by Nathan Mandigo

A while ago I wrote on an article on the basics of sprouting (find it here) which mentioned just a few of the wonderful benefits that can be gained from sprouts.  Today I would like to take a deeper look at the benefits of sprouts and their amazing properties.

From a Western perspective, sprouts are very nutritious as they are a good source of many vitamins and trace minerals that many people in this country are deficient in, they have a low glycemic response, and are a good source of dietary fiber.  What makes sprouts most interesting from my perspective is the presence of a chemical called coumarin.

Coumarin is a naturally occurring, fragrant chemical present in most feed plants and several other common foods (like cinnamon (cassia sourced), strawberries and cherries).  A feed plant is any plant that is used to feed livestock or which graze lands are planted with, such as alfalfa or clover, two very common sprout seeds.  In concentrated forms, coumarin is toxic to the body and is one of the precursors used to make rat poison and blood thinners, that’s not the interesting part.  The interesting part is that coumarin in small quantities, as found in sprouts, increases our sensation of satiation.  It makes us feel fuller faster by making the body think we have eaten more than we have so we are less inclined to overeat.  Scientist believe this property in these plants was evolved as a way to stave off over feeding by grazing animals to give plants a chance to seed.  If you would like read more about coumarin, here is the wikipedia article.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, sprouts, are also an amazing source of nutrition for the body.  As the direct product of a seed, with no external manipulation except sun and water, sprouts nourish the Kidneys, Liver, Heart, and Blood.  Let’s take a closer look at why.

In Chinese medicine, seeds, represent the potential for life and the source of its sustenance until the life form can sustain itself.  From a body perspective the Kidneys represent that seed energy.  As the first organs to form within the growing embryo and out of which the spinal column and brain form, the Kidneys hold and maintain that seed energy throughout our lives.  So by the law of similars, which is commonly used in Chinese medicine, seeds nourish the source of the body and the sprout, which holds the seed energy, carries this energy to us.

From a flavor perspective, spouts are sour and bitter, some are salty and pungent as well but for our purposes we our primarily concerned with sour and bitter.  Note: for more information on the flavors see April’s articles on 5 Elements, sour, salt, pungent, sweet and, bitter.

The sour flavor aids the Liver in nourishing the blood.  This can be considered akin the Western idea of the liver acting as a filter for the blood.  The high fiber content is beneficial to this function as it gives materiel for the body to help move things through the digestive tract as the exit of the liver is into the small intestine.

The bitter flavor is associated with the Heart and Small Intestine.  Bitter also provides movement and warmth to the body by aiding digestion and clearing stagnate energy.

With all these wonderful properties and benefits, not to mention how easy they are to grow, shouldn’t sprouts be a regular part of your diet?

Be well,

Nathan Mandigo ABT