This week, we are talking about sprouting as part of our New Models series. We have Doug Evans, one of the world experts on sprouting, joining us on this episode He wrote a book called The Sprout Book. On this episode, we’re talking about Doug’s journey to reject the chronic illness of his family and transition into a healthy lifestyle. We talk about solving social determinants of health with sprouting, and the efficacy of sprouts and how easy it is to add them to your diet. Even if you know about sprouting, this episode goes into a lot of detail that can help transform the health of your patients and even your own health.
- Doug’s transition to a vegan diet and learning how to sprout
- What you can recommend to patients with food restrictions and supplements
- How sprouting in a community can be beneficial
- And so much more!
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Hello and welcome to the podcast. This week, we are talking about sprouting as part of our new models. Now, you may be familiar with sprouting, you may be not. But we have one of the world experts on sprouting. He wrote the book called The Sprout Book. His name is Doug Evans. On this podcast, we’re talking about Doug’s journey to reject the chronic illness of his family and get into health. We’re going to be talking about solving social determinants of health with sprouting, and we’re going to be talking about the efficacy of sprouts and how easy it is. Something that he said that I thought it was really powerful was this idea of community sprouting. So, it’s going to be an incredible 40 minutes. Enjoy. So, a warm welcome to the Evolution of Medicine Podcast, Doug Evans. Welcome, Doug.
Doug Evans: Hey. Thank you so much for having me, James. It’s a real honor.
James Maskell: So, Doug, you and I first met, wow, more like eight years ago in New York. You were the founder of Organic Avenue Juices, which was really, I think, the first raw juice press company. There was locations all over New York. We’ve had a chance to interact as fellow entrepreneurs over the year and I’m excited to share a little bit about what you’re up to. But I know that you’re really passionate about health and wellness and it’s taken you on a long and interesting journey. So, let’s just start there. How did you end up excited about health as your main thing? And tell us a little bit about your journey from where you started to now.
Doug Evans: Well, I grew up in New York City eating processed food, refined food, street food, junk food, and then I had an awakening in the late ’90s when my aunt got diabetes and they chopped off her feet below her ankles, my uncle got heart disease and died, my mother got stomach cancer and died, and my father had complications related to his heart and died, and my brother, two years older than me, who at the time was 35, had the first of three strokes and a heart attack, and he’s obese and diabetic. So, with all of those chronic illnesses turning into fatalities, I said, “Maybe I’m genetically cursed. Maybe I should just get my affairs in orders and live this day as if it’s my last.” Then I learned about the plant-based diet and in a two-week period, I went from eating anything to vegetarian, vegan, and then raw vegan, and I’ve been mostly raw vegan since 1999.
James Maskell: It’s an amazing story and it’s a great basis for obviously an impactful career. So, when I met you, you were working out in the juice side. Tell us a little bit about why you got into juice and that journey with Organic Avenue. Then what I really want to talk about moving forward here, as this is all about new models of medicine and that’s what this podcast is about, we’re going to talk about your latest passion. But let’s start with juice.
Doug Evans: So, in 1999, we learned about Gerson therapy and about juice fasting and the power of green juice. So, there was a difference between using a home juicer, like a Juice Man or a Jack LaLanne juicer vs. an industrial cold press. So, we bought our first cold press and we had a little loft in Chinatown and we started to make the juice, green juice for our ourselves, me and my partner, for our own health and longevity as a way of getting more nutrients into our diet. Then friends and the local community, we would have potlucks and gathering in our loft, and before we knew it, we were making juice for dozens of people. We opened up a first retail store on the Lower East Side. We built out the basement in the tenement building to be a commercial kitchen and then over a 10-year period, we grew to 10 different stores all across Manhattan.
We built a 20,000-square-foot commercial facility to make juices and we were also doing raw juices, soups, smoothies, entrees, desserts, and snacks. So, we were making 50 items every day that were made with fresh organic fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, seaweeds, and sprouts. It was a very challenging business because there was very little margin when you’re not using any filler. Right? Everything is just pure organic produce and high labor and high perishability. So, it was a challenging model, but we refused to incorporate any sort of pasteurization or additives or preservatives. So, our business was a fresh, raw business and it did very, very well until we sold it in late 2012.
