Although Sprouted Grains are popping up in the market at an increased rate, they are a long-standing practice and not just the latest trend. You may have noticed more use of sprouted grains in recipes and food manufacturing for cereal, bread, pasta, and other packaged foods with good reason, as the process of sprouting grains maximizes the nutrition of whole grains and makes the nutrients more bioavailable, i.e. easier for your body to access the nutrients.
What are sprouted grains?
Sprouted grains are seeds that germinate and begin to grow given just the right temperature and moisture conditions under an ideal environment. When the new sprout is still shorter than the original grain, it is considered a sprouted grain. A sprouted grain has only a short shoot because the maturation process is halted shortly after germination. When the process of sprouting begins, it releases many of the grain’s nutrients in a way that is more easily available to and absorbed by our bodies.
Better for you / Potential Health Benefits
According to Oldways and the Whole Grains Council, as well as emerging studies, sprouted grains have many health benefits. Of course, more and larger studies need to be done, but here are some of the reported benefits:
- Easier digestibility: sprouting breaks down starches into simpler molecules that are easier to absorb.
- Soluble fiber increases
- Increased Vitamin C: sprouting produces Vitamin C
- Increased Folate
- Increased B Vitamins: sprouting increases Vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B6 (pyridoxine)
- Increased antioxidants: the process of sprouting releases more antioxidants, such as Vitamin E, that are naturally stored in the grains and seeds.
- Increased absorption of minerals: sprouting grains reduces phytic acid, a compound that binds minerals in grains, so nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc become more readily available.
The greater fiber content, as well as the increase in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, seem to promote healthier cholesterol levels and perhaps good blood sugar control. Found in plant foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and tea, phytonutrients may help prevent disease and keep the body working properly. In fact, a study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition in September of 2014 indicated that sprouting amaranth increased antioxidant activity (300 to 470 percent), total phenolic content (829 percent), and flavonoid content (213 percent) when sprouting occurred under ideal conditions. In addition, the protein and fiber content increased as a result of sprouting.
Another interesting finding in a Japanese study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in October 2007 suggests that sprouted brown rice decreased depression and fatigue and improved immune system function in nursing mothers.
One more possible advantage is that sprouted grains contain less gluten content, making these breads a possible alternative for people with gluten sensitivity, depending on individual tolerance. This does not include those with celiac disease or a specific allergy, as sprouted products still naturally contain gluten.
Overall, sprouted grain bread is a nutritious choice not only because it uses the whole grain, but the process sprouted grains go through actually breaks down the proteins and carbohydrates in the grain, thus increasing the nutrient content and easing digestion.
But how do they taste?
Overall, sprouted grains seem to have a nutty taste and can add flavor to your foods. Baked bread seems to be the most popular market for sprouted grains. They lend a softer consistency and sweeter taste than whole wheat because some of the starches are broken down into simpler sugars during the sprouting process. Any whole grain can be sprouted, including barley, wheat, farro, amaranth, oats, quinoa, spelt, rice, and millet. They can be eaten whole or dried and milled into flour for breads, cereals, and pasta.
Buying and using sprouted grains
Typically, sprouted grain breads can be found at a health food store or online, but you will notice, if you have not already, that these foods are showing up in your local grocery stores too. The Whole Grains Council website offers recipes using sprouted grains including bread, rolls, waffles, brown rice, and linguini. If you haven’t tasted sprouted grains yet, it may be time to try them out! They seem to be a win-win food in terms of taste and nutrition.
Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information