The Nutritional Benefits of Sprouted Grains And Legumes

The Aztecs and Mayans were onto something with these…

There’s no question that when it comes to providing your body with the right fuel to keep you going throughout the day, carbohydrates are one of the most efficient ways to obtain usable energy for your muscles and brain.

With this said, it’s important not to overlook the impact that the type of carbs you consume on a day-to-day basis can have on your overall health and wellbeing.

Sprouted whole grains and legumes — in particular — are one source of slow-release energy that research suggests offers a significant array of additional benefits for the body. These benefits include, but are certainly not limited to: improved digestion, the cultivation and maintenance of our healthy gut flora, and the lowered risk of developing inflammatory-related diseases (1).

Despite the fact that widespread consumption of sprouted foods didn’t become popularized in the West until the late 1980’s, the sprouting of seeds and particular grains has existed as a traditional agricultural practice for centuries (2).

What makes sprouted grains and legumes so special in comparison to their un-sprouted counterparts has to do primarily with the chemical reactions that take place during the germination process, aka the sprouting.

During the sprouting process — between roughly day 2–3 of seed germination — proteins stored within the grains and legumes get hydrolyzed into peptides and different essential amino acids by proteolytic enzymes. When this occurs, paired with the natural breakdown of starches and phytic acid within the seed, the overall bioavailability of nutrients becomes drastically increased (3, 4).

In other words, key vitamins and minerals such as folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus not only exist in higher quantities when grains and legumes are first allowed to sprout, but also become more easily digestible and able to be broken down by body, too (5).

You might often find that some sprouted grains and legumes have a unique flavor and sensory profile which makes them an appealing addition to many baked goods, soups, and salads. Sprouted grains are also frequently used to make gluten-free flours, which can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio for a health boost in most recipes.

Here are a few of our favorites to enjoy (and with good reason):

  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Lentils

Millet

Sprouted millet is a superb grain to include in your meal planning for a multitude of different reasons. For starters, millet is an easy-to-grow, climate resistant cereal grain, that beats out both wheat and maize, as well as sorghum and rice in terms of nutritional value, presence of phyto-chemicals, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids (6).

One study found that the levels of Calcium (Ca), Iron (Fe), and Zinc (Zn) in whole-grain millet increased respectively from 76.9, 18.1 and 65.3% in the unsprouted grain to 90.2, 37.3 and 85.8% after germination was allowed to occur (7).

These bonus nutrients don’t just help to protect the body from disease and various deficiencies, but the high prebiotic content of sprouted millet also contributes directly to the maintenance of a healthy immune system (8).

Specifically, when prebiotics such as xylobiose, fructooligosaccharides, and β-glucan are fermented by microbiota within the gut, short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are produced as a result. When an individual regularly consumes a diet with a high conversion rate of whole-grain fibre to SCFA, research suggests that their risk of leaky gut, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, and insulin resistance are all significantly decreased, making sprouted millet one of the best ways to consume your daily carbs (9).

Amaranth

As a pseudo-cereal (and therefore, gluten-free) grain, rich in both macro and micro-nutrients, amaranth was once a “superfood” staple of the ancient Aztec diet, providing a wealth of modern benefits for those who choose to prioritize a healthy lifestyle.

Sprouted amaranth tops the list of grains for its high content of lysine — with just one half cup serving equivalent to around 721 milligrams, making it significantly greater across the board than most carbohydrates (10).

Lysine is an amino acid responsible for supporting muscle growth and aiding in the production of a nutrient known as carnitine in the conversion of fatty acids into usable energy. As a consequences of improved endurance, muscle gain, and even weight loss, lysine is often taken as a supplement by athletes and bodybuilders, alike (11).

If you’re looking for a way to incorporate more of this nutrient into your fitness routine, perhaps look no further than sprouted amaranth!

Quinoa

Quinoa — typically pronounced either ‘“keen-wah,’ or ‘keen-oh-wah’ — is another psudo-cereal grain that’s seen a rapid (and well-justified) rise in recent health food popularity.

When quinoa is sprouted, studies show that both red and yellow quinoa sprouts possess the ability to counter oxidative stress within the body. Oxidative stress occurs when free-radicals are released during cellular metabolism, which increase the risk of mutations and ‘breaks’ in the strands of our DNA, and can sometimes lead to the development of disease (12).

While avoiding free-radical damage is not something that we can possibly control, the consumption of foods with detoxifying effects and beneficial anti-oxidant properties is something that we can.

Quinoa — especially when allowed to sprout for anywhere between 2–9 days — is scientifically reported to be one food that doubles-up on its role in supporting and sustaining ongoing health in this way.

Buckwheat

It might surprise you to know that buckwheat is not a type of whole-grain at all, and that these high-fibre seeds shown above actually come from a flowering plant more closely related to rhubarb than to any wheat!

The wide array of buckwheat’s health benefits account for its place on this list, with research indicating promising effects as a functional food for the improvement of cholesterol, inflammation-related diseases, hypertensive disorder, and neurological protection, among others (13).

When buckwheat seeds are germinated and allowed to sprout, their antioxidant levels become enhanced thereby increasing the food’s nutritional capabilities, exponentially.

