Sprouts And Sprouting

I was very interested to read the article by Dr. Vetrano on sprouts in the September issue of the Hygienic Review, and there is much “food for thought” in it. However, I cannot agree with the conclusions drawn, apparently largely based on the letter from “N.P.” These are totally inconsistent with the facts given in Ford Heritage’s book that he cites as his authority.

On page 1 of the book Composition & Facts About Foods, Heritage specifically points out that dashes given in place of numbers in his tables do not mean zero nutriment contents: “In some cases information was not available at the time of assembling this material. This is indicated in the tables by a dash (-). It is hoped that such missing information may be forthcoming at a future time.” N.P. has totally misquoted these in his letter, rendering the dashes instead, as “0”; this is not as they appear in the book, for in each and every case cited (pages 26-27, soybeans) Heritage lists the missing ingredients with a dash (-), meaning simply that such information was not available to him.

This is not surprising, with the interest in sprouts being a fairly recent phenomenon, and with not much of this interest in the orthodox circles from which Heritage drew his information. Clearly, then, the supposedly vanished elements have not “gone anywhere”; they simply have been unlisted due to lack of that specific information.

But let us look at the supposed “loss of Vitamin B” which Dr. Vetrano has mentioned. I refer exclusively to Heritage’s tables, these being the sole expert or factual source cited by either Dr. Vetrano or N.P. We must realize that in the process of sprouting, the dried out (and in that state, virtually inedible) seed has been returned to a viable condition, through restoration of its lost moisture. In the specific case of soybeans, some additional water has been absorbed (as it naturally would be from damp earth), to reconstitute the seed to somewhat more than the percentage of water found in the original fresh soybean. The water content percentages are: fresh, 60.2%; dried, 10.0%; sprouts, 86.5%.

This water content is the missing key that has eluded both Dr. Vetrano and N.P., and led them to jump to faulty conclusions about “missing vitamins.”

If we began with (for example) a single ounce of dried soybeans (seeds), and then reconstituted the water through soaking and sprouting, we would then have a total food weight of approximately six ounces of soy sprouts. The dry (non-water) material present would originally have been 90% of one ounce, or .9 oz. It would still remain roughly 9 oz., but would now be distributed throughout six ounces of food, the balance being the added water content. Percentagewise, all nutriments but water will have been cut by a factor of 6:1, but they have not “gone anywhere”; they are still there as before. Dry material would now be about 14% of the total, compared with 90% of the old dry weight. Using the factor of 6:1 as a convenient round figure, we proceed.

About of the actual weight of fat has been burned up, as “fuel” for the new life; this is of insignificant nutritional content for the purposes of this discussion. The calcium content, which was 226, should now have dropped to about 38 (mgs. per 100 gm. portion); but we note it is listed by Heritage as 48. Clearly, we have no net loss of calcium. There is some loss of iron and phosphorus noted in the chart, the iron content being slightly less than expected, and the phosphorus about 2/3 of what could reasonably be expected from the 6:1 dilution. So we may have lost 1/3 of the phosphorus.

Let’s look at the feared Vitamin B losses. This is very revealing: it is exactly the opposite! Thiamine (B-1) was 1.10 mgs. per 100 grams; now diluted at 6:1 with water, it must be around .18, but is in fact listed at .23, a gain of over a quarter of the original amount present. Riboflavin (B-2) is listed originally (dry state) as .31; in 6:1 dilution with water it should be .05. But it has a shot up to .20, indicating four times the net amount of riboflavin as compared to the original amount in the dry 1 oz. of seed.

Percentagewise the concentration in the 6 oz. of food has dropped to 2/3 of the former content, but we
nevertheless have a total amount of Vitamin B-2 that is 400% of the original amount.

Niacin is listed at 2.2 mgs. originally, which would theoretically be diluted by sprouting to less than .4 mgs. But again the reverse is true, for the figure is .8 for the 6:1 water-diluted sprouts, showing a doubling of total niacin present in the six ounces of sprouts, as compared with original content in the 1 ounce of seeds. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) content is unavailable in Heritage’s charts, for the dry state, but Dr. Vetrano admits that this is increased. It is not, however, the “only vitamin increased.”

The Vitamin A content was originally given as 80 international units per 100 grams edible portion. In the sprouts it is still 80 units per 100 gms., but remember that we now have six ounces of sprouts, thus we have SIX TIMES the original net international units of Vitamin A; even though the percentage would still be identical to the former percentage, we have nontheless six times the available quantity of nourishment in regard to this important vitamin.

I hasten to add that these additional net amounts of vitamins did not have to “come from somewhere” outside the seed; it can easily be understood as a matter of natural processes of rearranging molecules and compounds, synthesizing relatively nonuseful raw materials into more useful (for human nutrition) materials. The same thing occurs within the intestines of humans, producing B-12, for instance.

Protein content must also be taken in the light of the same 6:1 formula, allowing for the great increase in water content to bring the seed to its viable and edible condition. Thus, we had a figure of 34.1% dry protein, now 6.2% for the sprouted soybean. Yet, we see no complaints that most of our protein has vanished into thin air, or been leached out through osmosis.

