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Are Sprouted Grains Healthier?

sprouted grainsWhen it comes to healthy food crazes, it’s not always easy to separate fact from fiction. In recent years, sprouted grains have become increasingly popular – but do sprouted grains represent an actual nutrition advantage over traditional grains? Or is it just marketing hype?

First things first, sprouted grains are seeds that have just started to grow – but that have yet to develop into an actual plant. For this very brief period, the outer bran layer splits open and a young shoot may just be visible. Some sprouted grains can be added directly to foods like salads, while still others are baked into breads, cereals, etc.

Because some of the grain’s starch is used for sprouting, there’s a slightly higher percentage of other nutrients in sprouted grains. However, these differences are relatively small.

There’s also some preliminary evidence that sprouting a grain will improve its bioavailability. That’s just a fancy way to say that some of those nutrients – including minerals like iron and zinc – may be more easily absorbed after sprouting. As such, sprouted grains may be more beneficial especially for developing countries wherein iron and zinc deficiencies are more common.

In addition, some individuals report improved digestion with sprouted grains versus traditional grains. Sprouted beans, for example, may result in less gas or bloating.

The bottom line: Sprouted grains are whole grains. And all of us are better off eating whole grains instead of the refined grains found in white bread, most pastas, etc. But rather than buy into the benefits or hype of just one ingredient, we need to examine the nutritional properties of foods as a whole. I could make a sprouted grain cake… but, sadly, it’s still a cake.

Is Sprouted Bread Healthier?

Until living in San Diego, I had never heard of sprouted bread. More than a few people recommended that I try sprouted bread as an alternative to typical wheat bread. So, I did.

Sprouted bread is actually an ancient, biblical recipe that involves placing grains in water and allowing them to germinate. Once sprouted, the grains are combined with other ingredients to make the bread.

It tastes pretty good. Though the flavor of sprouted bread isn’t all that different, it does offer some unique nutritional benefits:

  • Sprouted grains are easier to digest as the germination breaks down starches.
  • Sprouted grains contain more vitamins than their non-sprouted counterparts. There’s an increase in iron, potassium, calcium and vitamins A, B and C.
  • Sprouted breads are often low-gluten or gluten-free. The enzymes in the sprouts break down the gluten – which can be a huge benefit for gluten-sensitive individuals.
  • Sprouted grains have higher levels of fiber and protein than typical wheat bread.
  • Sprouted breads have a lower glycemic index. If your diet is based on low glycemic index foods – or if you are diabetic – sprouted grain breads are a great alternative since they don’t cause post-meal blood sugar levels to spike.

There’s not a HUGE difference between sprouted bread and typical wheat bread – but, when planning a proper and balanced diet – every little bit can help. And clearly, sprouted bread does offer some key advantages for health-conscious consumers. It’s certainly worth giving sprouted bread a try.

Sprouted grain products are available in natural or health food stores and some national chains like Whole Foods Market and Ralphs Grocery.