Foods with super­pow­ers: how healthy are seeds and sprouts?

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Whether as a topping to a salad, a tasty bread ingredient, an addition to your morning muesli or a simple snack to nibble on – everyone knows that kernels and seeds are healthy. But what happens when seeds develop into sprouts? Find out how healthy they really are.

The superpowers of seeds and kernels

They may look small and insignificant, but they are packed with nutrients. Seeds and kernels, from which sprouts germinate, are rich in protein, healthy fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals. And the best thing is: to benefit from these nutrients, you aren't obliged to use seeds from overseas.

Local seeds and kernels

It doesn't always have to be trendy chia seeds: native species of seeds and kernels are also packed with healthy nutrients.

Sunflower seeds

Not only are they high on flavour, the health benefits they provide are nu­mer­ous too. Eating sunflower seeds is said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and positively impact blood sugar levels at the same time.

Pumpkin seeds

These small kernels pack a punch: pumpkin seeds not only contain vitamin E, unsaturated fatty acids and mood-lifting antioxidants, they also improve cholesterol levels. This is due to the phytosterols they contain, which inhibit the formation of cholesterol.

Flaxseed

Rich in fibre and folic acid, these seeds are not to be underestimated. The folic acid in flaxseed enables cells to divide and form, while the fibre keeps blood sugar levels in check.

Hemp seeds

This superfood scores highly with its protein content, as the seeds consist of as much as one third protein. They also contain iron, zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Good news for allergy-sufferers: hemp seeds are free of gluten and lactose. And they make particularly good ingredients for muesli, yoghurts and smoothies.

What are sprouts?

People often serve sprouts in the tra­di­tion­al way: in salads or as a topping to soups. But what are they exactly? Sprouts are nothing more than a devel­op­men­tal stage of the plant or vege­ta­ble. It's the phase between seed and young plant – the sprouting seed, in other words.

Part of the seedling

Sprouts are often called seedlings, but this isn't quite correct. The technical description of a seedling is the complete, small plant – including roots. Strictly speaking, sprouts are only the green parts of the seedling that can be seen on the surface of the soil.

What makes sprouts a superfood

It is the germination process that makes the nutrients contained in sprouts better digestible for the human body than the nutrients in seeds. During this process, the carbohydrates contained in the seeds are rigorously broken down, resulting in a lower calorie count. At the same time, the vitamin concentration increases rapidly – as does the fibre content. Sprouts are therefore bursting with vitality and have rightly earned their place as a foodie trend.

Grow sprouts yourself

In the meantime, these superfoods have become available to buy in almost every food shop. But you can also easily grow sprouts yourself – on your windowsill. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseed or cress, for example, are all suitable candidates. Sprouts can also be grown from grains (e.g. oats, millet, rye) or radishes, broccoli and lentils.

Nightshade plants such as toma­toes, peppers or potatoes aren't suitable for growing sprouts. The solanine they contain makes them mildly poisonous to humans.

Grow sprouts in a jar

Whether radish, chickpea, mung bean or lentil sprouts: many different types of sprouts can be easily grown in a sprout jar. Only when it comes to very small seeds is this method not suitable.

The sprout jar looks similar to a preserving jar – except for the lid, which is punctuated with a lot of small holes. The lid serves as a sieve and ensures that there is enough air in the jar. The jar can be tilted thanks to an adjustment ele­ment so that excess water can run off. Sprout jars are generally readily available in health food stores or online. But if you don't want to buy one, you can also make one yourself – there are numerous instructions for this on the internet.

Instructions for growing sprouts

  1. Put 1 to 2 tablespoons of seeds in a sieve and rinse with water.
  2. Place the seeds in the sprouting jar and cover with double the amount of water.
  3. Soak the seeds for between 1 and 8 hours (more detailed information can be found on the seed packet).
  4. After soaking, discard the seeds that have not swelled and the empty shells.
  5. Put the remaining seeds back in the jar, screw the lid on and place the jar at a tilt; this will enable the excess water to drain off.
  6. Rinse the sprouts with fresh water at least twice a day.
  7. Harvest: after 2 to 3 days, some seed varieties are already edible; other varieties may take 3 to 7 days. Here, too, it’s important to read the packet instructions carefully.

Grow sprouts on kitchen paper

As an alternative to glass, you can also grow smaller sprouts on paper. It’s important to use kitchen paper that is neither coloured nor perfumed. Place the paper in a baking dish or other shallow container and then moisten it with water. Spread the seeds on it. Regular watering is also important with this method. After a few days, the fresh sprouts should be ready for harvesting.

How to minimise the risk of germ formation

Unfortunately, eating sprouts isn't completely harmless. This is because the conditions created during sprout cul­ti­va­tion also promote bacterial growth. The following steps can help prevent bacterial growth.

  • Quality: it's best to use organic seeds or seeds intended for sprout cultivation – i.e. untreated seeds.
  • Environment: a cool room temperature of 18 to 20 degrees is optimal. By no means warmer.
  • Hygiene: the sprout jar and all other utensils must be thoroughly cleaned before use to prevent germ formation.
  • Watering: it is essential to rinse the seeds regularly.
  • Blanching: this is advisable to reduce the risk of germ formation.
  • Mould: do the sprouts smell mouldy? Then get rid of them immediately.

There is no absolute guarantee for preventing germ formation. People with a weakened immune system, seniors, small children and pregnant women should refrain from eating sprouts.

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