An important tip for plant-based eating: sprouting nuts, seeds, and legumes for increased bioavailability
Have you ever experimented with a vegetarian or vegan diet?
Or perhaps, you aim to eat largely plant-based?
If so, have you ever wondered about getting adequate protein, or have you thought about the bioavailability of the protein, and other nutrients, in many vegan sources?
Protein from Plants
Peas, for example, are a decent source of protein, in fact, a half-cup cooked serving contains a similar amount of protein to an egg. They also are a good source of B vitamins including folate, along with minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, and a host of others.
Add to the list a variety of nuts and seeds, packed with healthy fat, protein, and some carbohydrate, and there are many options to combine for complete protein.
Although these sources individually contain protein, they are not sufficient in all of the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs). When they are matched with other vegetarian protein sources, though, they combine to supply the body with all of the EAAs.
Popular sources of complete protein from plant-based foods are peanut butter and toast, hummus and pita, and beans and rice. All of these foods can be sprouted, as part of their preparation, for further health benefit and ease of digestion.
Why sprout beans, legumes, and seeds?
Sprouting reduces antinutrients like phytate, enzyme inhibitors, and lectins.
Phytate is the natural storage form of phosphorus in the plant, and while it might seem that plant foods like legumes and grains are high in minerals, phytate blocks mineral absorption.
Since the phytate binds the minerals, the body does not digest or absorb them, meaning that you are actually consuming a significantly smaller amount than is listed on the label, unless the plant is sprouted.
Enzyme inhibitors inhibit your body’s digestive enzymes to prevent you from utilizing the macronutrient content of the plant.
For example, trypsin inhibitors present in legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds will prevent protein digestion.
When depending on plant-based foods for protein, it is crucial to maximize the nutrition to ensure all nutrients are used fully.
Lectins act as natural plant pesticides, inherent to grains and legumes, that protect against predators and will cause bloat and digestive discomfort after consumption.
All of these antinutrients block the absorption of minerals and reduce one’s ability to digest an otherwise nutrient-dense food. When sprouted, these antinutrients are reduced so that the body is able to make the most of all macro and micronutrients without the digestive discomfort that often comes from beans, legumes, etc.
Overall, sprouting helps maximize the nutrition of all nuts, seeds, grains, and other legumes in many ways.
Preparing Plant-Based Foods
Do you have questions about how to prepare grains, seeds, legumes, and beans?
There are many quality online resources for getting started with at-home sprouting, but Maybe this seems like a daunting and time-consuming task.
Preparing these foods in the traditional way does take more time, but the trade off is definitely worth it.
Thankfully, for ease and convenience, many grocery stores and health food stores are stocking their shelves with sprouted options as well. We get the most from our vegetarian and vegan foods we prepare them traditionally and properly!
Hunter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Reformed Nutrition, LLC. He is a Certified LEAP Therapist, a specialist in food sensitivities and gut healing. He also works with competitive athletes, those looking to gain strength, lose weight, and restore health, as well as families and student groups. He loves strength training, Whole Foods, farming/gardening, healthy fats, and pasture-raised animal products.