Dr JV Hebbar
Sprouting is the process in which seeds and legumes are soaked in water for many hours. This leads to germination and breaking open of the outer skin of seeds causing a young shoot to grow. Though sprouting is famous as a way to improve nutrition, Ayurveda offers some precautionary insights.
Ayurveda has references for usage of sprouted seeds, legumes, leaves etc. in food and treatments.
Hard for digestion
The Ayurvedic community is divided over the benefits and downsides of using sprouts in diet. Some Ayurveda doctors opine that germination and sprouting of seeds makes the ingredient harder for digestion and may not be suitable for consumption.
Sprouting tends to increase the concentration of protein, fat and fiber (research) and carbohydrates (research). Usually protein and fiber rich foods are considered hard to digest, so this theory holds some value.
Qualities of Rice Ayurveda Mahodadhi
The grains which have been sown, grown and harvested are of first class quality.
The grains which are Chinnodbhava in nature (able to grow even if cut or harvested) are madhyamam (mediocre)
The grains that were avāpitaṃ (the sprouts of rice, planted as such as against the usual process of sowing of seeds), when grown and harvested is adhama (with bad or degraded quality).
Charaka Sutrasthana 27th chapter
Except the sprouts of Vetra (Salix caprea Linn), Guduchi (Tinospora Coridifolia Miers) and leaves of Patola – pointed gourd, all bitter substances generally aggravate Vata and are un-aphrodisiac (Avrushya). This implies that leaf sprouts of Salix caprea, Guduchi and pointed gourd are bitter and aphrodisiac in nature.
Sushruta Samhita Sutrasthana 6th chapter
Medical plants and cereals sprout during the rains and are diluted and weak in their properties. This is largely due to the excess water entering and diluting the grains. This also gives a hint that sprouts grown in other seasons were used commonly for their nutritional properties.
Sushruta Sutrasthana 20th chapter – Meat (blood, fat, marrow) of animal livings in marshy lands, and water (aquatic living beings such as fish) , should not be consumed combined with freshly harvested grains, sprouted grains, muscle fat, honey , milk, jaggery and black gram.
Sprouts of leaves are used extensively in Ayurvedic treatment Ashtanga Hrudaya Uttara Sthana 34th chapter
Sprouts or tender shoots of jamun plant, mango, jasmine, Gorakhmundi (Sphaeranthus indicus), Teramnus labialis, boswellia, etc. are boiled in water to prepare decoction or herbal oil. This is used for washing the non healing wounds.
Kaiyadeva Nighantu –
Sprout of Pongamia is useful in inflammation, poisoning, worm infestation and skin diseases. This matches with the original benefits of Pongamia and its oil.
Sprouts of ginger balance down Kapha Dosha and are useful in blood vitiation disorders.
Side effects as per Ayurveda
Sprouted grains can lead to diarrhea (Ashtanga Hrudaya Nidana Sthana 8th chapter, 2nd Verse)
kṛśa śuṣkāmiṣa asātmya tilapiṣṭa virūḍhakaiḥ – eating meat which is emaciated and dry, unaccustomed foods, puddings of sesame seeds, sprouted grains.
This can be attributed to uncooked sprouted grains. Uncooked sprouts are associated with E coli infection (see below)
Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 8/40-41
Foods that should not be consumed habitually – germinated grains, dried vegetables, solid part of curds, sweet dairy products etc.
Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana 18th chapter – eating germinated corn, when the digestion strength is weak, after Panchakarma can lead to inflammatory disorders.
Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana 27/267 – Germinated barley is difficult to digest.
Charaka Samhita, Chikitsa Sthana 1/2 – Pranakamiya chapter –
Viruda Nava Shooka Shami Dhanya – Germinated cereals and pulses, freshly harvested corns with bristles and pulses consumption of these can cause diseases or defects in the body.
Charaka Chikitsa Sthana 14/9 – Excess consumption of germinated corns and pulses can lead to aggravation of Apana Vata, leading to hemorrhoids.
Germination and fermentation of cereals and legumes improve the bioavailability of iron by reducing the content of phytate, a substance in food that inhibits iron absorption. (Research)
Broccoli sprouts – Broccoli sprouts consist of sulforaphane, a compound which may be effective against H. pylori. It has been found to reduce gastric inflammation and lowers bacteria colonization in the stomach. Its antibacterial role has also been studied. (research)
Another study has warned that using raw uncooked sprouts can be contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella also happen to thrive. (research)
It is fine to use sprouted grains and seeds in your diet.
It can be a food to consume once in a while, in moderate quantities but as per Ayurveda, it is not to be used on a daily basis. Increased amounts of proteins and fats need not always translate to increased health benefits.
It is best to avoid consuming them raw and use them after cooking.
Because they are richer in nutrition compared to normal grains and seeds, the digestion strength should be strong enough to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients. If you have weak digestion strength, it is good to cook the sprouts with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper etc. to make them easier to digest.
Rather than making the whole meal just out of sprouted seeds and legumes, it can be a small part of your meal plate.