Ayurveda, an ancient science, has long emphasized the benefits of consuming sprouted foods. In today’s day and age, sprouting is considered a revolution in the food industry. While sprouts are undoubtedly nutritional powerhouses, do you know how to consume them to best reap their benefits? More importantly, did you know that sprouted foods have different effects on your body's constitution (dosha)? Keep reading to learn more about Ayurveda’s perspective on consuming sprouts and how you can make sure your body is making the most of them.
Seeds support a plant's life. While we consume various lentils, grains, and legumes regularly, many of us don’t stop to realize that these are seeds too. As rich sources of fiber, calcium, vitamins A & C, potassium, and phosphorus, sprouts have innumerable nutritional benefits. Soaking these seeds in water for several hours triggers germination, which breaks open the seeds' outer protective skin, causing a young sprout to grow from within.
If you look at this through an Ayurvedic lens, sprouting causes the energy stored within the seed to come to life, indicating the presence of prana (a vital force of life). Prana-rich foods are believed to be sattvic (pure, balanced, and harmonious).
Research shows that the very act of sprouting causes an increase in proteins, vitamins, starches, and omega fatty acids, among others. It also causes the seeds to transform from acidic to alkaline, thereby scraping mucous from the gut and enhancing digestive activity. Among the many benefits of sprouts include:
Strengthened immune system with the presence of vitamins C and A
Reduced acidity since sprouts are alkalizing to the body
A rich source of antioxidants, thereby improving overall immunity and eyesight
Improved heart health with the presence of omega-3 fatty acids
Better vision owing to vitamin A
Weight loss due to a high amount of fiber
Improved blood circulation and the elimination of toxins (ama) from the body and maintenance of red blood cells
Aids better and healthier hair growth with boosted sebum production owing to the presence of zinc and vitamin A
Relief from cold sores due to antioxidants, silica, and vitamin C
Reduced allergic reactions due to high levels of omega-3, bioflavonoids, and antioxidants
A good source of protein, especially for vegetarians
Sprouts may be rich in nutrients, but Ayurveda has an interesting take on the consumption of sprouts. The ancient study of human well-being says that sprouts need to be consumed in accordance with an individual’s bodily constitution and overall health condition. Therefore, sprouts may not be the best for everyone.
For instance, according to Ayurvedic texts, the human body may have a tough time breaking down the nutrients within sprouts and digesting them. Moreover, sprouts are also rich in phytic acid, a naturally occurring anti-nutrient that inhibits our body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals. In particular, those with weaker digestion (agni) may notice the impact of anti-nutrients in the form of bloating, gas, and indigestion.
Raw or uncooked sprouts may also cause food poisoning in people with compromised immunity, including the elderly and children. They may also be vectors for E. coli which can aggravate gastrointestinal issues and piles. To combat this, Ayurveda recommends cooking or boiling sprouts before consumption.
Since sprouts are astringent or Kashya Rasa in taste, they are generally not recommended for those with a vitiated Vata. The consumption of raw sprouts can further aggravate the Vata.
Ayurveda recommends considering the following tips while adding sprouts to one’s diet:
Avoid consuming raw sprouts
Raw foods are often known to house several bacteria. Add to this the warmth and humidity required for germination. Moreover, as sprouts are midway between seeds and plants, Ayurveda believes this makes it difficult to digest their various nutrients. A simple solution to both these issues is steaming or cooking sprouts to kill the presence of any bacteria as well as make the inherent nutrients more digestible, and adding spices to cooked sprouts further aids digestion.
Do not mix sprouts with other protein sources
Protein-rich foods require both time and energy to be digested and absorbed by the body. Combining multiple protein food sources leads to improper digestion as both require different digestion times.
Avoid eating sprouts every day
During the germinative phase, seeds require a high level of energy or heat for the chemical changes to take place within. When consumed in large quantities and daily, the digestion of sprouts increases the internal body temperature, which may lead to indigestion, constipation, dry stools, or even hemorrhoids. Sprouts are most beneficial when consumed once or twice a week.
Stay away from sprouts if you have a weak digestive system
People with weakened digestion, including children, pregnant women, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals, should avoid sprouts. They may experience hernias, bloating, indigestion, flatulence, and abdominal pain by consuming sprouts, as it is difficult for their bodies to break down the nutrients.
Less is more
Sprouts are most beneficial in your diet when they are included as a small part of the meal instead of the entire meal. Consuming them with a plate full of other nutrient-rich foods is key to maintaining overall well-being.
Ayurveda places great emphasis on disease prevention, which can be attained by balancing prakriti or one’s life energies. This is known as dosha and is governed by Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (earth). In the body, the unique ratio of these three elements determines an individual’s constitution, and every dosha controls a different part of our body and mind. Ayurveda believes that dosha imbalances determine how our bodies utilize energy and how we should consume food. The same goes for the consumption of sprouts.
Body constitution: For the air or ether-dominated Vata individual, Vata-pacifying foods include those that are soft, warm, and mushy and seasoned with various oils and spices. Individuals with Vata prakriti or Vata disorders are generally not encouraged to consume raw sprouted foods. This is because the kashya rasa (astringent taste) makes it difficult to digest. Ayurveda also believes that sprouts are known to increase Vata, thereby causingbloating, the formation of ama (toxins) and intra-cellular inflammation.
Consumption of Sprouts: Those withdominant or vitiated Vata should only eat sprouts after simmering or cooking them. This helps facilitate the breakdown of nutrients and digestion. Adding rock salt, ginger powder, and sesame oil or seeds further counter adverse effects on digestion. Sprouts may be consumed once or twice a week.
READ MORE: Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Body constitution: Individuals with a Pitta prakriti are known to have excellent digestion and a warm body temperature as they are governed predominantly by the element of fire. Therefore these people can consume sprouts both in the raw and cooked form as it is easy for them to digest and absorb nutrients.
Consumption of Sprouts: To maximize health benefits, those with a Pitta dosha can consume sprouts anytime during daylight hours in raw forms such as salads or even cooked. Avoid fermented sprouts.
READ MORE: Pitta Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Body constitution: Kapha-dominated individuals are governed by the earth and water elements. Therefore, lightly cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables, including sprouts, work well for them. More importantly, dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) are preferable over moist cooking, such as steaming, boiling, or poaching.
Consumption of Sprouts: Sprouted foods benefit those with a Kapha prakritiafter lightly cooking them. Kapha balancing spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, garam masala, and black pepper further aid digestion and provide nutritional benefits. Sprouts should be consumed following exercise or a workout.
READ MORE: Kapha Diet: Everything You Need To Know
While each dosha has a unique effect on the body, consuming the right foods and maintaining dosha-balancing lifestyle choices can help you stay hale and hearty. To understand this better, consider taking the free dosha test.
Easy to grow, cost-effective, and vibrant, sprouts may be nature's nutritionally packed storehouses and are a wonder of life. Known to be categorized as superfoods, sprouts have brought about a revolutionary change in the food industry. These skinny little veggies are aptly filled with many nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that can help aid your well-being. However, remember to consume sprouts in limitation and only according to your health condition and dosha type to help your body reap the maximum benefit.
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