprouted equivalents.

A 2009 report published by Phytotherapy Research shows that sprouted buckwheat can help lower blood pressure. Buckwheat sprouts have also been shown to be effective in suppressing a fatty liver in mice that were on a high-fat diet.

Kamut is a long, chewy grain that when sprouted contains pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins B, C and E. Whole oat sprouts resemble kamut more than traditional rolled or steel-cut oats. Oat sprouts have the same vitamins and minerals as kamut, but also contain potassium and niacin. However, oat sprouts cannot be eaten raw.

Brown rice sprouts contain the same vitamins as other grains, but also contain pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5. Research published in the 2007 edition of Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism suggests that sprouted rice can help reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research published in 2008 in The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology suggests that brown rice in particular may help control blood pressure and fight diabetes.

Considered a superfood, quinoa is a grain-like seed. Quinoa sprouts quickly and is the only sprout to contain all of the amino acids. Amaranth sprouts are one of the smallest, but they have the same vitamins and minerals as quinoa. Unlike quinoa, though, amaranth sprouts do not contain all essential amino acids. If left to continue growing, amaranth sprouts can also provide healthy microgreens as well as sprouted grains.

Millet is another tiny grain that packs a punch. It is rich in the same nutrients as brown rice. However, a 1994 study by Plant Foods for Human Nutrition reported that the nutritional quality of sprouted millet is in fact higher than when it is not sprouted. Protein levels also improved when millet was sprouted.

Fotolia_65047962_Subscription_Monthly_MHow to sprout

Regardless of what you sprout, the sprouting process is the same. First rinse off your seeds then fill one third of a jar or sprouting container with the seeds, beans, nuts or grains. Fill the rest with warm, filtered water and half a teaspoon of sea salt. Cover with cheesecloth or mesh and allow to sit overnight. Drain the water, rinse the beans or grains and replace the water two to four times daily, depending on what you are sprouting. In one to four days, your sprouts will be ready to eat. Continue the soaking process for a few more days if you want longer sprout tails.

Adzuki beans and mung beans need to soak eight to twelve hours at a time and are done in four days. Black beans also need soaking every eight to twelve hours, but are done in as soon as three days. Amaranth and chickpeas also need to be soaked every eight hours. Chickpeas, oats and buckwheat are done sprouting in two or three days. Amaranth can be done in as soon as one day, but can take up to three days. Buckwheat and oats need to be soaked every six hours. Wild rice can be soaked every nine hours and takes three to five days to finish sprouting. Quinoa should be soaked every four hours and will be ready to eat in two or three days.

Sprouting can be a fun, interesting way to grow food indoors regardless of the weather. By sprouting beans and grains, you are boosting the nutrition of your food at no extra cost. If you have problems remembering when to rinse and replenish the water for your sprouts, write it down or set a reminder on your phone. Missing the soaking schedule can allow bacteria to flourish and leave your food inedible. If this happens, don’t risk contamination and throw your sprouts away. You can always try again.

Have you ever tried sprouting? What have you sprouted? Feel free to leave us a comment below.

—Nicole Manuel

Nicole Manuel, CPC is a certified life coach with a degree in economics and over five years of professional writing experience. Her goal is to help others discover ways to incorporate sustainable solutions that can improve their health and well-being on a budget.

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