How You Can Use Sprouted Grains for Your Health

Move over, quinoa—the popularity of sprouted grains (and seeds) is on the rise. In fact, sprouted grains and seed-based products are housed in many sections of the grocery store because they’re used to make diverse items, such as breads, cereals, muffins, pancakes, pasta, trail mixes and more. So what’s so special about them?

Interestingly enough, grains and seeds have the ability to grow into a brand new plant.

(Quick review: Plant a seed in soil and add water. Over time, your seed will sprout and continue to grow from seedling to plant.) But for decades, farmers and food manufacturers have been grinding down the grain for use as flour before the sprouting process could even begin. Little did we know that we were missing out on some major nutritional perks by doing so—turns out, the sprouting process increases the amount of many vitamins and minerals.

Benefits of Sprouted Grains

Lower in Carbs

Sprouted grains and seeds are lower in carbs than their traditional wheat flour counterparts. This is because the sprouting process partially breaks down the starch to use for fuel. For example, 1 slice of whole grain bread = approximately 20 grams of carbs; 1 slice of sprouted bread = approximately 15 grams of carbs.

Greater Concentrations of Nutrients and Better Absorption

Sprouting grains can increase the amount and availability of certain vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids (such as lysine), providing a bigger health perk for your carb fix.

Easier to Digest

Sprouted grains produce enzymes that transform the endosperm starch into simpler molecules. These simpler molecules are gentler on the GI tract and easier to digest compared to traditional grains. Good news for people with tummy troubles.

Improve Blood Sugar Control

Turns out sprouted grains help maintain blood sugar control by reducing the bodies’ sugar response after eating, making them a good choice for people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

How to Make Sprouted Grains

It’s pretty simple to make a batch of sprouted grains at home. All you need is a jar, your preferred starch and a little bit of time and patience.

  1. Rinse ½ cup of starch in water—you can choose wheatberries, amaranth (unhulled), barley, buckwheat, corn, einkorn, farro, kamut, millet, quinoa, rice, rye berries, sorghum, spelt, or any other kind of whole grain.
  2. Place the grains in a quart-size jar or sprouting container.
  3. Fill the jar with water and cover with a sprouting screen or cheesecloth tightened on with a jar lid. Soak overnight.
  4. Drain the grains. With the cheesecloth or sprouting cover still fastened on, turn the jar over a bowl so that air can still circulate while draining the grains. Allow the grains to drain for 8-12 hours, then rinse again and drain again.
  5. Repeat rinsing and draining two to three times daily.
  6. Tiny sprouts should begin to form in a few days. At this point sprouting is complete. Drain well before use or storage. Store in the refrigerator covered for up to 3 days. If they begin to smell bad or form a slimy film, discard.
  1. You can dry your sprouted grains by placing them in a dehydrator, low-temperature oven, or in the sun. Then try grinding them into a flour for baking, using a food processor or blender.

4 Ways to Enjoy Sprouted Grains

Toss into a salad. Throw a handful of sprouted grains into your favorite salad. Or try replacing the lentils and beans in a lentil bean salad with sprouted varieties.

Cook up a hot cereal. Forget oatmeal –– simmer sprouted buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth or millet in milk (or water) on the stovetop until the grains are tender. Top with your favorite porridge mix-ins like nuts, seeds, berries, shredded coconut, or cacao nibs. Swap the oatmeal in pumpkin-chia oatmeal with sprouted amaranth, millet or buckwheat.

Incorporate into baked goods. Replace any flour a recipe calls for with sprouted grain flour using a 1:1 ratio. You can also fold sprouted grains into any traditional batter for added nutrients and fiber.

Shop for interesting finds at the grocery store. Sprouted grain products are popping up left and right at your local grocery store. Look for cereals, breads, buns, pastas, waffles, tortillas, English muffins and baked goods in the fresh and frozen sections alike. I’m betting you find some winners!

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

Sources:

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Mofidi A, Ferraro ZM, Stewart KA, Tulk HM, Robinson LE, Duncan AM, Graham TE. The acute impact of ingestion of sourdough and whole-grain breads on blood glucose, insulin, and incretins in overweight and obese men. J Nutr Metab. 2012:184710. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22474577

Platel K, Eipeson SW, Srinivasan K. Bioaccessible mineral content of malted finger millet (Elusine coracana), wheat (Triticum aestivum), and barley (Hordeum vulgare). J Agric Food Chem 2010;58(13):8100-3.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20560601

Caceres PJ, Martinez-Villaluenga C, Amigo L, Frias J. Assessment on proximate composition, dietary fiber, phytic acid and protein hydrolysis of germinated Ecuatorian brown rice. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2014;69(3):261-7.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25086701

Chavan JK, Kadam SS. Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1989;28(5):401-37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2692609

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