James Maskell: Yeah. That’s an amazing story, and I know that was the first one on the block, and certainly there’s been tons of other people getting into the juicing business. I guess for anyone who’s listening, we’re not here today to talk about juice. I know people have all kinds of opinions about it. Ultimately, the reason why I wanted to get you on here today is because we’re starting this new theme of this sort of reinvention of medicine over the year, but specifically about new models. One of the things that all practitioners who listen to this podcast do is they recommend food as medicine. The vast majority of them also recommend supplements. Ultimately, we’ve been very conditioned to use supplements as the way of getting nutrients. Last year, I had the opportunity to read your new book that came out and I know, I think is in, what, its fifth printing by now—
Doug Evans: Sixth printing.
James Maskell: Sixth printing, all about sprouting. Now, sprouting is something that, as a kid that grew up in a hippie commune, basically, everyone was down with sprouting, man. But I know that there have been reasons why sprouting has not gone mainstream. But what is it about sprouting that caught your attention and why are you such a passionate advocate now for sprouting as an evolution of your passion for juicing?
Doug Evans: Well, in 2017, I made the decision to move to the desert. So, when I landed in my yurt in March of 2018 in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree, I realized not only was I in the desert, I was in a food desert. Being in a food desert meant no access to organic grocery stores, vegan restaurants, or anything that was healthy. It was a very stark awakening because I was wondering, could I actually make it here in the desert or would I have to move back to a big city? Then I had sprouted the first time 25 years ago, and I remembered how easy it was, how much I liked it, and I always thought of sprouts as a garnish. Something to add to a soup or to a salad and something I loved.
Then I said, “Well, let me see if I can ramp up my sprouting game,” and within 30 days, most of my calories were coming from sprouts that I was growing in six mason jars on my countertop in one cubic foot, and it was extraordinary. I expanded from doing alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts to sunflower, adzuki, lentil, broccoli, radish, clover, cauliflower, hemp, and all these different seeds were spouting. I was blown away, categorically blown away, at the subtleties of the texture, the flavor, the digestibility. But I didn’t know much about them. This was more of eating for survival. So, my first revelation was that, hey, sprouts are a vegetable, vegetables are good for you, and therefore, sprouts equal food. Like real food. Like you can actually have food.
So, that was my first shift into sprouting. Then I started to do some research on sprouting, and that literally blew me away. It took me to a whole different level of knowledge awareness, science, nutrition, because I thought that these little vegetables were premature, like maybe they would be okay to eat and maybe they would fill me up. But I thought for sure they would be deficient in vitamins and minerals. It turns out, not only were they complete, they were more complete, more comprehensive, than the full mature fruits and vegetables, and in some compounds, in some phytonutrients, up to 20 to 100 times more than their mature counterpart.
James Maskell: Yeah. That’s super interesting. So, there’s something I read in the book with regard to what vitamins …if you only ate sprouts, how could you have a complete diet of vitamin and nutrients? You shared with me that if you actually grow all of those different varieties that you shared, there’s very few micronutrients that you don’t get access to if you only ate sprouts. I’d love to just dive into that because I think for most practitioners who are listening, they want their patients to have a very complete nutritional profile. They probably, even in some cases, test patients to see what that nutritional profile is. So, I’m sure they’d be interested to know, what is available if you were to sprout all of those varieties?
Doug Evans: I would say everything is available except for vitamin D and vitamin B12. 100% everything else. Everything that exists in the plant world exists in the spout form. This is even more knowledge than I had when I wrote the book because I’ve now had the opportunity to speak to more experts in more institutions about them. So, basically every micronutrient, phytonutrient, polyphenol, bioflavonoid, antioxidant, prebiotic, probiotic, all the individual amino acids that form the proteins, they are all in sprouts. So, if there’s two things that aren’t in sprouts, it’s vitamin D and vitamin B12.
James Maskell: Super interesting. All right, cool. So, that’s super comprehensive, and if you have any questions about this, obviously, you can check out Doug’s book and we’ll be talking more about that as we go through. But I want to get into the heart of the matter, far as I’m concerned, which is ultimately, three years ago, I made a decision that the Evolution Of Medicine had to be about functional medicine or this lifestyle-first, root-cause approach to health for everyone. Right? I focused at the beginning on getting a lot of doctors to come over and build direct primary care practices, low overhead practices. But ultimately, still, patients had to pay outside of health insurance and outside of Medicare and Medicaid for appointments. They had to, in most cases, buy supplements in order to participate and there wasn’t a great geographical spread of practitioners.
