Why are seeds not digestible?


From Stefanie Goldscheider

A seedling slumbers in every seed

The dry seed, regardless of whether it has grown in ears, pods or fruits, always contains a seedling in addition to a shell and nutrient tissue. This seedling contains all the plants of the new plant: the root, the stem and the leaves. If the seed swells up with enough water, it multiplies its weight and comes to life. Plant hormones and enzymes are formed that use and convert the storage substances, i.e. the carbohydrates, fats and proteins of the nutrient tissue. Sugar compounds are formed from starch, essential fatty acids from fats and essential amino acids from protein. In addition, vitamins are produced in extremely high concentrations. This is really remarkable with vitamin C, a hallmark of vitality and freshness: it is not contained in dormant seeds, it is in high doses in growing sprouts of grain, legumes, cabbage and oilseeds, as are vitamin E and the B vitamins. The seed turns into a new plant.

Seedlings - from permanent food to vital product

Dry seeds practically do not spoil, but will last for years if they are stored in an airy, cool and dry place. They contain all the nutrients you need to live. A good supply in winter, in times of shortage, on an adventure trip or at sea. But seeds are hard, hardly chewable, not tasty, cause gas and are difficult to digest. Many are raw and unprocessed even inedible. Everything changes when it sprouts: hard seeds become tender, aromatic, revitalizing vegetables and salads. During germination and sprouting, vitamins and amino acids are newly produced from the seedling. The germination increases the biological value of the amino acids and the minerals are more readily available. The seedling forms omega-3 fatty acids. The nutrients are broken down. Substances that inhibit digestion or are poisonous and have protected the seed in its dormancy are broken down during the germination process. The table below shows the many changes in seed germination.

Changes in the germination of seeds

Seeds hard, not chewableSeedlings soft, edible
dryhydrated and swollen
Dormancy = reduced lifeactive and vital
Vitamin C is created during germination. Vitamin C content increases fivefold
Vitamin B2 triples
Vitamin B6 doubles
Vitamin B1 increases by up to 100%
Vitamin E increases by up to 100%
Folic acid doubles
Vitamin K increases tenfold
Omega-3 fatty acid linolenic acid doubles
Flatulent substances are broken down
Phytic acid is broken down
Tannins are broken down
Hemaggluttins are broken down
Protease inhibitors are broken down
Amino acid content increases
Amino acid composition improves
- In cereals, the levels of the limiting amino acids lysine and threonine increase
- In legumes, the levels of the limiting amino acids cysteine ​​and methionine increase
Enzyme activity increases
Starch content decreases
Sugar content rises
Calorie content decreases
Fiber content increases

Secondary plant substances in sprouts and seedlings

Plants protect themselves and their offspring - the seeds - by producing and storing various substances. Some of these phytochemicals are poisonous, such as hydrocyanic acid and alkaloids. Others are only anti-nutritional, which means they inhibit nutrient uptake and growth. Even our most important food crops contain a whole range of anti-nutritional substances, raw and unprocessed. Some ingredients cause severe flatulence or make digestion difficult. Others damage the intestinal lining. Some block the absorption of minerals and trace elements from food.

Phytonutrients are phytochemicals
often toxic and healthy at the same time.
What attacks blood cells can also
Cancer cells destroy what proteins
harms, can kill bacteria.
The dose alone makes the poison!

There are also very few such anti-nutritional substances in every type of vegetable. In low doses, however, many of these phytochemicals are very beneficial for health and for the prevention of diseases. They can fight cancer cells, bind cholesterol or render bacteria harmless. That is why vegetable food is irreplaceable for our health. Even the staple foods like cereals contain anti-nutritional substances, at least raw. The millennia-old inventions of bread, beer and pasta followed the health necessity of processing. In ancient China it was discovered 5000 years ago that bean sprouts not only taste much better than soybeans but also that the harmful effects have disappeared.

Even long enough soaking can avoid the undesirable side effects of all types of grain and some legumes. This is the basis of the famous Bircher muesli or fresh grain porridge. A further breakdown of the anti-nutritional substances and the build-up of vitamins takes place through germination. The latest generation of mueslis have perfected these requirements. Here the grain was sprouted before the flakes (picture on the left). This is how oats and barley become a performance-enhancing product!

