Are Sprouted Grains Gluten-Free?

Some people say Ezekiel Bread is gluten-free. True or false?

Ezekiel and gluten-free breads
One of these is gluten-free. One is definitely not. © Jane M. Anderson

Here's the quick answer: sprouted grains are most definitely not gluten-free if the grains in question are wheat, barley, rye, or close relatives of those grains.

Rumors have circulated for a long time (more than a decade, in fact) that sprouted grains—i.e., grains that have germinated—are gluten-free, especially when used in breads, even if they start out containing gluten. Despite these rumors, this just isn't true.

Gluten is a protein that grass plants store in their seeds, which we know as their grains. (You can read more about this in the article What Is Gluten?) When a seed germinates, it does begin to use up some of the gluten to nourish the growing plant.

But plenty of gluten remains in the sprouts used in sprouted wheat bread—more than enough to render any bread made from the sprouted wheat most definitely not gluten-free.

So Why This Rumor?

People seem to conflate "gluten-free" and "healthy eating" (they also conflate "gluten-free" and "organic," for much the same reason).

Sprouted bread is considered healthy, and so is the gluten-free diet ... and so the two must go together, right?

There's one particular bread that seems to crop up frequently in these rumors: Ezekiel 4:9 bread. This bread, offered in several different varieties by manufacturer Food for Life, was inspired by the Bible verse that states in part: "Take also unto thee Wheat, and Barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and Spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it." 

As you can see, the Bible verse in question mentions three different types of gluten-containing grains: wheat, barley and spelt. And sure enough, Ezekiel 4:9 bread contains organic, sprouted versions of all three of these, along with sprouted millet, sprouted lentils, and sprouted soybeans. 

The bread also contains something else: organic wheat gluten.

So I think we can safely say it's most definitely not gluten-free.

Now, Food for Life does make other products that are gluten-free, including a wide variety of both sprouted and unsprouted gluten-free breads. Just make sure you don't pick up the wrong bread, since many supermarkets display all the products together in their frozen food aisle.

The Bottom Line

If a bread lists "sprouted wheat" on its ingredients—or any of these names for various forms of wheat, including kamut, spelt, Einkorn and bulgur—you need to avoid that bread if you've got celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The same goes for breads or other products containing sprouted rye or sprouted barley, both of which also are gluten-containing grains.

Gluten-free grains, such as buckwheat and millet, should be safe when sprouted and used in bread and other products, as long as they're not combined with gluten-containing grains, as they are in Ezekiel 4:9 bread.

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