No longer just the domain of hippie enclaves, sprouted grains, legumes, seeds and products made with them—such as flours and pasta—are sprouting up on store shelves in droves. Which begs the question: if you haven’t jumped on the sprouted food bandwagon, why not?
According to Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of Plant-Powered for Life, sprouting is a method where food manufacturers kickstart the process of germinating the grain, seed, nut or legume. “With a little moisture and warmth, you will get germination, which is the beginning of a new plant,” she says. Palmer adds that sprouted grains for food production are germinated just until a tiny sprout emerges from the seed — but not to the point where the food is fully sprouted as is the case of the alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts you see at the grocery store. And it turns out that this sprouting can turn a good food into one with nutritional superpowers. Here’s why your next lunch sandwich should feature sprouted bread as its foundation.
Palmer boasts that the overall nutritional profile of sprouted foods can be improved during the sprouting process. “Some of the carbohydrates in the grain are used by the seed to form the sprout, and this germination introduces new nutrients to the mix,” she explains. Case in point: A Journal of Functional Foods article found that germinating brown rice bolsters levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a compound that may improve your mood. Canadian researchers determined that sprouted wheat has higher levels of age-avenging phenol antioxidants than un-germinated wheat. Further, data shows that sprouted grains harbor higher levels of folate and dietary fiber. All this means that sprouted foods can give you more nutritional bang for your buck.
Ease of Digestion
It’s believed that sprouted foods are less work for your digestive system to break down making them easier to digest, a boon to anyone with a sensitive tummy. For example, a recent study by Irish scientists found that germination of oats significantly increased activity of alpha-amylase — an enzyme involved in breaking the bonds of complex carbohydrates into simpler, easier-to-digest forms. Sprouting can also reduce so-called “anti-nutrients” like phytic acid and lectins found in plant foods thereby allowing for increased bioavailability and absorption of vital nutrients. Items such as phytic acid help plants endure the trails of nature during growth but also hinder optimal digestion in humans.
But don’t believe the hype that all sprouted grains are safe for those with sensitivities to gluten. “There is some evidence that sprouting grains may make them more digestible, but that doesn’t mean that the gluten is all gone,” says Palmer, who adds, “If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, it’s still essential to avoid wheat and wheat-related grains even if they are sprouted.”
A Slow Rise
Good news for anyone (read: everyone) who is looking to avoid energy crashes and win the battle of bulge is that products made with sprouted items can bring about a fewer blood sugar spikes. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers found that bread made with sprouted grains caused a much slower rise in blood sugar than white or multi-grain breads that were not gleaned from sprouted grains. Better blood sugar control translates into more stable energy levels throughout the day and may help discourage fat storage so you can stay more buff than soft.
Fast and Furious
Good news for harried cooks: When some of the tough outer shell of grains like quinoa and rice are softened during sprouting, their cooking time can be slashed by 25–35 percent. So sprouted foods are good for your goal of spending more time in the gym than the kitchen.
The Sprouted Pantry
These forward-thinking products make it easier than ever to give a shout out to sprouts.
Each bag harbors a trio of sprouted lentils, rice or quinoa that can be used to add nutritional might to salads and soups. truRootsAccents.com
Sprouted for Life Original 3 Seed
Made by Food for Life, the creators of the widely popular Ezikiel sprouted bread, this toothsome gluten-free bread (we kid you not!) brings together organic quinoa, organic millet and organic chia seeds for a loaf with serious nutritional firepower. Also try their gluten-free sprouted flax, almond and cinnamon raisin flavors. Food For Life
Way Better Snacks
Made with goodies like sprouted black beans, sprouted broccoli seeds and sweet potato, it’s true that these tortilla-style chips are way better than the competition. Use them as a vehicle for your dips or to add crunch to chili and soups. Way Better Snacks
One Degree Sprouted Ancient Grain Flakes
Forget the lacklustre corn flakes, this boxed cereal made with sprouted ancient khorasan wheat and brown rice with a touch of sweetness from coconut sugar will bowl you over. Beyond cereals, also try their organic sprouted spelt flour and whole spelt kernels. One Degree Organic Foods
Dastony Sprouted Almond Butter
As if richly sweet almond butter wasn’t good enough, when organic sprouted almonds are stone-ground you end up with a spread that is off-the-charts nutritious. Dastony
Living Intentions Gone Nuts
An enticing collection of sprouted nuts and seeds including spicy chipotle and spinach pesto. Snack time has never been healthier. The company has many other sprouted delights including an inventive brownie mix. Living Intentions
Planet Rice Sprouted California Blonde Rice
Heat and humidity is used to start the germination of this California grown whole grain rice which works to soften the bran layer that quickens cooking, eases digestion and unlocks a toothsome nutty flavor. Planet Rice