Only a few sprouted seeds, such as soybean sprouts, then require gentle heating.

Attention: seeds containing alkaloid cannot be detoxified by germs! Under no circumstances should you eat any green parts or sprouts of plants from the nightshade family, i.e. tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines.

Anti-Nutritional Substances - Toxicity or Health Care

Anti-nutritive dance Effects
Phytic acidnegativeaffects the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc in the intestines
positiveindirectly regulates the blood sugar level
containCereals, pulses, cruciferous vegetables, seeds
Protease inhibitorsnegativeinhibit the usability and digestion of protein
positivelower the risk of colon cancer
containCereals, legumes
Lectins = hemagglutinsnegativeRed blood cells clump together, damage the intestines and cause inflammation of the intestinal lining
positivefight tumors
containGrains, pulses, cruciferous vegetables, seeds
Glucosinolatesnegativelead to goiter formation, damage the thyroid, liver, kidneys and pancreas
positivereduce the growth of hormone-dependent tumors, have an antimicrobial effect
containCruciferous vegetables, i.e. seeds of radish, radishes, broccoli
Saponinsnegativetoxic to the blood, cause hemolysis
positiveHave an antimicrobial effect. Bind cholesterol, lower the cholesterol level, stimulate the immune system, inhibit the development of colon cancer
containLegumes, oats, spinach, Swiss chard and beetroot
Polyphenols = tannins = tanninsnegativereduce the availability and absorption of minerals (e.g. iron) in the intestine.
positivehave a strong antimicrobial effect
containCereals, pulses, cruciferous vegetables, seeds
Hydrocyanic acid = cyanogenic glycosides negativeextremely toxic in high doses. Hydrocyanic acid inhibits the transfer of oxygen in the body cells and quickly leads to internal asphyxiation
positive no positive effects!
containMillet, legumes, linseed, stone and stone fruit seeds. ! Does not go away with germination! Don't overdo the amount of raw food
Alkaloidsnegativeextremely toxic and dangerous! Fatal depending on the dosage!
positive only precisely dosed as medicinal active ingredients such as morphine, strychnine or quinine or stimulating such as caffeine, capsaicin, theobromine or as addictive substances such as nicotine and cocaine
containLupins, soy, potatoes, tomatoes, types of weeds
Attention: most seeds containing alkaloid are not suitable as sprouting seeds!

Which seeds become seedlings and sprouts?


Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils provide us with an extraordinary amount of magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, folic acid and the B vitamins, i.e. with nutrients that are rather too few in normal food. Vegetarians also benefit from the high protein content of pulses or legumes. However, as unprocessed raw food, pulses are inedible, with the exception of sugar peas. Raw green beans are poisonous because the massive amounts of anti-nutritional substances they contain are only broken down when they are cooked. The same goes for bean sprouts. With the exception of green beans, the germination process, i.e. the cultivation of sprouts, is sufficient for the majority of the toxic substances to be broken down.

Sprouted chickpeas and soybeans should also be blanched, which also promotes tolerance for peas, lentils and mung beans, as well as the similar adzuki bean. Alfalfa sprouts (picture on the right, dried alfalfa sprouts), i.e. the seeds of alfalfa, fenugreek and peanuts can be eaten completely raw and without blanching.

Blanching is always a good idea to eliminate the germ load. Coli bacteria, the causative agents of sometimes severe diarrhea, die after just 2 minutes at temperatures of 70 ° Celsius.


Grains, i.e. wheat, barley, rye, oats as well as rice, maize and millet are the most important pillars of nutrition on earth. Traditional preparation methods such as cooking and baking with prior soaking ensure the safe breakdown of phytic acid, lectins, protease inhibitors and saponins. However, when baked and cooked, the grains are not used to supply vitamins or high-quality protein. The essential amino acid lysine is not enough in grain. During germination, however, lysine is formed from storage protein. This increases the protein value. In addition, sprouted grain is a very good supplier of the entire spectrum of vitamins, including vitamin C. The production of Essen bread [1], a traditional product made from sprouted grain, is of particular interest in this context.

