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Sprouting grains a healthier option

Packed with nutrients and easy to digest, sprouts are slowly finding their way to the dining table in many households

Ideally, legumes that is beans, rice, lentils are consumed when dry and in cooked form. But it turns out there is another way of eating seeds and grains; in sprouted form. The simple act of sprouting seeds before eating them has been proven to harbour numerous dietary and health benefits. Sprouted seeds have higher nutritional benefits and are easily digestible.

The practice of sprouting foods, which is common in Asian countries such as India, is slowly being embraced in Kenyan households. Anthony Kahonge, a chef has been sprouting his legumes for the past four years. He attests to deriving several nutritional benefits from the practice. Flax, chia, rice and mung beans ‘ndengu’ are some of the grains that he sprouts before consumption.

They are then eaten after being cooked lightly or while raw in salads or in smoothies. Legumes are a common source of intestinal gas. “Sprouting, which is essentially germinating seeds makes them easy to digest enabling the body to derive optimum nutritional benefits from them,” notes Kahonge. This is because the complex sugars responsible for bloating get broken down during the process of sprouting.

The process also increases content of minerals available in seeds such as calcium, omega acids and iron. Sprouting reduces the amount of phytic acid, which slows down absorption of minerals. Consuming sprouted seeds gives the body higher energy content compared to the normal seeds. “There is a rush of energy I feel when I drink mung beans smoothie, which I do regularly,” attests Kahonge.

As seeds are in the process of growth through sprouting, they accumulate higher levels of energy, which benefits the body after their consumption. Apart from consuming the sprouted seeds in form of a smoothie as Kahonge prefers to do once in a while, they can be eaten after cooking them lightly or raw in salads.

In India where the practice of sprouting is prevalent, doctors recommend mung bean sprouts to athletes due to their high nutritional value. Other seeds that can be sprouted are beans, millet, pumpkin, peas and sunflower.

The chef, who is also a cook book author started sprouting seeds for consumption after watching a YouTube video of a woman that had derived incredible results from the practice. “She was a 70-year-old American woman, but looked half her age. She attributed her youthfulness and good health to juicing and eating sprouted food, among other things.

Apart from incorporating sprouts in his daily diet, Kahonge runs a blog that focuses on healthy eating. The process of sprouting takes roughly three to four days. “It involves soaking the seeds of choice in cold water overnight.

I then rinse them and drain them using a sieve in intervals of 10 hours until they begin to sprout,” he says. It’s advisable to completely dry the seeds to avoid moulds from growing and fermentation from taking place. Great precautions should, therefore, be taken during the preparation process to ensure that the seeds do not cause harm to the body. If contaminated, sprouted legumes pose a serious health concern.

The moist conditions necessary for sprouting legumes are favourable for the breeding of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella that cause infectious diseases. One study in the US showed that sprout contamination was responsible for illness in over 2,500 people and 186 hospitalisation and three deaths in the past two decades. Sprouts that are eaten raw in salads are the most common sources of disease outbreaks.

Bacteria in contaminated food can be eliminated by thoroughly cooking them. “I advise people to only eat freshly sprouted seeds or those that they have sprouted on their own to avoid cases of food poisoning,” he says.

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