Sprouted is the only way I eat lentils and any other legumes by that matter. In its sprouted form, lentils and legumes have the highest nutritional value. A popular protein source for vegetarians, legumes contain anti-nutrients such as phytates, lectins and trypsin inhibitors. All these anti-nutrients are neutralised by the sprouting process.
Sprouting neutralises anti-nutrients
Here is why you should care about neutralising anti-nutrients: phytate, or phytic acid, prevents proper absorption of zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium. Let’s say you eat lentils for their high iron content thinking how balanced your diet is. Unfortunately, you may still be getting deficient because the minerals don’t absorb properly because of the phytic acid.
Lectin has been found to increase inflammation, which is something you don’t want especially if you are trying to get rid of some health problems.
Trypsin inhibitors in legumes reduce the activity of trypsin, an enzyme that helps with digestion of proteins. So again you are eating legumes for their high protein content but it doesn’t get digested and absorbed properly because of the trypsin inhibitors.
The sprouting process creates enzymes, large molecules that catalyse biological processes. They make you digest and utilise the nutrients in what you eat better, which is exactly what you want. Raw food contains enzymes naturally but even mild cooking destroys them. Interestingly enough, the concentration of active enzymes for example in fruit decreases with time. The longer you store it, for example for transportation, the more the amount of enzymes decreases.
By sprouting lentils, you create your own little garden in a bowl that gives you access to perfectly fresh enzymes.
If you compare nutritional profiles for sprouted and cooked lentils, you will find that 100 grams of cooked lentils contains only 1.5mg of vitamin C (2 per cent of the recommended daily value) while the same amount of sprouted lentils contains 16.5 micrograms of vitamin C (28 per cent of the recommended daily value. You can hardly overdo it with vitamin C, so why not have some more?). Some B vitamins also seem to be slightly higher in the sprouted version.
How to sprout lentils?
Sprouting lentils is honestly the simplest thing ever. There is absolutely no need to buy anything sprouted from a health food store. A packet of good quality organic lentil seeds, from which you can create several batches of sprouts at your own convenience, will cost you less than a packet of sprouts from a store.
When you sprout them yourself, you know exactly how old they are, which is quite important, since you want your sprouts when they are just right.
The sprouts are usually best after three days of sprouting. If left longer they become less tasty. Sprouts are also reportedly prone to bacterial contamination, which is why you want to consume them within a few days. It’s better to sprout smaller amounts that can be eaten within three or so days.
So here is how I do it (some people may have more complex procedures but this works just fine for me): I take a plastic container and cover the bottom with the lentils. Don’t fill it too much. I would say a 1 or 2 cm layer of lentils shall be just fine. I fill the whole container with water so that all the seeds are completely submerged. I keep it like this for 24 hours and keep checking whether the seeds have not drunk all the water, in which case you need to add some more.
After 24 hours I remove the water and rinse the lentils properly in a sieve. In winter I usually keep the covered container on the kitchen counter but if your house is too warm or in summer months it’s better to keep it in the fridge. The sprouting is slower but it doesn’t rot. I keep rinsing the lentils 2 to 3 times a day, always removing all the water, so that the lentils are kept nicely wet.
After three days the sprouts will be perhaps half a centimetre long. This is when they taste the best. Like fresh green peas. I usually mix them with some seeds. Sunflower seeds are my favourite in this combination. This way you also add a different type of plant-based protein, which is quite important since plant-based proteins are incomplete and need to be combined.
100 grams of sprouted lentils covers approximately 20 per cent of your recommended daily dose of protein.
You can also sprout chickpeas, mung beans and all other types of beans but lentils are my absolutely favourite.