Are sprouted grains healthier?
I've already made the switch to eating whole-grains: brown rice instead of white, quinoa instead of couscous, whole-wheat bread instead of multi-grain. All of those were pretty easy swaps. Food manufacturers have really worked hard to make whole-grain foods more palatable to the whole-grain newbie.
But a few weeks ago, I heard a friend talking (read: bragging) about only eating sprouted grains. Whole grains aren't good enough anymore? I thought to myself. I had to get to the bottom of this and ask the people I knew would have the answer.
First, I sought out Maria Speck, author of Simply Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes for Living Well. I knew if she didn't have the answer she'd know who would. She told me the sprouted grain was indeed very nutritious, more so than regular grains, but for more details and specifics, she introduced to Peter Reinhart who published Bread Revolution last fall.
So what's the answer, Peter? "Yes, they are definitely more healthy for you and are easier to digest than the original grains."
Reinhart explained that nutritionists have known for decades that sprouted grains, beans, and seeds are dramatically more nutrient packed than their non-sprouted brethren. When these foods sprouts, their available mineral and vitamin content increase greatly. During the sprouting phase, the food's natural sugars are released, which gives the final products a different (we may even say better) flavor. Because of the natural sugar release, the food becomes more digestible, and the glycemic load decreases. Of course, Reinhart points out, it's still unclear how much of the nutritional boost from the sprouted foods actually makes it through the baking process. Researchers are working on that.
How does one sprout a grain? "The grains are soaked, germinated, and then slightly sprouted. A small tail emerges, which is the sprout."
"The short answer [to the question "what are sprouted grains?"] is that they are grains and also beans that have been germinated just enough to begin sprouting, which changes them dramatically from a grain to a something more like a vegetable," he says. "In the short sprout method they are still more grain than vegetable. They can be dried and ground into flour or can also be ground while still wet into a mash, which is the method that Ezekiel Bread and Alvarado Street Bakery use."
And for those of you who can't accept whole grains because of the earthy flavor? Well, good news, says Reinhart. "[Sprouted grains] also taste better, as the starches are converted into natural sugars during the sprouting process via enzyme activity."