Sprouts can come from a variety of foods, including legumes, veggies, grains or nuts. This can be confusing when questioning their Paleo-friendliness since a “sprout” can basically come from anything that has a seed.
So, is it Paleo?
Before you sprinkle those tasty salad toppers, carefully consider the source. Sprouts from most vegetable sources are considered Paleo. When grains are sprouted, the seed germinates and a chute comes out of the seed. This chute becomes the small vegetable that is cut off and consumed, as opposed to eating the seed (in contrast to whole grains and wheat flours that incorporate the seed proteins and starches into the milling process). Once the seed is sprouted, the concentration of lectin (the substance that protects the plant but can be harmful to the body) is decreased within several days, and in several weeks, levels drop to almost none.
One of the effects of sprouting is that it can convert a portion of the sugar in the seed to vitamin C (which functions as an antioxidant). As we do not manufacture our own vitamin C, this can be beneficial.
Sprouting also tends to lower a food’s phytic acid content — also a good thing.
Certain types of sprouts may have particularly healthy effects. Sunflower sprouts have a high cynarin content, a compound known to have antioxidant properties. Broccoli sprouts have also been shown to reduce insulin resistance, decrease triglycerides and reduce oxidative stress in type 2 diabetics.
What do the Paleo gurus say?
Loren Cordain says: “We can consume grain sprouts without fear of anti-nutrients. However, legume sprouts still appear to contain considerable concentrations of saponins – the secondary compounds responsible for increasing gut permeability. Alfalfa sprouts (which are actually in the pea family) have an especially high concentration.
Mark Sisson says: “Primal, depending on the starter seed. I see no reason why sprouted celery seeds, broccoli seeds, radish seeds, or lettuce seeds wouldn’t be perfectly Primal. Lentil, oat, or bean sprouts? Probably not technically.
Consider their parent and decide. These little guys are surely Paleo if the seed they came from is a Paleo food, such as a vegetable. If the source is a legume or grain, sprouts are a no-go for Paleo. However, depending on individual comfort levels with incorporating non-Paleo foods, there could be room for some other types of sprout in the diet.