That’s improved over the last few years and there’s functional medicine doctor in every town now. But still, the cost of access to good nutrition is still high and I think if anyone went to Organic Avenue, it would be hard to think that even every American could shop at Organic Avenue because ultimately, the cost of having juice of that quality is high. What struck me from your book and why I wanted to have you on to talk about this in the Evolution of Medicine Podcast and new models is what I got from your book is there’s at least the potential for this kind of dispersion, ending of food deserts, dispersion of making it easy for people to actually get all the nutrients they need at a considerably lower cost, like a multiple fraction of what they would have to if they were eating organic fruit from a CSA box or even whatever other means you have, supplementation via professional supplements.
Doug Evans: Yeah. I think that the insight was that you can actually grow your own vegetables in days, not weeks, months, or years, for pennies a serving, and that seemingly was too good to be true. The more I’ve challenged that hypothesis and the more that I’ve tested it, the more it proved to be value and valuable and accurate. So, for example, two tablespoons of broccoli seeds will grow into six cups of broccoli sprouts in about five days. What makes it so powerful is that the seeds themselves are complete living organisms in a dormant state, and by adding water and waiting and rinsing the water and managing the level of humidity through a simple implement device like a mason jar with some cheesecloth, you’re able to go through a transformation from seed to sprout in days.
When I looked at the fact that you could grow your own food in days, not weeks, months, or years, and you are getting complete vegetables that also were nutritious to the level …there’s a lot of work right now being done with cruciferous vegetables and how cruciferous vegetables contain glucoraphanin, which is the precursor to sulforaphane and how sulforaphane will kill cancer cells. It turns out that cruciferous vegetables have it, broccoli has it. But broccoli sprouts on their third day can have 20 to 100 times the amount of the sulforaphane as mature broccoli. So, that’s very, very powerful. If you think about gut health and microbiome, which is fed off of fiber, it’s very clear that all spouts have fiber. Because the sprouts are young and in their tender stage, the soluble and insoluble fiber is very digestible. So, it’s very good food for the microbiome and the micro floor.
So, when we start to think about these items, if you were to take something like a lentil and you were to sprout a lentil, you double the antioxidant levels of that lentil, you triple the vitamin C, and you double to quadruple the amount of fiber and volume, and it’s growing without fertilizer, without soil, without sunshine. You’re giving the water and it has the energy and the intelligence to grow. To me, that is a miracle and it’s a miracle that for the greater portion of my adult life, I’m 54, I was unaware of, and the majority of people in America are unaware of this.
So, I made it my mission to share this information through my Instagram, @dougevans, through writing The Sprout Book, and by going on a variety of podcasts, interviews, lives, anything I could to anyone. I’ve had lives with someone who had an audience of 100 people, because they were really interested about specific questions, and I said, “Let’s at least do this so that I’m answering your questions and they’ll be shared with you plus one or two,” and turned out that grew to thousands of people seeing and sharing that information.
James Maskell: Yeah, it’s amazing., A lot of the questions that we are trying to answer in the future of healthcare revolve around this idea of the social determinants of health, and if you really boil down what the social determinants of health, it’s a bit euphemistic, but it’s really poverty. Right? Ultimately, poor people can’t afford to buy the stuff that keeps them healthy and get stuck in situations where they can’t. What role for sprouting in solving the social determinants of health for and reversing and preventing chronic disease in the poorest populations in America and around the world?
Doug Evans: Well, the neighborhood that I live in has a median annual income of $18,000. It is a very poor neighborhood. We have a 7-Eleven, a Taco Bell, a McDonald’s, and a grocery store, and the organic produce in the grocery store is both limited and expensive. The fact that I can buy bulk, I’m spouting seeds, and for me, I buy the bulk by myself. If I were lower income, I would share the bulk purchase with other people, and you can see an enormous level of access to buying these organic seeds. If you were to live in a major city, and by the way, I am a proponent of sprouting. So, if someone has the financial means and they want to spend $3 or $5 to buy a pack of pre-grown broccoli sprouts or alfalfa sprouts or mung bean sprouts or radish, clover, I’m all for it. But it’s incredibly empowering to know that that $3 or $5 pack of sprouts is actually about 25 cents of seeds.
