Seeds sprout after a few days in a warm, moist climate. The process usually lasts three to seven days, depending upon the conditions and kind of seeds being used.
You've probably heard of bean sprouts. But many foods can be sprouted, according to the International Sprout Growers Association, including:
Grains such as barley, wheat, and spelt
Legumes such as lentils, peas, and pinto, kidney, and lima beans
Radish and broccoli seeds
Some people also sprout nuts, including almonds, cashews, walnuts, and peanuts.
Sprouts are said to be more nutritious than their unsprouted counterparts.
When a seed germinates, a chemical reaction takes place. This process is thought to make it easier for a body to absorb vitamins including iron, zinc, and vitamin C, says Reem Jabr, MA, RD, LDN, a dietitian and clinical nutrition manager at Cambridge Health Alliance near Boston.
Sprouts may have some other nutritional perks. Steve Schwartz, PhD, an Ohio State University professor of food science, has studied broccoli sprouts and their possible link to cancer prevention.
Broccoli sprouts, Schwartz says, contain compounds called glucosinolates. When eaten, those compounds convert to isothysiasinates, which curbed the growth of bladder cancer cells in lab tests on animals.
"Sprouts have a higher concentration of these compounds [glucosinolates] than broccoli itself," Schwartz says. "There are a number of animal studies that show they have reduced the number and size of tumors, and there is a lot of interest in how that could translate into the human diet."
But it's too soon to know if that also happens in people.