Eat Grain Sprouts for Better Health

HealthNutritionPost-harvest activities


Eating grain sprouts improves your diet and stretches your budget at the same time.

Like dry grain, grain sprouts, also simply called “sprouts” contain protein, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins A and B.

But sprouts also contain vitamin C, which is missing in the dry grain. You need vitamin C to protect yourself against infections and to help heal wounds. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron which is also necessary for good health, especially for women. It helps keep the blood vessels strong, particularly the tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Vitamin C helps in many other ways to keep the body healthy. Everyone needs Vitamin C every day.

Unfortunately some people don’t get enough of this important vitamin. Vitamin C is found in large amounts in fresh fruits, such as guavas, guyabano, star fruit, Surinam cherries, Barbados cherries and especially citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. But most people don’t eat enough fresh fruits to meet their need for vitamin C. Eating sprouted grain will fill at least part of this need.

So sprouts are certainly nutritious. They are also easy to digest. Sometimes, eating dry grain legumes such as chickpeas can cause gas. But sprouted chickpeas won’t cause this problem. Sprouting breaks down certain substances in the dry grain which can cause gas.

The grain, of course, is the seed which will grow into a new plant. The mature, dry seed contains all the food that the seedling will need for the first days of its life. The seedling lives on this food until it grows roots and new leaves and can make its own food. If you watch a bean seed growing into a plant, you will notice that what look like its first leaves are really the two halves of the bean seed. You will also notice that these seed leaves get smaller and smaller every day. This is because the growing seedling is absorbing the nutrients from the seed leaves.

When the seed is soaked in water and starts sprouting, the food stored in it changes into a form that the baby plant can easily absorb. We too can absorb the nutrients in this form easily. This is why sprouted grain is easy to digest. Some kinds of sprouts can even be fed to babies. In fact, in India, sprouted mung bean is used to make a nutritious baby food.

What kind of sprouts can you eat? Almost any whole grain that you can eat in its dry form can also be sprouted. Cereals such as wheat and barley can be sprouted. You can also sprout grain legumes such as kidney beans, lablab beans, mung beans, cowpeas, and chickpeas.

Caution 1. Do not use seed treated with poison, such as fungicides, which is sold for planting. Use only seed meant for eating.

2. Do not eat sprouted sorghum; some people say it is poisonous! Try to have sprouts once or twice a week. Of course you must continue to eat the dry grain as well. The sprouts cannot replace it.

How to sprout grain

You do not need any special tools or skills to sprout grain. Just remember that the grain needs tree things to sprout; moisture, warmth and air. Different kinds of grain take different periods to sprout. Mung beans sprout quickly in less than a day.

Chickpeas, wheat, and other grains with thick seed coats take two or three days. The sprouting time also depends on the weather. Grains sprout much faster in warm, humid weather than in cold weather. Usually, the sprouts are ready when they are 2 to 5 millimetres long. If you experiment a little, you’ll find that sprouting grain is easy.

Let’s say, for example, that you are sprouting cowpeas. Here’s what to do.

Step 1:
Take half the amount of cowpeas that you would usually cook for your family. Remember the grain will almost double in bulk when you soak and sprout it. Clean the grain, removing any bad seeds or stones.

Step 2:
Wash the cowpeas and put them in a pot; an earthen pot is best. Pour enough water into the pot to completely cover the cowpeas. The water should be at least 2 centimetres above the cowpeas. Cover the pot with a lid or clean cloth and leave it in a warm, but not hot, place overnight.

Step 3:
Next morning drain off any extra water. Don’t throw out this water; use it to water your vegetable plants. Spread a clean cloth in a shallow earthen pot or basket. Pour the soaked cowpeas into it. Fold the corners of the cloth over to completely cover the cowpeas or tie into a loose bundle. Place a stone or other weight on top to hold the cloth in place. Leave this in a warm place for 24 hours. Make sure the cloth is kept moist but not wet.

Step 4:
On the second morning, open the cloth and check. If the cowpeas have sprouts 1 to 2 millimetres long, they are ready to eat.

An even easier way to sprout grain, though it might take a little longer, is this. Soak the grain in water, warm water if possible, for an hour. Thoroughly wet a clean gunny sack or other thick, coarse cloth. Wring it out so that it is moist but not dripping wet and spread it out. Spread the soaked grain across one half of the sack. Fold over the other half to cover the grain. Make sure you keep the sack moist until the grain sprouts.

That’s all there is to it!

Save a little of the sprouted grain to eat raw, if you can. Cook the rest as you like. It cooks faster than the dry grain, so be sure you do not overcook it. Overcooking destroys some of the nutrients. If you drain off the water in which you cook the sprouts, don’t throw it away! Use it in soup or for mixing dough. It is nutritious.

Sprouting grain is also a good way to make food stretch. One handful of dried grain will swell and become two handfuls or more when you sprout it. Because sprouted grain cooks more quickly than the dry grain, you also save on cooking time and cooking fuel. So, adding grain sprouts to your diet makes sense for your health and for your budget. Eat grain sprouts as often as you can.

Information sources

Dr. P.D. Bidinger, Director of Research, Institute for Rural Health Studies, 703 Mount Kailash, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500 034,India.

This script was prepared by Vrinda Kumble, ecs editorial consultants, Pune, India.

Other information sources about sprouting grain

  • “How to make mungbeans sprout”, in IRETA’s South Pacific Agricultural News, Vol. 8, No. 8, August 1990, published by the Institute for Research, Extension and Training in Agriculture, USP Alafua, Private Mail Bag, Apia, Western Samoa.
  • “Sprouts fresh organic vegetables 365 days a year” in Food Gardens Foundation Letter, #66, Spring 1992, P.O. Box 41250 Craighall, Johannesburg 2024, South Africa.
  • Everything’s coming up sprouts, by Royce Carl, International Food Storage Association, 5806 114th N.E., Kirkland, WA 98033.
  • Soil Growth of Sprouts for Eating by Eileen Weinsteiger. Horticulture Department, Organic Gardening and Farming Research Centre, Rodale Press Inc., Emmaus, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.