As I have tried to be more health conscious and eat better I have come across and tried quite a few different foods and often wondered how healthy are they?
Whole grains and white flour are frequently compared & research has shown that whole wheat flour is better for your health overall (for more on this go here).
But where do sprouted whole grains fit in?
A New Health Food
A while back I was introduced to Sprouted Grains.
I have tried several sprouted grain products and have enjoyed them (I have had muffins, several kinds of bread, cereal, and tortillas). But they definitely cost more than similar products made from white or whole grain products.
The question is are they better for you and your health?
The companies that sell these products definitely let you know that they think they are healthier for you and essential for optimum health.
I know I have wondered and have been asked if they are actually any better.
Today we are going to separate fact from fiction.
Sprouted Grains, Whole Wheat, and White Flour Demystified
First a bit of background on where sprouted grains fit in.
People have been eating grains (whole grains) like wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice, sesame, and so on for a long time.
Whole grains have three parts to them. First a vitamin-rich germ, second a protein and carbohydrate dense endosperm and third an outer shell called the bran.
Grind all this up and you have whole grain flour.
To get refined white flour you remove the wheat’s germ and bran, and grind up only the endosperm into flour.
Refined white flour became popular because flour could be stored longer when there were no natural oils in it. They removed these natural oils by removing the germ and bran from the flour. 100 years ago it made sense to do this so flour could last far longer and food wouldn’t go to waste.
Enriched white flour consists of the ground up endosperm and whatever vitamins and minerals they decided to add back into it to enrich it.
Sprouted grains are whole grains that have begun to grow, & sprouting is the first step in this process.
To sprout a grain you moisten it (submerging it in water or keep it very humid) for a period of time. The process of sprouting will begin and be visible to the eye in as little as twelve hours.
As the grain gets wet it gets the message that it is time to sprout and begin to grow into a plant.
People often eat sprouted grains plain or make different food items by grinding them up. Sprouted grains are most often ground coarsely instead of finely into flour.
Are Sprouted Grains Better for You?
Here are some often mentioned benefits of sprouted grains.
- They are healthier for us.
- Sprouting grains and seeds produces living, nutrient-rich food.
- More nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are present because of the sprouting process.
- They are a low-glycemic food (better for diabetics, and people trying to lose weight).
- When sprouting occurs, the grain is partially predigested making it easier to digest.
- They don’t tend to cause “sugar spikes” like refined flour foods will.
- Sprouted grain products are flourless.
These are the main benefits you will hear about sprouted grains (I may have missed a few).
The real eye opener though is that these benefits are only true when sprouted grains are compared to refined white flour, not to whole grains or whole wheat flour.
It is very easy to compare similar results that aren’t actually different and make them look and sound dramatically different.
Since we already know that refined white flour is not as good as whole wheat flour for us, what are the differences between sprouted and whole grains?
Whole Grains vs. Sprouted Grains
There is little difference between sprouted and whole grains, according to scientific evidence.
This is true when comparing the actual nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), vitamins, and minerals that are present in each, and the actual effects they will have on our bodies.
Some say sprouted wheat has more nutrients & vitamins, but this difference is only the result of a loss of dry matter that occurs due to respiration in the sprouting process. When you account for this difference in measurements sprouted and non sprouted grains essentially have the same amounts of vitamins and minerals.
The biggest difference you will see that may actually benefit you is when you compare something like whole wheat bread (made from only wheat) to a multigrain bread (made from multiple kinds of grains, sprouted or not). When you mix several grains you will see a completely different nutritional composition, and will be more likely to get a better variety.
If you want it here is a bit of evidence for the above (or just head to the conclusions).
This research paper tells us if you compare a wheat grain vs a sprouted wheat grain you will see changes but not a significant difference in the nutrient makeup between the two. The same goes for any other grain. Digestibility is not always improved by the sprouting process, it varies from grain to grain. They also went on further to say “the magnitude of the nutritional improvement…is not large enough to account for in feeding experiments with higher animals.”
So when you eat sprouted grains vs. whole grains you are unlikely to see any measurable difference (especially when you compare the same grains to each other).
These researches over here found basically the same thing and said “Animal studies… have failed to show a superior nutritive value of sprouted grains over ungerminated grains. Studies with humans are not likely to produce more encouraging results.”
Lloyd Rooney, a professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station tells us that between sprouted vs unsprouted grains “the nutritional difference is inconsequential…”
Lastly I can’t leave the “Sprouted Grain Products are Flourless” comment alone. They make sprouted grain products out of grain. Flour is ground up grain. Wither you grind it or not, it still has the same nutritional qualities because it comes from the same place.
What This All Means
Sprouted grains aren’t any better for you than whole grains. The difference is negligible.
Here are the sprouted grain facts:
- Sprouted grain foods are better than foods made with refined white flour.
- Sprouted grain foods are very similar to foods made with regular grains.
- If you eat mostly foods made from refined white flour then switching to sprouted or whole grain foods will be beneficial.
- Vegetarians and other potentially nutritionally deficient people may benefit from eating sprouted (or unsprouted) multigrain foods that contain all amino acids and a variety of other nutrients.
- Sprouted grains will not be the secret ingredient for weight loss, but again are better than refined white flour for this.
Most of the differences you hear people talk about are just clever marketing comparisons. Not actually benefits of sprouted grains over whole grains.
Less scientific thoughts…
Try out the sprouted grain foods and see if you like them better than the regular whole wheat versions. I love this sprouted grain bread. It is very tasty! Diversity in the diet is a good thing.
More importantly though, see if sprouted grains make a difference that you can see in your own health, even if numbers and research haven’t been able to. Then you will know what works best for you.
Too often we don’t listen to our bodies and figure out what they respond best to.
Remember that too many grains (whole, sprouted, or refined) are a reason why people gain weight. Healthy or not, too many are just bad for you. Limit how many you eat to 3 servings a day, and you will be able to drop weight easier, and stay healthier.
Are you surprised that sprouted grains are so similar to whole grains?