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Food Storage Essentials: Just how nutritious are sprouts?

Published: Friday, Sept. 13 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Sprouts are delicious but not the super foods some think.

Leslie Probert

Whole grains and beans are important sources of B vitamins and protein. Although sprouting does increase vitamin and protein content — making sprouts more nutritious than the seeds from which they came — sprouts are not the super foods some people believe them to be.

Many other foods are better sources of additional nutrients, including vitamins A and C, supporting an argument for storing a variety of foods besides grains and beans.

Here is some information can be helpful in deciding whether to sprout whole grains and beans for increased nutrition, and highlights some important safety concerns.

Grains

According to the University of California Davis, Center for Health and Nutrition Research, “Sprouted grains such as sprouted wheat, oats and corn, have been touted as a health food, but overall the nutritional benefits appear to be very small when compared to unsprouted grains. What we do know, based on research, is that sprouts can be slightly higher in some vitamins, like vitamin C and carotenoids, and may have higher quality protein compared to unsprouted grains. However, the difference is so small that it is unlikely that their consumption will improve the nutritional status of an individual.

“Another claim that is often made about sprouted grains is that their high enzyme activities provide an advantage for human health. While it is true that some sprouted grains may have higher enzyme activities, the biological significance of this is questionable …”

Precautions

The University of California Davis Center for Health and Nutrition Research also reports, “Of utmost importance when considering adding sprouted grains to one's diet are the numerous reports that raw sprouts have been linked to over 30 food-borne illness outbreaks in the last 15 years. The Food and Drug Administration recommends children, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts.”

The FDA currently recommends sprouts be cooked before they are consumed.

Beans

Sprouting beans also produces a slight increase in nutrients, and vitamin C content can significantly increase. However, not all beans are equal. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, sprouted kidney beans produce the most vitamin C, followed by pinto beans, mung beans and navy beans, in that order. It is possible to reach the daily recommended intake for vitamin C for one person by eating 1¼ to 1½ cups of cooked kidney bean sprouts a day, and other beans will require more. This could be important if there is no other source of vitamin C stored, however, it is a lot of sprouts to prepare and consume daily, especially for a family.

Does storing grains and beans without oxygen reduce their ability to sprout?

Lack of oxygen actually slows the aging of seeds, and storing them in an oxygen-deprived environment can actually enhance their capacity to sprout. However, the capacity of seeds to sprout diminishes over time. Seeds not more than five years old produce the best results.

Sprouting grains and beans certainly does add variety to how these basic foods can be eaten. It is a personal choice whether to go to the trouble of sprouting. Including a variety of other foods in food storage will provide the range of nutrients we require without the need to sprout seeds. Even storing vitamin pills is an option.

Leslie Probert, a graduate in home economics from Brigham Young University, has been a popular speaker and is co-author of "Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition" with over 400 fast, creative recipes. Email: foodstoragechick@gmail.com

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