It has gone nowhere at all; it is simply comparing the same amount to a percentage of 1 oz. or a percentage of 6 oz. of total food. An analogy of this apparent paradox of “vanishing nutriments” is seen among the legumes as well. Dried peas and beans are often cited as having enormous protein contents, based upon hasty scanning of charts listing dry weight.

This makes them a very good buy, dollar wise. But when reconstituted with water to make them edible, of course, the content of protein is fractionated along with everything else, rendering them a fairly good source of protein (percentagewise), but certainly no “super-food” in protein content. 

Similarly, dry seeds can be a good value, as you add water yourself; if you buy presprouted seeds, you pay for convenience, as 5/6 of what you buy is water. Perhaps we shouldn’t mind this, as much of the Natural Hygienic food (such as fruits and salad items) is largely water anyway.

In regard to overpricing among health-food sources of seeds, it should be noted that the cheap open-market seeds sold for flour-making (for example) often are so stale they will not sprout at all, or at least have a high proportion of “dead” seeds. Freshness is very important; organic growing without sprays may also account for some of the additional cost. If N.P. can buy seeds at 1/5 the price in small quantities, which are equal in quality for sprouting purposes, we would be delighted to learn of his source. We do not sell them, but we do use them, and would be glad to save even more on sprouting.

We can see no major objection to Dr. Vetrano’s method of sprouting seeds in white sand, but it should be noted that this would add nothing to the nutritional value of the sprouts either; the sand would merely act as a holder for the sprouts and the moisture; it might also be difficult to separate the grit from the sprouts. We feel the sprouter-jar method is cleaner in this respect, and see no drawback in having sprouts that are curled instead of straight. This probably comes about from tumbling in the jar, preventing the sprouts from consistently growing in the same direction. This would have nothing to do with nutrition.

So, to summarize: the vitamins do not “go anywhere”; they are manufactured by these busy little new lives from cruder materials within the seeds themselves, apparently. There is no vitamin loss in terms of net material available for human consumption, and it is a fallacy to use the dry material percentage of vitamins as a yardstick without allowing for the six-fold increase in water content. Allowing for this, there is a fair to tremendous increase in Vitamins A, B-1, B-2, niacin, and C, properly disregarding the specious dry seed percentage which is not available to us in that state.

Otherwise, obviously you could say the same criticism of any natural food. One could take, say, bananas, dry them out, and say that the dry bananas are so much more nutritious than natural bananas. This ignores the fact that if you eat the dry food, you must then drink correspondingly greater amounts of water to supply your body’s moisture needs, and you would then be right back where you started!

As we have noted, there is some loss of nutriment by osmosis if seeds are soaked. We have already experimented with utilizing only the proper amount of water in presoaking of seeds for sprouting, so that all the water is absorbed into the seeds. This would preclude any possibility of osmotic loss into the water, of any nutriment; and we are now advising fellow Hygienists to follow this simple precaution to avoid the possibility of such loss. We thank Dr. Vetrano for drawing our attention to this possibility, but this should satisfy that sole objection to the use of the sprouts.

Regarding N.P.’s objection to sprouts being grown “without any sunshine,” this is simply not true of the
better sprouting methods. Sprouts are generally grown in subdued light for the first 2 or 3 days, corresponding to the germination period in the earth; but it is advocated that they be placed in at least indirect sunlight (skylight) for the last day or so, and this is analogous to the new shoot peeping up through the earth. At this time, it turns green and begins the chlorophyll photosynthesis chemical reactions, exactly as any new plant would.

I trust this will all help to dispel any fears that any fellow Hygienists may have about possible “vitamin losses” through sprouting. As we have shown, all vitamins cited experience a moderate to great increase through sprouting, in terms of amounts available for humans.

Editor’s Notes: When harmony and cooperation are urgently needed for the advancement and good of Natural Hygiene, why should the leaders demonstrate contention and a lack of the poise stressed in the pedagogy of Hygiene? Why split hairs over the method of sprouting seeds?

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Soy beans, being subject to spoilage, must obviously do better when sprouted over well-dampened sand. A method which lessens soaking and rinsing of seeds seems desirable. Since eye appeal is advocated in serving food, why not have straight, green, hearty-looking sprouts? Dr. Vetrano says the sand readily leaves the sprouts when water is poured over them, and if necessary, the sprouts are dipped up and down in the water for a moment. Until the method is tested, why not withhold contradiction and accept her discovery?

In actual practice, much of the sprouting is done away from the light. To compare bananas, which must be dried artificially, with beans, which are dry naturally in the ripening process, seems a poor analogy.

We can be thankful that a natural process makes food appropriated by cereal grass-eating animals, along with other seeds, acceptable to the human digestive system. But, while enjoying this fascinating bonus viand more or less frequently, we’ll depend for our sustenance chiefly—added to fruits, nuts and non-sprouted seeds—on the broad leaves and other fresh green vegetables from the garden (organic, we hope), because of their free exposure to air, soil and sunlight. What a marvelous full provision we have in the Hygienists’ diet, unspoiled by cooking and processing.

Elegant simplicity!

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