Sprouts and young shoots have been hailed as medicinal foods in Chinese cuisine for over five millennia. More and more studies are beginning to reveal the true potential of sprouts. But how can such a small, 5 days old sprouted seed or seedling wield so much power?
Well let’s first dive into a crash course of the science behind sprouting!
All seeds comprise of 3 basic parts. The seed hull/coat, the endosperm and the embryo.
- The seed hull surrounds and protects both the endosperm and embryo.
- The endosperm surrounds the embryo and provides nutrition during the initial stages of growth. It consists primarily of starches, this is what is sought after in seeds like wheat and barley to make bread and beer etc.
- The embryo is the star of the show. It contains the earliest forms of the future plant’s roots, leaves and stem.
When seeds are soaked, the embryo cells are rehydrated, allowing them to duplicate. Enzymes are activated and respiration of oxygen begins. The starches in the endosperm begin getting converted into sugars, nourishing the embryo. This is why sprouts and microgreens are seemingly able to inexplicably grow with little to no external nutrients added. Their parent plant has done some excellent meal prepping and provided them with enough nourishment to make sure they won’t go hungry!
This enzyme driven breakdown of complex starches into simpler compounds is what makes sprouts so nutritious. They are essentially pre-digested, making them much easier for us to digest when compared to the dormant seed.
Vitamins are used by the seedling to metabolise food and heal it’s cells and they produce these very quickly to promote rapid growth. This is why sprouts and microgreens are known to be up to 20 to 30 times more vitamin dense within a few days of sprouting than the mature plant they would grow into.
So that’s the crash course in the fundamentals of sprouting and what’s going on when you sprout seeds and grow microgreens.
But how does this benefit my microbiome?
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two bacteria that are associated with beneficial effects on the microbiome and general human wellbeing.
In a 2013 study, (Pathak 2013), these bacteria were found to be vastly increased by the process of germination in seeds like lentils and mung beans. These bacteria occur naturally in healthy digestive systems and by ingesting and boosting their numbers in your gut you can promote a multitude of benefits.
- Improved immune response by increasing the expression of genes in the intestines (PMID: 20823239)
- Lactic acid produced by these bacteria can prevent harmful bacteria from thriving and can protect the lining of the intestinal tract. (PMID: 22254077)
- Can possibly prevent the progression of more serious diseases. (PMID: 22903218)
Sprouted seeds have been found to have increased levels of insoluble fibre, the kind of fibre that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive system.
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, kale and radish contain a collection of compounds that have been found to benefit certain gut bacteria and help alter bacterial community composition in your microbiome (PMID: 19640972). These vegetables contain compounds like glucosinolates and dietary fibre that can be utilised and fermented by a huge range of gut bug species.
In a recent human trial, researchers asked their subjects to eat 20g of raw broccoli sprouts every day for 4 weeks. Upon studying their stool samples, researchers found that the subjects that ingested broccoli sprouts passed stool easier, had a richer environment of microflora and experienced less oxidative stress which impairs regular defecation. (PMID: 29371757) Growing your own sprouts and microgreens can seem like a daunting and laborious task - we know, we once believed the same! In reality growing vegetables this way is not only incredibly easy, rewarding, fun and delicious - but regular and consistent use of a wide selection of sprouted seeds - from broccoli to lentils - can kick start a revolution in your gut that can benefit your entire body, life and wellbeing. Feed your gut bacteria and they will love you forever!
A wide variety of sprouting and microgreens are available on our website including our Good Gut Mix - a science backed mix of 10 different sprouting seeds - each specially selected by our friend the Good Gut Doc for having positive gut health impacts!