Soaking grains and then eating them as muesli is still practical and tasty. However, hygiene must never be disregarded even with the cereal seedlings, which are digestible as raw food. All seedlings and sprouts are potentially at risk of transporting pathogenic bacteria which, under the ideal germination conditions during sprout cultivation (warmth and humidity), will grow just as well as the seedling itself. Here, too, short blanching or professional manufacturing processes help, as with new germinated ones and activated products (top left: sprouted barley flakes, bottom left: Nastja's muesli made from sprouted grains vacuumed to keep them fresh).



The taste of the so-called pseudocereals are similar to cereals: buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa. You are rich in starch. They are also gluten-free and have a high mineral and protein content. However, the high content of saponins requires preparation. Soaking and sprouting for a short time are ideal and result in seedlings with a mild, nutty taste. From these briefly sprouted seedlings, dried sweets and snacks as well as crackers and biscuits can be made very advantageously. (Left picture: dried buckwheat seedlings).


The production of seedlings from oil-containing seeds, the so-called seeds such as linseed, sesame, chia or sunflower seeds, is more complicated. Because of the high oil content, seeds are more sensitive to spoilage before germination (becoming rancid, afflatoxins). Only first-class special germination seeds may be used!

Because of the strong swelling and slime formation in linseed and chia but also in cress and other cruciferous vegetables, only letting these seeds swell or germinate for a few hours is advisable. You should not wait for roots and cotyledons to form after several days, unless you are producing green cabbage (similar to cress) on a suitable base or in germinating devices. Exact instructions can be found in the literature.

Products made from germinated seeds and grains

The selection of first-class organic raw materials and professional and gentle germination as well as raw food processing below 45 ° Celsius result in high-quality and very tasty seedling products. At Taiga Naturkost there are two different muesli mixes with dried fruits, Ivan's Muesli and Nastja's Muesli, both refined with wild ingredients from the Taiga. They make you fit for the whole day. There are also two different sprouted grain products, crunchy activated buckwheat, which is suitable for nibbling and as a topping and is gluten-free, as well as sprouted barley flakes for cold or warm porridge or to enhance all mueslis. Highly Recommended!

[1] The Essenes were a Jewish religious community that had been health-conscious 200 years ago. Without raising agents, flatbreads can be made from pre-germinated grain, which only have to be dried to preserve the raw food quality. Essen bread is available unbaked as flatbread that is dried in the sun or baked with raising agents in a loaf shape. For production, grains and seeds are sprouted for a few hours, then chopped up and kneaded into a dough.

Also read:

Wholemeal and wholemeal flour - the full grain story
Grains - wheat, rye barley and oats

Book tips

Germs & sprouts. Delicious powerhouses from the kitchen

Valérie Cuppillard
Hädecke, Weil der Stadt 2011, 119 pages, numerous food photos, bound, € 19.90
The guide explains and shows how to germinate yourself, the seeds and germinating devices. He describes the different techniques and products of many different seeds in portraits: production, taste and benefits of sprouts that have only sprouted or that have developed for a longer period of time. The main part of the book contains recipes with sprouts and sprouts and provides suggestions for aperitifs and starters, soups and sauces, salads, canapés and snacks, desserts and breakfast. All about vital and healthy and therefore recommended.
Order the book from Amazon
Whole food nutrition - conception of a contemporary and sustainable diet
Karl von Koerber, Thomas Männle, Claus Leitzmann
Haug Verlag, Stuttgart, 10th completely revised and expanded edition; 2004; 420 pages, € 44.95
The standard work of wholefood nutrition is the joint work of a 20-strong team of top-class authors. It is primarily aimed at students, scientists, and practitioners in the fields of nutrition and health. However, the scientific book is also written in an understandable way for laypeople and is interesting and recommended for all those who consider nutrition to be an important and complex matter, far beyond counting calories and nutrients.

Order the book from Amazon

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