Cereals and sprouted seeds – healthy superfoods
by Dr. Alberto Parra
Breakfast has been awarded as the most important meal of the day. It’s the one giving us the nutrients and energy we need for a fresh start, to prepare for our daily routine and maintain our metabolic health. It is natural to link breakfast with cereals, but in this article, you will see how both cereals and sprouted seeds work together to achieve a higher nutritional profile, and why sprouted foods are considered superfoods.
Health benefits from cereals
Cereals have been cultivated for thousands of years to obtain edible components from their seeds. They are used as staple foods in many countries: Maize in Africa and South America, rice in China, Japan, and almost any other country, oats in Scotland, or quinoa in the Andes regions of South America. All of them have similar health benefits, for example:
They are a reliable source of energy: Cereals are the most inexpensive way to reach our daily energy requirements, which is one of the reasons they are often consumed for breakfast. They are affordable for low-income families and may provide up to 80% of the energy in some rural countries.
They are rich in vitamins and minerals: Cereals are rich in B vitamins, and maize has some carotene as well. They also have plenty of magnesium and potassium. Additionally, ragi and other cereals are rich in calcium and iron. However, they all have phytates, which are molecules that bind to minerals and reduce their absorption, which is resolved through sprouting.
Whole-grain cereals prevent constipation: If we don’t take out the bran and the germ, cereals contain a lot of insoluble and soluble fibers. They increase stool volume and improve bowel movements, preventing constipation and many other gastrointestinal issues.
Health benefits from seeds
Seeds are one of the world’s healthiest and more affordable foods. As a clear example, flaxseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are constantly under the microscope to investigate their effect towards inflammation, blood lipids, and cardiovascular disease. All of them are rich in dietary fibers and contains healthy fats along with vitamins and minerals. Among the health benefits of consuming seeds, we have the following:
They have plenty of antioxidants:
Certain seeds may contain more antioxidants than others. For example, flaxseeds have molecules called polyphenols, which are free radical scavengers and protect the body from unstable molecules that may cause tissue damage and even cancer.
They are rich in omega-3:
Achieving a healthy balance between omega 6 and omega 3 is not always easy. They are both essential fatty acids, but research has found that we should consume more omega 3 than omega 6 if we want to keep cardiovascular risk at bay. Seeds contain one of the highest omega 3:6 ratios, which accounts for their ability to reduce bad cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
They are a natural hormone-replacement therapy:
Certain seeds such as sesame seeds and flaxseeds contain natural estrogen molecules such as lignans and other phytoestrogens. Estrogens have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, so including them in the diet as a natural therapy would be useful for women during their menopause.
They fight inflammation:
Studies show that consuming nuts and seeds on a regular basis may help us control inflammation, which is good news for those suffering from inflammatory diseases like arthritis. For example, an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein was found to be reduced when patients consumed sunflower seeds 5 times a week or more.
Is sprouted food better?
As we already mentioned, seeds, cereals, and other grains hold important health benefits and high nutritional value. However, the nutritional content may vary depending on how foods are processed and presented. For example, we all know that taking out the bran and germ turns cereals into a refined source of unhealthy carbohydrates and nothing more. In this regard, whole-grain cereals are definitely better. But what about sprouted seeds and grains?
Studies have shown that sprouts contain more vitamin B and C, but impressively enough, they may even have more protein and fiber along with small amounts of zinc, calcium and other minerals. What’s more, as we mentioned when talking about cereals, the absorption of minerals from cereals is significantly improved after sprouting.
Phytic acid, a molecule in nuts and seeds, usually binds with minerals and won’t let them be absorbed. So, in theory, they won’t make any effect, but that’s when sprouting becomes useful. After soaking grains and sprouting, phytic acid is lost, and the whole nutrients from seeds are unlocked for your body.
Similarly, sprouted grains and seeds hold an entirely different nutritional benefit because, when they germinate, the sprout starts consuming the starch in the grain. Thus, in sprouted grains and seeds there’s less starch and more protein and fiber. Such a nutritional change causes another positive effect: the glycemic index is reduced, which means these foods will be less likely to cause uncontrolled peaks of blood sugar.
The best thing is that you can sprout your own grains, beans, and seeds. However, you need to be careful with bacteria, use clean water, rinse frequently and follow a series of safety tips. Cereals and seeds are considered nutritious foods, but after sprouting, they can be superfoods as well.