I’m sure you’ve seen the increasingly popular trend in healthy foods – “sprouted” grains in breads, cereals, wraps, chips, etc. When I first saw this phrase on certain food items I came across while shopping in Whole Foods one day, I was expecting to see little chia pets within my food products. While sprouted grain foods may not look like a bushy head of green sprouts (the kids would love that), they are all the rage for healthier, more nutrient-dense food choices. Sprouted grains are “enzymatically alive” foods, meaning they are rich in food enzymes (easy digestion) and natural vitamins. Unfortunately, these types of enzymatic-rich foods are missing from the diets of most Americans. Believe it or not, adding sprouted grains into your family’s diet is one extremely easy way to boost health benefits without struggling to get everyone to adapt to a new “taste” of something (we all know how that goes, especially with children). Surprisingly, adding sprouted grains into my diet was one of the easiest ways to incorporate so many health benefits without noticing a difference. Read on to find out more about these miniature powerhouses of nutrition, delicious recipes, where to find products made with sprouted grains, and even how to sprout your own grains at home if you so desire.
WHAT ARE SPROUTED GRAINS? Sprouted grains are grains that merely begin to germinate sprouts (think baby plants). The grains are placed in water for a short time, where they begin to sprout. After they are taken out of the water (once sprouting has begun), they can be eaten raw or turned into other things like flour (which is a great alternative to traditional, refined and processed flours, which are all the gossip for rumored to be the root of many food allergies and digestive issues). Think back to elementary school when we learned about seeds – picture the endosperm (the food portion of the seed for the plant). Once sprouting starts, enzyme activity in the endosperm creates simpler molecules that are easily digested by the growing plant embryo. Just as the baby plant finds these enzyme-activated simple molecules easier to digest, so too may some people.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPROUTED GRAINS: Essentially, the only way to unlock the vital benefits from grains is to sprout them first. If you have not already tried adding sprouted grains into your family’s diet (or if you are still not convinced that it’s worth it), check out this long list of health benefits that sprouted grains offer us:
• Increased vitamins and nutrients – The sprouting process apparently increases the amount and bio-availability of some vitamins (notably Vitamin C and folate) and minerals, fiber, and amino acids (important for growth and repair within the body…and also commonly lacking in grains, notably lysine), making sprouted grains a potential nutrition powerhouse.
• Increased Digestibility – Sprouting breaks down starches in grains into simple sugars so your body can digest them easily.
• Less Allergenic – sprouted grains may also be less allergenic to those with grain protein sensitivities (like gluten).
• More protein – Sprouted grains contain more protein and fewer starches than non-sprouted grain.
• Increased Absorption of Minerals – Sprouting breaks down enzyme inhibitors, so your body can more easily adsorb calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
•Better Mineral Absorption – Sprouting neutralizes certain naturally-occurring food acids that act as “anti-nutrients” – for example, phytic acid is present on many grains and seeds, and without being rinsed or soaked off,can cause minerals to bind up, preventing the body’s ability to fully absorb them.
• Lower Glycemic Index – sprouted grains are perfect for those suffering from diabetes or other blood sugar issues, as they are lower on the glycemic index.
•Increased Antioxidants – Sprouting releases more antioxidants that are naturally stored in the grains and seeds.
• Increased Vitamins – Sprouting produces vitamin C and increases the vitamins B2, B5 & B6.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SPROUTED GRAINS: You’re probably thinking how you would even begin to incorporate sprouted grains into your diet. Sprouted grains and seeds can be delicious when eaten raw, but you can also try serving them raw as a salad, gently seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, and some lemon. Sprouted grains and seeds are also tasty mixed in with other vegetables, in salads, or on sandwiches. Check out the list of recipes at the end of this article to find more delicious ways to incorporate sprouted grains and seeds into your family’s diet. (Please note that cooking or using sprouted grains/seeds in baking recipes diminishes the enzymatic and nutrient properties, as heat destroys many “raw” foods).
