By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist.
What is Sprouting?
Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds to increase their bio-availability and nutrient density. You can sprout various foods including beans, grains, seeds, and some nuts. The process of sprouting involves soaking, rinsing and draining various times for several days. The time depends on the type of food and other environmental factors but typically takes a few days until a tail sprout appears.
Note: Most nuts won't physically sprout like other seeds such as sunflower seeds. The term sprouting is misleading and often used interchangeably with soaking or activating which is what is mostly done with nuts. Truly raw almonds and peanuts will sprout, but those that have been pasteurized and irradiated will "activate" with soaking, but will not physically "sprout".
In regards to nuts and seeds - once you have a sprout or nuts have been activated you can use them to cook any dish, make a plant-based milk right away or dehydrate in oven or dehydrator and use to make nut and seed butter or something else.
What effects does sprouting have?
Sprouting a seed does change its chemical composition significantly. In the presence of moisture and warmth, enzymes spring into action, breaking starches down into sugars, reconfiguring proteins into different proteins, producing vitamins and changing the chemical structure of minerals.
The top benefits are:
Are they better for you?
Most studies on sprouting involve grains, not nuts, but the effects are thought to be similar. Most experts agree that sprouting is good and will increase the nutrient profile of the food. The question is by how much? Do you need that much more nutrition from one food or can I get more nutrients from the rest of my diet?
For someone that has a sensitive gut or problems digesting certain foods, sprouting can be a good choice to help ease digestion of certain foods. Sprouting can provide some additional benefits but it's definitely not necessary for good health - choosing to sprout will depend on if it fits your lifestyle.
Note: Sprouts can be subject to contamination as the process creates an ideal environment for bacterial growth (salmonella, E. coli, listeria, etc.). Unfortunately, they are a frequent source of food poisoning so caution and careful hygiene are necessary when sprouting.
The Bottom Line
Sprouting takes soaking a step further, making a difference in the nutritional profile of the food. This does not mean it turns an unhealthy food into a healthy one but it does slightly boost the nutrient content of the food.
Sprouting is not possible with all varieties of nuts and occurs far more readily in seeds, legumes, and grains. However, nuts can be soaked or activated to destroy anti-nutrients such as phytic acid. But keep in mind that phytic acid is not all bad, it actually has health benefits such as antioxidant activity. For more information on this, take a look at the following article: "To Soak or Not to Soak - What's the Deal with Phytic Acid".
If you are interested in sprouting, then absolutely sprout! Pick and choose a few foods to sprout and eat in moderation. You will boost the nutritional value of the food you are sprouting, make it a bit easier for your digestion system and enjoy the sweet taste of sprouts, plus the fulfillment of preparing your own food.