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Are you sprouting yet?

A growing trend takes foods with a healthy nutritional profile and fortifies them beyond belief.

The brussels sprout is just the tip of the iceberg. Lauded for their off-the-charts nutritional value, sprouted foods — everything from nuts, to grains to greens — are becoming more plentiful and accessible.

“Sprouting has become trendy again due to the whole-grain and plant-based movements we’ve seen recently,” says Kimberly Snyder, celebrity nutritionist (Drew Barrymore, Channing Tatum and Fergie are fans) and author ofThe Beauty Detox Solution, “People are more aware of the power of plants and are looking for different ways to maximize their benefits.”

But what sets these germinators apart? Sprouting is the process by which nuts, greens, legumes and grains are turned from a dormant seed into a living plant or shoot. “During this maturation process, much of the stored nutrition within the seeds begins to multiply,” explains Snyder. “Protein, fiber and vitamin content all increase dramatically.” Sprouting also causes a surge in the plant’s enzyme production (up to 1,000 percent or more), making all these nutrients more easily digested. To reap their full benefits, eat sprouts raw. “Sprouts tend to be very delicate. Cook them, and you’ll lose most of their nutritional value,” says Chef Scott Halverson, who incorporates a variety of shoots into his dishes at Prasino, an eco-friendly farm-to-table restaurant in Chicago.

Here, a rundown of sprouted offerings that do the body especially good:

alfalfa

Pimp your sandwiches with this fiber-enriched sprout that’s also famed for its high B vitamin content (that includes niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and B6). With only eight calories per serving, crunchy alfalfa sprouts are also an ideal food choice for people who are trying to drop a few pounds.

brussels

These mini-cabbages (often used in salads) are packed with protein, fiber and immune-boosting vitamins A and C. Buy the locally grown variety that is still on the stalk. If you can’t find them this way, go frozen — it’s the next freshest option.

sunflower

“Sunflower sprouts are very hearty and can be used as a lettuce replacement in most salads,” says Halverson. Or, use them to spruce up a vegetable stir fry. These crisp greens have a slightly nutty taste and are loaded with antioxidants, chlorophyll, amino acids and vitamin D, which is great for strong bones and muscles. Sunflower sprouts are also good for your noggin — their large amounts of digestive enzymes promote the assimilation of key nutrients necessary for brain health.

watercress

It’s easy to go on about this crunchy leafy sprout. Let’s start with its all-star lineup of nutrients: vitamins (A, B1, B6, C and E), minerals (iron, magnesium, and manganese), and quercetin (a disease fighting antioxidant). Then there’s the beauty benefit — the sulfur found in watercress strengthens nails. From a culinary standpoint, “Its distinct peppery taste adds flavor to red meat,” says Chef Halverson. “Use it to enhance prime rib, steak or rack of lamb.”

almonds

Sprouted almonds are softer, sweeter, and easier to digest than their regular counterparts. They also have substantial quantities of protein, fiber and vitamins B and E. Soaking them in water overnight — which causes them to sprout — unleashes all of these nutrients. “Sprouted almonds are considered one of the best beauty foods,” says Snyder. “Their B vitamins are key for building and maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails.” Top your salads with these nourishing nuts or nosh on them as an afternoon snack.

broccoli

Rich in antioxidants as well as vitamins A, B and C, broccoli sprouts also have high concentrations of sulforaphane, a cancer-preventing phytochemical. “Broccoli sprouts really do offer comprehensive nourishment,” says Snyder, who suggests adding this green superfood to salads and wraps.