So, virtually everyone has access to a quarter or 30 cents, and most people are spending more money on junk food to get the calories to feel full. It turns out one cup of garbanzo beans has 380 calories and north of 20 grams of protein and all these other fiber and antioxidants in a cup of lentils or garbanzo beans or peas. So, the people who never had access to organic salads before, if they have access to an empty sauce jar, an empty clam shell container from a sandwich, an empty can, there’s a chapter in my book called “Junkyard Dog,” where I basically took things that were destined for the landfill or the recycling bin and I turned them into sprouting hardware. Right? As opposed to even using soil, the mason jar technique or the jar technique requires no soil, and if you want to grow micro greens, you can even use unbleached paper towel. Or if you don’t have that, cheesecloth or a pillowcase. The insight is that these seeds want to grow and turn into food and they get to do that in days, not weeks, months, or years.
James Maskell: Awesome. I love that. All right. So, for the practitioners listening to this, obviously, they could recommend your book and people can read the book and learn all of those strategies. What have you learned from these years of sprouting that would make it easy for people to do this? Just as I’m thinking about it, obviously, I’ve been activating practitioners for the last three years on the idea, and particularly in the last two years on these group visits, and I could imagine that groups of people taking care of that health, maybe sprouting is something that would be so easy for people to implement. We’ve talked before on this topic of things like victory gardens and people starting their own garden. But this seems like it’s infinitely easier and ultimately, infinitely cheaper to get going and the friction to start to take control is a lot less.
Doug Evans: Well, look. I think that the idea of the group visits and masterminds, it fits very aligned into my notion of community sprouting. If every person were to pool their funds and one person were to buy the broccoli seeds and someone else, the lentil seeds and someone else, the radish seeds, and they all sprouted them, they could then come together and share their bounty and share their experience and troubleshoot. So, it’s very powerful to buy in bulk, share that information, and then in my book, we created 40 recipes of what people to do with sprouts to make them more interesting from salads and wraps and smoothies and adding sprouts to celery with a raisin to making desserts incorporating sprouts. So, it’s this whole awareness that sprouts are good for you and that you can start to incorporate sprouts to your diet, and if you’re a parent, you can add them to school lunches. You can add them to virtually anything that you cook with and you can either make them highly visible or you can make them disappear into a dish.
James Maskell: It’s interesting that your book came out right at the beginning of COVID and it seems like potentially anyway, that it was good information, right information at the right time, as people were dispersed back to their homes and it was difficult to get vegetables and so forth. What have you learned in the last year since your book came out that you didn’t know when you wrote the book?
Doug Evans: I didn’t know how many people in both the medical community and the nutrition community were fans of sprouting. They all knew that sprouts were powerhouses, but they never thought of them as a utility that was viable solution. In the conversations, I believe that they were waking up to it, and to me, my confidence level increased as I learned more about how many more people were aware of spouting. They just didn’t have a voice. There’s never been a billboard in Los Angeles with sprouts on it. There’s never been a Super Bowl TV commercial with sprouts, that sprouts were predominantly relegated to the hippies or to Asian cuisine, and now I see a shift, slowly but surely, to people growing more sprouts. I think the other thing of my book launching in April during the pandemic was probably the biggest awareness of people thinking about sprouts as a survival food because the seeds can be stored for long periods of time. They’re super nutritious. They’re stable until activated. So, I think that was another insight. A third one was I—
James Maskell: Are you big with preppers, Doug? Are preppers big into sprouts?
Doug Evans: Wait. Say again?
James Maskell: Are you big in the prepper community? Like people preparing for the end of the world? They get their sprouts because they know that they’d have a ton of nutrition if they couldn’t go to the store and the power grid went out?
