The topic the wellness world seems to be addicted to recently is the idea that grains are ultimately bad for you and cause a myriad of health hazards. Think of titles such as “Grain Brain” and “Wheat Belly” claiming that grains cause anything from obesity, ADHD, heart problems, and gut issues. While at the same time as the march against processed grains is occurring we are also seeing and hearing the health benefits of sprouted grains, to support good health and incorporate into a healthy diet. Perhaps the idea is that with sprouting comes whole health rather than a horror show. The facts are it is a way to transform a somewhat nutritious food into a slightly more nutritious one, at worse this may just be creating a “health halo” around a food that isn’t all that great for our nutrient consumption to begin with.
Sprouted Grains profoundly changes the chemical composition of the grain. In the presence of moisture and warmth enzymes begin to break starches down into sugars, reconfiguring protein molecules into different proteins, producing vitamins, and changing the chemical structure of minerals. AS a result, sprouted grains may be lower in gluten, higher in folate, and may contain more bio-available minerals than in their un-sprouted state. The beneficial effect of minerals in the sprouting of a grain is due to the reduction of phytic acid (compound that bines to minerals making them more difficult to absorb). Other forms of processing, such as, milling and warming (baking) also reduces phytic acids.
Sprouting also affects the fiber in grains-in a more unpredictable manner. While some experience a decrease in fiber initially, during the first couple of days of sprouting, but if you allow the sprouting to continue for a few more days the fiber content can actually increase. Sprouting also turns soluble fiber (absorbable in the body) to insoluble fiber (the kind you want, indigestible).
Comparing the two labels from a sprouted grain product versus a regular wheat product you won’t see a clear nutritional advantage. However, if you sprout your own grains at home you may experience higher nutritional contents. Especially, if you do not implement into a loaf of bread, but rather use them on salads or alongside other meals.
During the sprouting process the starches, fats, and proteins get broken down into smaller parts, so there is a little less work for your digestive system to do making them easier on your tummy. The main part of dietary fiber is the fact that it is indigestible and being that sprouted grain have more insoluble fiber makes it slightly harder for your digestive system to digest it easily. This type of fiber allows us to absorb less calories and also provides us with good gut bacteria. It also has less gluten, for those with a gluten sensitivity. Sprouted grains also seems to have a lower glycemic index making it a better choice for those with a blood pressure issue.
So what do they taste like? Sprouted grains are chewier and sweeter than un-sprouted grains. The variety of flavors varies of course with the differing variety you can buy to sprout. Keep in mind because of the warm, wet climate sprouted grains thrive in they also have a habit of creating mold and therefore food poisoning if you’re not careful with how you’re handling the grains before consumption.
Is it worth including into your diet? Yes! They are a wonderful addition to your diet, but as with other grains should be consumed minimally as you would other whole grain products.