If you would like to submit a question for these round-ups, you can do so via e-mail, Twitter, or the Small Bites’ Facebook page wall.
1. From a nutritional standpoint, what are the benefits of sprouting nuts and seeds? Are some nuts and seeds better to sprout than others?
— @GoOrganic (via Twitter)
Sprouting — the end result of soaking nuts and seeds for a few a days — helps reduce phytic acid content. Phytic acid is known as an “anti-nutrient” because it binds to some minerals — mainly calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron — and inhibits their absorption.
Since sprouted foods facilitate the “bioavailability” and absorption of those minerals as well as other nutrients (i.e.: some B vitamins), it is fair to say they are more nutrient-rich.
Nutrition aside, sprouted nuts and seeds are easier on the digestive system and, in my opinion, taste better, too.
Keep in mind that you can still get these nutritional boosts by simply soaking nuts and seeds in water (generally a 2:1 water-to-nut/seed ratio), without having them sprout.
Depending on the actual nut or seed, soaking time can be anywhere from 4 to 12 hours (note: it is not necessary to soak chia seeds and hemp seeds; the former turns into a gel when in water, and the latter do not contain phytic acid). The simplest way to go about it is to soak overnight, then drain, rinse, and dry the next morning. Many co-ops and health food stores now sell a variety of sprouted nuts and seeds in their ‘bulk’ sections, so there’s always that option.
Of course, unsoaked nuts and seeds are nevertheless nutritious, and there is nothing wrong or dangerous about eating them. Remember — all the studies done on the health benefits of nuts and seeds have used unsoaked varieties.
2. What do you think of the Naked Juice “Green Machine” smoothie?
— Meghan Murray Adotta (via Facebook)
Ah — a perfect example that all green smoothies are not created equal.
I condone homemade, whole-food green smoothies (i.e.: banana, kale, almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon; mango, spinach, hemp milk, cardamom).
They are a refreshing and tasty way to consume fruits and vegetables; since no part of the food is filtered out or strained, all the fiber and nutrients are retained. One important detail I always mention is that a whole-food green smoothie should be composed of at least 50 percent vegetables (I find that up to 70% works from a flavor standpoint).
PepsiCo’s “Green Machine” Naked Juice is a whole other monster. The first five ingredients are fruit juices and purees (FYI: It contains the juice of almost 3 apples, along with a handful of other fruits). The absence of fiber also speaks volumes; broccoli and spinach appear on the ingredient list, but at 0 grams of fiber per serving, there clearly isn’t much of either.
I don’t think of this product as a “green smoothie” as much as “fruit juice with a sprinkling of vegetables”. My suggestion? Skip the “Green Machine”; have an apple with breakfast and add some broccoli florets to your lunch.
3) I use sea salt instead of table salt when preparing meals. Is my family missing out on iodine?
— @Hausfrau22 (via Twitter)
Not necessarily. Although sea salt does not contain iodine, aquatic flora and fauna (AKA: sea vegetables and seafood) offer it in plentiful amounts. If you eat fish and/or sea vegetables regularly, you have nothing to worry about.
Eggs, kidney beans, navy beans, and pinto beans are also good sources. In the US, most dairy processing operations fortify cows’ feeds with iodine, so milk is a source as well (I can’t help but point out that this feed is usually corn-based and wreaks havoc on cows’ gastrointestinal systems).
While most vegetables contain iodine, it can be hard to get consistent values, since it varies based on soil composition.
One important FYI: the sodium in processed foods is usually not fortified with iodine.
4) Why does everyone push chicken noodle soup on you when you’re sick? I recently had a terrible cold and everyone kept telling me to drink it. I mentioned that I don’t eat chicken and instead had other soups, but I was told only chicken noodle soup has been proven to help fight colds? I figured you of all people would tell me if this is a myth.
— Sue Ng
There is nothing magical about chicken noodle soup. Any brothy, vegetable-rich soup (preferably homemade!) will do the trick.
The steam that arises from miso soup will helps break down congestion just as much as the one from chicken noodle soup.
For an extra immunity boost, add plenty of minced garlic and ginger to your broth. A few dashes of cayenne pepper would also help.