Have you lately stepped into a grocery store and seen a huge section of sprouted grains? The newest thing is the sprouted whole grain bread which might have caught your attention. Sprouted grains are the latest trend and are becoming a popular health choice with more people shifting from whole grains to sprouted ones. But are they really healthy and should you switch over to them completely?

What are sprouted grains?

Sprouted grains are whole grain seeds. These grains are in between a seed and a plant. A regular grain is just a seed which you can plant on the ground. When you let a grain start to grow but harvest it before it turns into a plant, that stage is the sprouted grain stage. These grains are in the transitioning stage. The right temperature, moisture level and time make the seeds sprout and if left in perfect conditions, they can sprout into a plant. In the market, you can find two kinds of sprouts- dry and wet. Dry sprouts are when the grains are sprouted and left to dry to have a longer shelf life. Wet sprouts are when the sprouts are mashed into a puree form and then they are used in bread, muffins and other baked goods.

Nutritional benefits of sprouted grains

There has been recent research which shows that sprouting increases a grain’s essential nutrient component. Here are some health benefits of sprouted grains:

  1. They are low in starch and because of this, they have higher proportions of Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Folate, soluble fiber and essential amino acids as compared to unsprouted grains. The lower content of carbohydrate makes them better for people suffering from diabetes.
  2. Sprouted grains are also rich in another enzyme called amylase which breaks down starch into sugar, thus helping in the digestion process. Many whole grains miss the amount of fiber required for a good digestion process. To get the recommended per day fiber diet from grains alone a person would have to eat 10 bowls of multi-grain cereal, 15 slices of whole wheat bread or 10 cups of brown rice. Fresh vegetables and fruits are better sources of fiber.
  3. Sprouting of grains has also been observed to break down phytate which is a form of phytic acid that decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. Most of the minerals and vitamins are locked in phytic acid. Phytic acid is a mineral blocker or enzyme inhibitor that binds itself with the minerals making them unavailable during the process of digestion. In fact, a study has proven that about 80 percent of the iron and magnesium of the whole grains are unavailable to you because of phytic acid binding.  The process of soaking and sprouting of grains breaks down phytic acid and unlocks the essential nutrients for digestion and absorption.
  4. It has also been noticed that people with mild sensitivities to gluten can digest sprouted grains better than the unsprouted ones as sprouting makes gluten and protein more digestible.  Though people with severe gluten sensitivity will not be benefitted from this. Sprouted wheat, rye, and barley contain less of the protein gluten.
  5. Antioxidants in broccoli sprouts have received a lot of attention for their cancer preventive effects. Sulforaphane, the antioxidant, helps in reducing insulin resistance and may assist with blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
  6. Sprouted brown rice can help fight diabetes and also reduce cardiovascular risk. It decreases depression and fatigue in nursing mothers.
  7. Sprouted buckwheat protects against fatty liver diseases
  8. Sprouted barley is linked with a decrease in blood pressure.

Is it possible to make sprouted grains at home?

Nuts, seeds, beans, and grains are powerhouses of nutrition. Soaking them and sprouting replicates the germination process which activates and multiplies the nutrients. Soaking and sprouting is an easy process and can be done at home. The method is the same for nuts and seeds, only the time required to sprout changes.

  1. Place the nuts, seeds, grains or beans in a large glass bowl or mason jar and cover with warm filtered water in a 2:1 ratio.
  2. Cover the jar with a light cotton cloth for the lid for the desired time.
  3. When they have sprouted, you can rinse them and drain off the excess water.

Some easy sprouted grains you can make at home are alfalfa, chickpea, mung beans or green beans, lentils, red beans, green peas, fenugreek, broccoli sprouts from broccoli seeds.

Should you only eat sprouted grains?

The advantage of having sprouted grain is maximised only if we eat the sprouted grain itself. When used in processes like bread making or baking, the grains are exposed to heat and often lose the nutritional benefits. Sprouted grains and whole grains contain the same nutrients but in different quantities. You cannot emit whole grains completely. One serving of sprouted grains accompanied by three to five servings of whole grains should be beneficial. Sprouted grains can be a healthy addition to your diet which should also contain whole grains. But if you are suffering from an autoimmune disease or severe health issues then it is better to avoid any kind of grains until the time your body is fully healed.

A word of caution

Though there are manifold nutritional benefits of sprouted grains,  the moist environment required for them to sprout promotes the growth of certain bacteria. Thus sprouts should never be eaten raw. Instead,  they should be either mashed or used in baking or they should be boiled or cooked lightly before eating them. That is enough to kill any bacteria. In fact, cooked sprouts can also be stored in the refrigerator.