Sprouted buckwheat has been touted scientifically for its therapeutic effects, especially with regard to research that focuses on the two types of flavonoid: C‐glycosylflavones and rutin. These two compounds are responsible for the regulation of cellular activity within the body, and happen to be present in high quantities in germinated buckwheat, giving rise to it’s remedial reputation as a food (14).

Lentils

As one of the most versatile types of bean, lentils are an amazing source of protein, folate, and carbohydrates offering the second-highest antioxidant content of any other legume after black beans.

When sprouted, lentils almost double in their antioxidant content, and — if you’re really look to get that nutritional bang for your buck — it might be worth noting that sprouted red lentils, in particular, beat out all other legumes as far as overall impact on health (15).

Research shows that legumes, in general, provide one of the, “single most important predictors of survival,” in older populations, globally, with an 8% reduction in risk of death, on average, for every 20 grams (approximately 2 tablespoons worth) of beans consumed daily (16).

Interestingly, a strong link between the consumption of sprouted lentils and the treatment and prevention of type-2 diabetes has been observed in research studies that observe both healthy and diabetic human beings. In both cases, sprouted lentils were found to improve blood glucose levels, and help to modulate the metabolism of lipids and lipoproteins within the body, making them a wonderful food to include on your plate (17).

Are there nutritional benefits to eating sprouted grains and legumes? In short: absolutely, yes!

Sprouted grains offer an excellent boost of added vitamins and minerals that contribute to a well-rounded healthy and energetic lifestyle.

Whether you prefer your lentils red, yellow, or green, or if you find that millet is maybe more your style — sprouted grains and legumes are a powerhouse of nutrients not to be neglected!

Originally published at https://blog.satia.com on March 10, 2021.

Text References:

  1. Lappi J, Kolehmainen M, Mykkänen H, Poutanen K. Do large intestinal events explain the protective effects of whole grain foods against type 2 diabetes? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(6):631–40.
  2. Treadwell D.D., Hochmuth R., Landrum L., Laughlin W. Microgreens: A New Specialty Crop’, HS1164. 2010 Florida: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
  3. Benincasa, P., Falcinelli, B., Lutts, S., Stagnari, F., & Galieni, A. (2019). Sprouted Grains: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients, 11(2), 421. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11020421
  4. Taylor J.R., Novellie L., Liebenberg N.V. Protein body degradation in the starchy endosperm of germinating sorghum. J. Exp. Bot. 1985;36:1287–1295.
  5. Benincasa, P., Falcinelli, B., Lutts, S., Stagnari, F., & Galieni, A. (2019). Sprouted Grains: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients, 11(2), 421. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11020421
  6. Kumar, A., Tomer, V., Kaur, A. et al. Millets: a solution to agrarian and nutritional challenges. Agric & Food Secur 7, 31 (2018).
  7. Mbithi-Mwikya S., Van Camp J., Yiru Y., Huyghebaert A. Nutrient and antinutrient changes in finger millet (Eleusine coracan) during sprouting. LWT-Food Sci. Technol. 2000;33:9–14.
  8. Dayakar Rao et al., 2017;Himanshu, Chauhan, Sonawane, & Arya, 2018
  9. Viorica Braniste et al.,“The Gut Microbiota Infuences Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability in Mice,”Science Translational Medicine 6, no. 263 (November 19, 2014): 263ra158.
  10. Adhikary, D., Khatri-Chhetri, U., & Slaski, J. (2020). Amaranth: An Ancient and High-Quality Wholesome Crop. In Nutritional Value of Amaranth. IntechOpen.
  11. Sahlin K. (2011). Boosting fat burning with carnitine: an old friend comes out from the shadow. The Journal of physiology, 589(Pt 7), 1509–1510.
  12. Al-Qabba, M. M., El-Mowafy, M. A., Althwab, S. A., Alfheeaid, H. A., Aljutaily, T., & Barakat, H. (2020). Phenolic Profile, Antioxidant Activity, and Ameliorating Efficacy of Chenopodium quinoa Sprouts against CCl4-Induced Oxidative Stress in Rats. Nutrients, 12(10), 2904.
  13. Giménez-Bastida JA, Zieliński H. Buckwheat as a Functional Food and Its Effects on Health. J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Sep 16;63(36):7896–913. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b02498. Epub 2015 Sep 3. PMID: 26270637.
  14. Zhang, G, Xu, Z, Gao, Y, et al. (2015) Effects of germination on the nutritional properties, phenolic profiles, and antioxidant activities of buckwheat. J Food Sci 80, H1111–H1119.
  15. Zhao Y, Du SK, Wang H, Cai M. In vitro antioxidant activity of extracts from common legumes. Food Chem. 2014;152:462–6.
  16. I. Darmadi-Blackberry, M. Wahlqvist, A. Kouris-Blazos, et al. Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217–20.
  17. Aslani Z., Mirmiran P., Alipur B., Bahadoran Z., Farhangi M.A. Lentil sprouts effect on serum lipids of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Health Promot. Perspect. 2015;5:215–224.

Writer and published author with an international background in psychology, nutrition, and creative writing. I’m just here to learn ;) awalkerjones.com

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