HOW SPROUTED GRAINS BECOME “SPROUTED” (Source: The Whole Grains
While a little sprouting appears to be good for us, there’s a sweet spot. Just the right amount of time, temperature, and moisture are necessary to start the germination process. Too much moisture, and the grain drowns, with the seed splitting open not from the force of an emerging, vibrant seedling but instead, simply from waterlogged swelling. Or, the sprout may begin to emerge but then, if the moisture source is not removed, it can begin to ferment or even to rot. Time is important, too – if a healthy sprout continues to grow indefinitely, it becomes a new grass stalk, losing its digestibility, since humans can’t properly digest grasses.
Fortunately, companies marketing sprouted grains today don’t simply leave their grains randomly in the field. They sprout their grains under carefully-controlled conditions, with just the right amount of moisture and warmth, until the important enzymatic processes are at their peak, and then they use the sprouted grains to make products.
DRY OR WET? Companies making sprouted grain products currently use two different
approaches – dry and wet – once the grains are sprouted.
The Dry Approach: Some companies sprout the grain then dry it, to lock in this ideal stage. At this point, the sprouted grain can be stored until it’s cooked as a side dish, or it can be milled into sprouted grain flour, which is in turn used to make a wide variety of products.
The Wet Approach: Alternately, other companies mash the wet, sprouted grains into a thick purée which is used to make breads, tortillas, muffins and other products. These products are often described as “flourless” and are frequently sold frozen.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SPROUTED GRAINS (and flour):
•Sprouted Quinoa (which is considered to be the easiest to make): Purchase dried quinoa (preferably organic) and soak them in filtered water for four hours and then strain. Place the quinoa on moist paper towels in a baking dish and then lightly cover with a cloth towel (or plastic wrap with holes cut in it, but this is not as eco/toxin friendly). Once the dish is covered, place it in a dark or shaded area, misting every 12 hours. By one day, you should start to see germination. Spraying for a longer period of time will allow for longer sprouts to be formed (like green shoots…which are more for use in salads). The sprouts can be refrigerated and kept up to one week.
All other sprouted grains (Source: http://www.keeperofthehome.org):
•Start with whole grains (wheat/kamut/spelt/rye/barley…as long as it’s the berry or whole kernel, it will work). Put several cups of the dry grain into a large bowl, and then fill the bowl with water, covering the grain by at least several inches. Cover and let it sit for about 6-12 hours, and overnight is an ideal time to do it.
•The next day, drain the grains into a colander or strainer. Give them a good rinse under running water and put the colander over a bowl or plate to catch the extra dripping water. Cover with a clean dish towel.
• For about 2-3 days, rinse and shake the grains around twice a day (morning and night), or 3 times a day if it’s particularly warm/dry in your house. The point is to not let the grains dry out• Once the grains have small tails, you can give them a final rinse, shake them off well, and then spread them on mesh trays and put in the dehydrator. (If you don’t have a dehydrator, I think that you could probably dry them out in the oven with the oven light on- but not turned on, as this would cook them…probably a full day. If you don’t have a dehydrator, it’s worth it to find even a cheap one from a thrift store or garage sale!) I like to put mine at about 120 degrees F and it takes about half a day for them to dry completely. They need to be absolutely dry because otherwise you will not be able to grind them if making flour (they’ll clog up your machine).
• Once the grains are completely dry, they can now be stored in your pantry in an air-tight container. Or if you like, you can grind them right away in a special blender, food processor, or nut/spice grinder and keep the freshly ground flour in the fridge (to use up within a week or two) or in the freezer for longer storage (several months).
• Sprouted flour can be used just like regular whole grain flour in any of your recipes, but the phytates have already been dealt with through the sprouting process!
SPROUTED GRAIN PRODUCTS: With all of this talk about sprouted grains, here are
some products you can easily find in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, natural food stores, and
grocery stores across the nation.
* Ezekiel 4:9 Products – They make everything from sprouted breads, wraps, and
cereals. (My personal favorite is their sprouted grain wraps – put anything on them from
hummus to roasted veggies for a delicious sandwich).
* Food for Life Products – Breads, pastas, tortillas, and baking goods are this company’s
* Arrowhead Mills – makes a wide range of ground sprouted grain flours for easy use in
recipes (this saves you all of the work of sprouting all of your own grains and grinding
them into flour).
SPROUTED GRAIN RECIPES: Check out these sites for loads of delicious and creative
sprouted grain recipes!