What are the health claims and is there any evidence behind them?
Sprouted refers to the process of germination where seeds become seedlings. This process has been shown to significantly increase the quantity of antioxidants within the shoot1, compared with the dry seed.
Is this a good thing?
Although oxygen is essential to sustain human life, metabolic processes in the body naturally generate single oxygen molecules with unpaired electrons termed free radicals. These are known to be highly reactive and can damage lipids, proteins, DNA, and trigger a number of diseases and aging. Antioxidants are used to neutralise these free radicals. When the balance is shifted so that there are more free radicals, this is termed oxidative stress. Initially it was thought that supplementing antioxidants would be beneficial, and prevent damage by the free radicals. However, this has not been shown, instead synthetic antioxidant supplements might have a deleterious effect on health instead2.
Any other effects of germination?
In a limited panel of seeds, the germinated versions were found to have increased quantities of protein and phytochemicals while the total carbohydrates decreased from seeds to seedlings2. People with coeliac disease are allergic to gluten, specifically a protein called gliadin. Recently when whole wheat flour was germinated, the levels of gliadin were found to be significantly reduced by day 6 of germination3. While people with coeliac disease are unable to eat any gluten at all, other people with a gluten intolerance might find sprouted wheat more tolerable.
However, one problem with sprouted seeds is that they have been found to harbour low numbers of the bacteria Salmonellawhich may be linked to food poisoning outbreaks.
Germinating your own seeds
Germinating seeds is very easy and can easily be done at home. All you need is to wet the seeds so that they are damp but not soaking wet and place in a container. Leave in a warm place for a few days.
Sprouted / germinated seeds are a good way of boosting natural antioxidants and protein content, while sprouted wheat has less gluten and might be more tolerable for people with a gluten intolerance.
- Yashin, Y. I. et al.Creation of a databank for content of antioxidants in food products by an amperometric method. Molecules15,7450–7466 (2010).
2. Chandel, N. S. & Tuveson, D. A. The promise and perils of antioxidants for cancer patients. N Engl J Med371,177–178 (2014).
3. Butkutė, B., Taujenis, L. & Norkevičienė, E. Small-Seeded Legumes as a Novel Food Source. Variation of Nutritional, Mineral and Phytochemical Profiles in the Chain: Raw Seeds-Sprouted Seeds-Microgreens. Molecules24,133 (2018).
4. Boukid, F., Prandi, B., Vittadini, E., Francia, E. & Sforza, S. Tracking celiac disease-triggering peptides and whole wheat flour quality as function of germination kinetics. Food Res. Int.112,345–352 (2018).