If you have browsed the shelves of a health food store or section recently, you may have noticed products that advertise sprouted wheat. But what are sprouted grains and are they really a more healthy option? In short, they are grains that have been allowed to sprout in a carefully controlled moist and humid environment. Individual seeds rely on growth inhibitors to keep them from sprouting until the growing conditions are ideal. Once it has begun to sprout, the growth inhibitors are wiped out by a built-in enzyme, which also transforms the starch contained within the endosperm to simple molecules that the growing plant embryo can easily digest. This conversion also makes a sprouted grain seed easier for people to digest. Because much of the starch in the endosperm is converted to energy for the growing plant, nutrients such as vitamin C, folate, fiber, B vitamins and protein are more readily available. Valuable vitamins and minerals that would normally be lost during the digestive process are saved to benefit the body.
A variety of grains, such as rice, corn, wheat, quinoa, legumes and lentils can be sprouted to create breads, cereals, pasta and tortillas. Those following a vegetarian or vegan diet can count on sprouted grains to help ensure that they get their daily doses of protein, zinc and iron. Sprouted grain contains less gluten, which is good news for those who have a gluten sensitivity, however, those who are officially Celiac or otherwise completely allergic should still abstain. Sprouted grain may also be less allergenic to people with grain protein sensitivities.
Although the health benefits of sprouted grains are still being researched, completed studies have indicated that regular consumption of sprouted grain is an effective defense against conditions such as diabetes, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and cardiovascular problems. Those researchers unwilling to conclude that sprouted grains themselves are a healthier option still agree that the minimal processing time in many sprouted grain products creates a better product than whole grain. Nutritionists suggest that sprouted grains in their raw form offer the greatest health benefit as the cooking process destroys some of the vital nutrients; however, even the cooked version is healthier than its whole grain counterpart.
Sprouted grains can be incorporated into almost any recipe. Anything that calls for a nut, grain or bean can be switched for the sprouted version. Sprouted grains can also be cooked and ground into flour* to be used as a 1:1 substitute for traditional flour. They can be eaten in their raw form, added to sandwiches, sprinkled on salads or used to accompany mixed vegetables. While commercial manufacturers time the sprouting process to maximize the health benefits, grains can also be sprouted at home with a little practice. There needs to be the right balance of moisture, temperature and time in order to catch the grain just as it sprouts, but before it becomes an indigestible grass stalk. Whether you choose to sprout your own grain or purchase a sprouted grain product, you are making a choice that will benefit your health, now as well as in the long run.
* Sprouted grains cannot be used in the NutriMill Grain Mills. However, if the grain is only sprouted a tiny bit (overnight only for wheat types) so that the grain just barely opens up showing a tiny speck of white sprout, then the grain can be completely dehydrated and ground into flour. To dehydrate grains, use either the oven method (low heat) or our L’Equip dehydrator.