You may have heard a lot about these things called sprouted grains. Or maybe this is the first time you’ve ever heard of them. The mystery around sprouted grains is about to end, because we’re here to answer the question — “What are sprouted grains?”
Sprouted grains are whole grains that are placed in water and allowed time to germinate and sprout. As the sprout emerges, the bran layer of the grain will split, which allows for even more nutrients to be available for consumption. In short, sprouted grains are whole grains that have just begun to grow but then are harvested before they can become a full plant.
Getting the grain to sprout — where it has cracked and a small root has come out one side and a tiny shoot has come out the other — depends on the perfect combination of moisture, heat and time.
Once the grain has sprouted, the germination process is stopped by drying out the grain or by mashing it up. These can then be milled into flour or mashed up and used immediately to make bread, tortillas or other products.
So are sprouted grains really worth your time? Should you make the switch in your bread choices or forget all about them?
That’s for you to decide, but we do have five reasons for why we believe they’re worth your time and at least a try.
Bread that uses sprouted grains is very similar to those that use whole-grain flours because they use the entire grain. By using the whole sprouted grain, these breads are higher in nutrients such as fiber, vitamins such as vitamin E and B, and minerals.
Mark Sorrells, founder of the Cornell Small Grains Project and professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, explains that many grains contain phytic acid, which binds together minerals and makes them less bioavailable to us because we don’t have the enzymes needed to break down the acid. He goes on to explain that sprouting can actually start to break down some of that acid, in turn making those minerals more available.
Moreover, if the producer adds legumes to the sprouted grains, the combination makes the proteins in the bread “complete.” This means the bread contains all nine essential amino acids.
The sprouting that occurs in sprouted grains breaks down the starches in the grain and ultimately lowers the carb content.
The lower carb content and higher fiber levels can be great for people who have stomach issues, excess weight, diabetes or hormone imbalances. This is because sprouted grain bread has a lower glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t raise your blood sugars very high or very fast.
Sprouted grains also have a lower calorie count because they germinate and sprout in water. All of this — the lower carbs and the lower amount of calories per serving — can help you to lose weight, as well.
As stated earlier, sprouted grains are higher in nutrients and lower in antinutrients than whole grains or processed flour. These nutrients include protein, fiber, vitamin C and B vitamins.
The sprouting also increases the amino acids in the grain, which in turn increases the protein content in the bread. Not only does the protein increase, but the longer the grain germinates and is allowed to sprout, the higher the fiber content will be.
But the sprouting doesn’t just increase the good nutrients. It also decreases the antinutrients that can hinder the digestion of certain nutrients and lower the absorption of others.
One of these antinutrients is phytic acid. Sprouting grains lowers the acid content, thereby increasing the number of nutrients our body can digest and absorb, including iron.
Remember that the sprouting process begins to break down starches in the grain. This makes it easier to digest because they are essentially already “pre-digested” for you.
Moreover, sprouted grains are very high in enzymes, which help us digest the food we put into our bodies. These enzymes may be cooked out during high-heat baking but can be somewhat preserved by cooking them at slightly lower temperatures.
Lastly, plants contain a substance called lectin. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Lectins “resist being broken down in the gut and are stable in acidic environments.”
This makes it harder to digest. But during the sprouting process, the grains metabolize the lectin, lower the lectin content and make the bread easier to digest than non-sprouted grain bread.
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and several other products. When flour is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form a mass that has a glue-like consistency. This allows the dough to be elastic in nature and rise when baked.
Unfortunately, higher gluten levels aren’t good for everyone. But studies done by the Department of food and Drugs at the University of Parma show that sprouting can decrease gluten content by 47 percent, making the bread easier to digest for some.
Of course, sprouting doesn’t completely get rid of gluten. So if you are someone who has a severe allergy to gluten or you have celiac disease, you should still avoid eating these breads.
Here are a few sprouted grain brands that you can try out for yourself:
Now that you have an idea of why sprouted grains could be worth your time, give them a try! You’ll probably be glad you did.