Ask the RD
Question: Is there a nutritional benefit to sprouting beans or other seeds?
Answer: While I don’t want to discourage you from eating nutritious beans and seeds that haven’t been sprouted, sprouting or germinating seeds does change their nutritional profile and make them more digestible. All kinds of seeds make delicious sprouts.
- grains like whole-wheat berries, brown rice, quinoa and millet;
- legumes like peanuts, mung beans, black-eyed peas and lentils;
- small seeds like sesame seeds; and
- vegetable seeds like broccoli, kale, radish and mustard.
When seeds are hydrated with water, they begin to grow into tiny plants, and changes in the seeds alter their nutrition. Sprouting increases protein, fiber, calcium and vitamin C in legumes; decreases the carbohydrate content; and reduces anti-nutrients, including phytic acid, which interferes with mineral absorption (Devi, Kushwaha & Kumar 2015).
Sprouted beans and other legumes have lower levels of indigestible carbohydrates (oligosaccharides) and may have fewer gassy side effects (Messina 2014). Sprouted grains may also be more digestible for those with carbohydrate intolerance. Phytochemicals and antioxidants, including many phenolic compounds, are higher in germinated legumes (Khang et al. 2016).
Besides the added nutritional value, sprouts may influence biomarkers like blood lipids. A small study of people with overweight or obesity and type 2 diabetes found that eating 60 grams (about 2 ounces) of lentil sprouts daily for 8 weeks resulted in lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and higher HDL (good cholesterol)—important improvements in blood lipids (Aslani et al. 2015).
If you try sprouting at home, pay attention to food safety. Seeds should first be heated in a solution of water and peroxide and then sprouted in a clean, sanitized container. Remember that bacteria like the same warm, moist environment that sprouts like. You can purchase certified pathogen-free seeds (Suslow & Harris 2004), and you can also buy many varieties of sprouts in the supermarket.
Sprouted grains and beans can star in amazing hearty salads or co-star in green salads. They can go into everything from omelets to soups. Sprouted radish or mustard-green seeds pack a ton of flavor into a tiny sprout. Use peppery handfuls of them to take your workday sandwich to a new level.