Are sprouted grains more nutritious than regular whole grains?

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

My local farmers’ market was busy with the Saturday morning bustle of people buying homemade goods and locally grown fruits and vegetables. One of the vendors had a swarm of customers inspecting freshly baked breads. “They’re sprouted-grain breads,” the baker told me, and explained that they tasted better and were healthier than regular whole-grain breads. A sample was delicious — the recipe included sprouted Kamut and spelt, and the bread had a nutty flavor — but was it more nutritious than the regular whole-grain bread I’d just purchased from another vendor?

About sprouted grains

For more on the subject, I turned to Kristina Secinaro, a registered dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

She explained that sprouted grains are simply whole-grain seeds that have just begun to sprout. In order to catch the sprouts at just the right moment in the growing process, whole-grain seeds are typically soaked and then nurtured in environments with controlled amounts of warmth and moisture. This can be done at home (in a vented jar) or at food manufacturing plants (in special equipment).

The moist environment can promote bacterial growth. For that reason, Secinaro recommends that you don’t eat raw sprouted grains. Instead, mash them into a paste for use in baked goods, or cook the raw sprouts before adding them to a meal. Cooking or baking the sprouts should be enough to kill any bacteria. You’ll also need to refrigerate cooked sprouts and sprouted-grain baked goods.

Are they better than regular whole grains?

Sprouted grains have many health benefits. It’s the result of catching the sprouts during the germinating process. “This germinating process breaks down some of the starch, which makes the percentage of nutrients higher. It also breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that normally decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. So sprouted grains have more available nutrients than mature grains,” Secinaro says. Those nutrients include folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein. Sprouted grains also may have less starch and be easier to digest than regular grains. “It may help people who are sensitive to digesting grains,” Secinaro says.

How much better?

Sprouted whole grains and regular whole grains contain the same nutrients, but in different quantities. “I do think there are benefits to sprouted grains, but they’re not a cure-all. I would replace some whole grains with sprouted grains at least once a day,” says Secinaro, “and over all, aim for three to six servings of whole grains each day.” A serving might be a piece of whole-grain bread or half a cup of whole-grain pasta.

But just because a product contains sprouted whole grains, that doesn’t mean it has more nutrients than a regular whole-grain product. You’ll have to read the Nutrition Facts label to compare nutrition content.

Buying sprouted-grain products

You can find sprouted-grain goods (flours, breads, buns, muffins, tortillas, crackers, and even pizza crust) at a farmers’ market, like I did, or in a grocery store. “They should be in a refrigerated or frozen section. If they’re not, they probably have preservatives in them, although sprouted quinoa or rice flour is safely kept on the shelf,” Secinaro says.

But don’t assume the products are made of 100% sprouted grains. Sometimes there are just small amounts of sprouted grains in a product, so read the ingredients list or talk to the food maker who’s selling it.

In other words, do a little homework before you buy sprouted-grain products. That’s what I’ll be doing the next time I visit the farmers’ market.

Comments:

  1. Gwendolyn Kaegh

    A thought: When nature matures a grain it naturally covers it with a protective coating that keeps it from trying to sprout and grow until the weather has the proper temperature and moisture for the healthy production of a new plant.
    Sprouting releases the energy stored in the grain itself that feeds and nurtures the baby plant to full growth.
    Sprouted grains are grains with their energy and nutrients released and available to you also.
    I always buy the organic products, and love the convenience of a slice of Ezekiel 100% whole grains bread ready to go, straight from my freezer to the toaster, or thawed and ready to use from the frig, carefully stored in the zip-lock baggie that I use to liberate individual slices from the frozen loaf packaging before I store them all in my freezer. Only the slice(s) needed for the next day’s immediate use are moved down to the frig door the night before.
    Enjoy.

  2. Jorge

    Great. Comments from a dietician regarding nutrient content of sprouted grains with no peer-reviewed studies cited. Science at its best?Jorge

  3. Rick

    The advice “…aim for three to six servings of whole grains each day” is certainly debatable. How about ‘Aim for no more than two servings of whole grains every day’? Whole/sprouted grains are better than highly processed, nutrient-poor, glyphosate-enriched standard American grains, but filtered cigarettes are better than unfiltered. They are convenient and ever-present, but unnecessary to human health.

  4. Louis Glekas

    Thank You for your sprouted grains (bread) article . Always looking for breads that are healthier than the ones we grew up eating.
    Always suspicious of foods that have a shelf life longer than mine.

  5. Chris Lazarus

    doesn’t the baking process destroy many of the nutrients in sprouted grains (whole grains for that matter)? Just wondering.

    • Carl Hedberg

      My Cardiologist shared with me over 7 years ago . . . . . .
      . . . . . . . “remember that we avoid wheat in all its forms: wheat flour, yes, but also panko, seitan, breading, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, rusk, roux and others. (Find a list in all the Wheat Belly books and cookbooks.) We also don’t fall for the marketing games used to sell us sprouted grain products, emmer, einkorn, spelt, kamut, or organic grains, as they all hold potential for re-triggering inflammation and autoimmune diseases, exert mind effects, cause migraine headaches, high blood sugars, gallbladder disruption, changes in bowel flora, etc. (Readers of Wheat Belly Total Health understand the rationale: We avoid consuming all seeds of grasses from the biological family Poaceae.)”
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2015/08/wheat-wheat-everywhere/
      My health is now #wheatbelly #guthealthy #bulletproof
      Healthier than a 38 year old with blood work to back it up and I just turned 70 years young!

      • Nick Pokoluk

        Well my grand parents lived well beyond 90 and had white bread st every meal and pasta often – being from Italy. And Sella Dora cookies always. Hmmm…

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