Doug Evans: To show you how little I know of the prepper community, I never heard of the prepper community. So, no. But I think it’s very insightful there. The other thing which I was very learned about was how it takes a level of awareness for people to eat sprouts, that if you just tell people to eat sprouts, it’s not enough, that they need to hear a little bit more of the dialogue in order for those seeds to be planted in their mind for them to be activated. But then I see that because the sprouts have familiar names, broccoli, radish, clover, alfalfa, those are things that are easier for people to swallow than some exotic antioxidants superfood from the Amazon. These are familiar for people to do it, and that level of familiarity allows the more rapid adoption.
James Maskell: Beautiful. So, what recommendations would you have for practitioners who are listening to this who want to get their patients hooked on it? What are the things that have to happen for them to go beyond, “Oh, that sounds interesting,” to, “I got to do this tomorrow”?
Doug Evans: I’m not a doctor. Right? So, let’s be very clear. In my discussions with doctors in the medical community, it was very interesting how sprouts can become a utility for treating both chronic and acute illnesses. So, in terms of cancer and cancer recovery, post-chemotherapy, and radiation sprouts are very healthy on that part. In particular, the broccoli sprouts. The fact that broccoli sprouts can help detoxify benzene from the lungs from pollution, air pollution, primary smoking, or secondhand smoking, incredible. The fact that all of the essential benefits of whole food plant-based diet in terms of treating diabetes and obesity and heart disease all apply to sprouts in a very practical and pragmatic fashion because someone could do it on their own and then have readily available sprouts for their consumption.
Another insight that I’ll just share was that in the beginning, I was growing large amounts of sprouts and filling my refrigerator with them. Over time, I realized that I can sprout for daily harvests. So, I can sprout and then consume what I sprout in that moment on that day so that I don’t have to store these sprouts, that I get to have fresh continuous crops, and that I learned how important that was when I spoke to the produce manager in my local Whole Foods and found out that the produce could be at least two weeks out of the ground before it gets consumed. So, the idea of freshness, the vitality was very important.
James Maskell: Awesome. Well, Doug, I’m fired up about this. Obviously, community-based solutions is exactly what we’ve been up against. I think that there’s a notion that functional medicine has been only for rich people. My goal with really working on all aspects of group visits in the last two months, if you’ve been listening to this podcast, you’ve heard me talk about this direct primary care revolution with Dr. Tusek, Dr. Bisharat, talking about what we’ve been doing to create these virtual groups that can bring functional medicine available on Medicare and commercial insurance and really get into the majority of people in the country that don’t have access to it.
I think this is a really important podcast, I think this is a really important conversation, and I hope that practitioners who are listening, this inspires you to get activated around sprouts, to start to prescribe sprouts. And Doug, I’d love to work with you over the next little while to try and make it easier and easier for people to do this because I see this filling a gap that really exists, that’s clear to everyone that exists, and is not being really filled by any other solution right now.
Doug Evans: Well, James, your pioneering work with functional medicine is evident and the initiative that you’re taking in order to share information and do these podcasts and the conferences is very, very admirable and significant, and I’m grateful that you see me and the sprouts as something that fits in to the overall strategy for functional medicine execution.
James Maskell: Beautiful. Well, we will have more on this story as it comes along. But in the meantime, check out The Sprout Book, start your own sprouts, and we’d love to hear what you’ve learned as you go along. Is it easy? Is it hard? Is it as easy as Doug says it is? I feel very activated. I’m going to be participating in it and look forward to hearing all of the feedback from our community about this. If this podcast was interesting to you and you think other professionals or maybe even your patients need to listen to this so that they can understand the value of sprouting, I hope that this podcast, just like Doug’s book, can be a resource that would take someone from, “Oh, this sounds interesting,” to, “Yeah, let’s do this.” Even better, let’s do this as a community so we can all hold each other accountable to the fact that if we do it together as a community, it can be a lot easier.
Doug, I appreciate your passion for this. I appreciate you coming on here and participating in this podcast. This podcast is part of our series on new models, and ultimately, over the last couple of months, we’ve really looked at new clinical care models. I wanted to share this as an opportunity to really think through how are we going to get the whole population the nutrients they need to reverse chronic disease at scale? That’s the point of the functional medicine revolution. That’s the point of the Evolution of Medicine. Thank you, everyone, for listening. This has been the Evolution of Medicine Podcast. I’m your host, James Maskell, and we’ll see you next time.
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