Sprouting & Soaking: What is it & Why do it (& is it just for Hippies)

Aug 6, 2014 | Nutrition


Sprouting has been on my radar for well over a year now. I have read about how beneficial it is for while but it has taken me this long to actually start doing it. So before I let you know the what and whys of soaking and sprouting its important to share the following first.

I am all about be crazily and radically healthy. Going against the grain (literally!) and taking a radical approach to health and well being. . But there is a whole wealth of information, ideas, things you really ‘should be doing otherwise you will be so unhealthy!‘ That it can seem a bit overwhelming.
Going at your own pace is so key to creating a super naturally healthy life. Sure your friend may be a kefir and sprouting fanatic but if the thought of you’re doing it makes you want to hide under a pile of dairy milk wrappers then don’t bother ! You have to follow your own rules and listen to your own body.

For me this has been so true in the area of sprouting my seeds and legumes. With following GAPS diet, going grain free about 1.5 years ago, moving house and geographic location, starting a new business and new jobs , buying a flat and starting life from scratch, the idea of sprouting seeds and beans felt too much as I thought I would end up throwing beans at my husband or my poor house plants.

You see there are millions of things out there that will do you good, but you can get super stressed (the arch-enemy of health) if you try and do them all at once and don’t respect your stage of life and circumstance . Health can be an instant miracle but it is usually a day to day process of choices that needs to be sustainable for life. 

So back onto the topic at hand – sprouting.


Basically it is allowing seed, legumes and nuts to ‘come alive’ and begin to grow . It means you soak them for a long period of time (4-24 hours) and they allow them to follow there natural ‘programming’. You basically activate the plant within them.

The image above is an example of sprouted mung beans and is a good example or little shoots being formed.


Phytic Acid

Think of any pulse, seed or nut as a fountain of nutrients. They have everything in them to create life and beauty. Sunflower seeds have everything in them to create the glorious sunflowers that adorn our gardens but all this goodness is locked away in the seed to protect them from any predators and to stop it being wasted. They contain an enxyme inhibitor can phtyic acid which prevents any of its goodness being wasted unless the right environment is given.

ONE  of my heroes Sally Fallon explain more about Phytic acid in her amazing book nourishing tradition (I highly reccomned it !)

Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, clocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. 
(Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon Morell, Pg 25)

So this explains why so many people find they get bloated, gassy or feel uncomfortable after eating large amounts of beans, nuts or seeds. Its because our bodies find it really difficult to digest and this is especially true if you have a damaged gut. While I was on the GAPS diet I didn’t eat any lentils or beans for about 6 months until my body could tolerate them!

Not only are they difficult to digest, when un soaked we are rendering all their nutrient dense goodness useless. But to make it worse the presence of phytic acid and other factors present can rob our bodies of potential nutrients in food we eat along side them!

Who knew a lentil was such a tricky customer!

The process of soaking and the sprouting activates the seed/nut uses up the majority of the phytic acid and transforming it into more of a living plant.

More Alkalising

Foods we eat have an acidic or alkalising effect on our body. Meat, sugars, grains and legumes are normally acidic whilst vegetables are alkalising (simply put) and surprise surprise our diets are often far too acid forming which many believe can lead to an abundance of health problems. Sprouting your grains nuts and legumes means that you are essentially activating it ‘plant’ properties making a far more alkaline food to eat which therefore promotes greater health.

Increases Nutrient Density

As Sally Fallon say again

“The process of germination not only produces vitamin C, but also changes the composition of grains and seeds in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Carotene increases dramatically sometimes even eightfold.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg 112

So when your sprout you get more bang for your bean! Always a good thing in my book.


Basically you just soak your said item in salty water (or add some raw apple cider vinegar) for 4-24 hours depending on type (see the handy image below – source unknown) and then leave in a dark cool but not cold place until shoots have grown. I tend to put mine in a cast iron pot with a lid and rinse at the end of a day and I keep them   out of direct sunlight.

The sprouting can take anything from 4 hours (red lentils) to 2 days (mung beans) so you  need to rinse them once  day at least. The general rule is the bigger the item the longer it will need to soak and sprout and vice versa.soakandsprout

It really is easy and totally worth experimenting with. To begin with I recommend trying sunflower seeds, chick peas and mung beans as I have had success with them even when I have forgotten about them and not bothered to rinse them!

Then it just a case of eating them if it seeds like sunflower or chia or it is a bean or lentil cooking them until soft. Some people eat raw sprouted beans and lentils but I still think that makes it hard on the stomach so I always try to cook mine in a slow cooker for 8 hours or over night until very soft.

So step by step:

  • Cover you beans/lentils/seeds in salty filtered water and leave for 4- 24 hours depending on chart below or size
  • Drain and place in pot with a lid and leave on the side at room temperature, rinsing daily until sprouts have appears. If you live in a very hot climate you may need to rinse more often.
  • Eat if it is a seed or nut (or juice or dehydrate!) or cook for 8 hours or until soft.

If you have more questions I highly recommend Sally Fallon book- it is my kitchen bible for all things traditional and also gives a lot of background knowledge as well as tons of recipes.

So if you want to get a bit more plant based action in your meal plan without the gas and with all the nutrients then get you ass soaking! I have found it so much simpler than I thought, and have definitely noticed the difference in my body. I don’t get that bloated overly full feeling when I eat beans especially which is great news for the bank balance as beans are so much cheaper than meat!

An lastly is it just for hippies? Certainly not, I do it and although I have hippy tendencies I haven’t hugged a tree for at least a week, have clean hair most of the time and try to maintain hair free arm pits…maybe not all that a convincing case…

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Ever tried sprouting – disaster or success? How do you tolerate beans and lentils?

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  1. Love nourishing traditions! Such a great book. I was well into my sprouting a couple of years ago, but as you say I think it’s finding a balance with time and such. I didn’t see such a huge difference with digestion so I’m happy to eat organic beans from the shops. I would always try and soak grains other than quinoa though, my fave is buckwheat of course!

    • I have to say I don’t always soak and sprout my beans cos as you say time is a factor and beans will always be good for you! I think maybe when gut health is an issue then it makes a big difference – otherwise we have got listen to our own bodies they are the boss after all:)



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