A Quick Guide to Sprouted Whole Grains
Grains are a staple food all around the world. However, a lot of grain-based foods are made with refined grains, which have to be enriched to make up for the nutrient loss that occurs during processing.1
So, what’s the big deal?
Whole grains are an important source of micronutrients and plant-based protein. They have numerous health benefits, and almost all research-based dietary guidelines include whole grains as part of a balanced diet.
Not only that but there’s a simple, natural process to enhance the health benefits of whole grains: sprouting.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about what makes whole grains so amazing and how sprouting unlocks the superpowers stored inside these already nutritious seeds. To skip around, you can use these links:
- What are Whole Grains?
- Health Benefits of Whole Grains
- What are Sprouted Whole Grains?
- Health Benefits of Sprouted Grains
- What Makes Sprouted Bread Different?
- How Sprouted Bread is Made
Simply put, whole grains are the seeds of grass-like plants we use for cereal crops. Here are some common whole grains:
The Whole Grains Council, the official advocacy group for whole grains, considers a grain whole if all three of its original parts are present in the same proportions as when it was originally grown. This doesn’t mean it has to be in its original form though.2 Whole grains can be ground up, cracked, crushed, and cooked without losing those original proportions.
The three parts of a grain include:
1. The Bran: The nutrient-rich outer skin.
2. Endosperm: The protein-packed food supply for the germ.
3. Germ: The part of a grain that has the potential to sprout. It’s also nutrient-rich!
Unlike whole grains, refined and enriched grains don’t maintain all three parts of the grain and, as mentioned earlier, aren’t as healthy. In fact, these processes remove up to a quarter of the protein in grain and a half to two-thirds of the nutrients.2
Whole grains are loaded with health benefits. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends half the grains you eat should be whole grains.3 Here’s a quick breakdown of key health benefits associated with whole grains:
- Improved Nutrition: Whole grains are an important source of dietary fiber, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients, like iron, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin A to name a few.3
- Reduced Disease Risk: Studies have shown an association between whole grain intake and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.4
- Lower Risk of Mortality: Research has also correlated whole grain intake with reduced risk of mortality for non-cancer and non-cardiovascular causes.4, 5
The bran, a.k.a. the outer layer of seeds, protects the nutrients stored inside whole grains until conditions are just right for a new plant to begin growing. But, the bran contains anti-nutrients like phytic acid and tannins, which can decrease the body’s absorption of important nutrients like zinc, iron, and magnesium.6
The grain’s natural sprouting process breaks down phytate, which increases the health benefits of whole grains.7 Products like Silver Hills Bakery breads as well as oats, granola, and cereals from One Degree Organic Foods intentionally use the sprouting process to make nutritious whole grains even healthier.
- Unlocks Nutrition: Sprouting allows your body to absorb more nutrients, including B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, iron, and other important vitamins and minerals stored inside the grain.8 It increases antioxidant activity and polyphenol content too!9
- Helps Digestion: The sprouting process breaks down proteins and starches into easier-to-digest forms.10 It also impacts the amount and type of fiber, which allows the fiber to act as a prebiotic.11 This makes sprouted whole grains a lot more gut-friendly.
- As an added benefit, sprouting reduces the amount of gluten in grains9, and some people find that food made with sprouted grains is easier to digest. This does not mean it’s gluten-free or safe for celiacs.
Promotes Steady Energy: Sprouted whole grains are a slow-release carb compared to refined carbs, and studies have suggested that they might also lower impact on glycemic response.12 This makes sprouted grains a source of steady energy for active lifestyles.
Sprouted bread is, of course, made with sprouted whole grains instead of refined or enriched flour. As a result, it has a natural sweetness and can be made with less added sugar than conventional bread. The breakdown of anti-nutrients also makes whole grains less bitter tasting.
Even better? The baking process brings out all that delicious, nutty flavor and gives sprouted bread a wonderful, crispy texture.
People often describe the taste of sprouted bread as fruity, malted, honeyed, and roasted. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Try out the Silver Hills variety pack to taste the difference for yourself.
Because the base of the dough is made with sprouted whole grains rather than flour, the process for making sprouted bread starts a lot earlier than conventional bread.
There are four main steps for making sprouted bread:
1. Clean + Rinse: Sift, sort, and clean the grain to remove bits of chaff and dirt from the field before rinsing again. The grain needs to be as clean as possible for step two!
2. Soak + Drain: Soak the grains in clear, fresh water at just the right temperature to activate the natural germination process. The timing and temperature can vary depending on the grain and factors such as the humidity levels in your kitchen. Once the tails of the sprouts emerge, the grains’ enzymes are fully active, and you can drain them so they’re ready for making dough.
3. Mash Dough + Add Ingredients: Rather than flour and water, this dough starts with mashed sprouted grains. Once mashed, you can add yeast, salt, and other ingredients. Allow the dough to rise before baking.
4. Bake + Enjoy: Load your loaf into the oven, bake, and wait (we know it’s hard). Be sure to let the bread cool before enjoying a slice!
Sprouted bread enhances the health benefits and flavor of whole grains. If you’re interested in learning more about sprouting and how to sprout at home, you can go directly to the source. Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery has a three-part Why Sprouted Handbook that covers everything you need to know. Sign up for it here.
Of course, you can also stock up on sprouted bread right here on The Oven Door. Try these crowd favorites:
1. Jones, J. M., García, C. G., & Braun, H. J. (2019, November 4). Perspective: Whole and Refined Grains and Health—Evidence Supporting “Make Half Your Grains Whole.” OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/11/3/492/5612243
2. What’s a Whole Grain? A Refined Grain? | The Whole Grains Council. (n.d.). Whole Grains Council. https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain-refined-grain
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
4. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. (2016). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4908315/
5. Wu, H., Flint, A. J., Qi, Q., van Dam, R. M., Sampson, L. A., Rimm, E. B., Holmes, M. D., Willett, W. C., Hu, F. B., & Sun, Q. (2015). Association Between Dietary Whole Grain Intake and Risk of Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(3), 373. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6283
6. Are anti-nutrients harmful? (2020, December 18). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/
7. Nelson, K., Stojanovska, L., Vasiljevic, T., & Mathai, M. (2013). Germinated grains: a superior whole grain functional food? Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 91(6), 429–441. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjpp-2012-0351
8. Nkhata, S. G., Ayua, E., Kamau, E. H., & Shingiro, J. B. (2018). Fermentation and germination improve nutritional value of cereals and legumes through activation of endogenous enzymes. Food Science & Nutrition, 6(8), 2446–2458. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.846
9. Lemmens, E., Moroni, A. V., Pagand, J., Heirbaut, P., Ritala, A., Karlen, Y., Lê, K., den Broeck, H. C., Brouns, F. J., Brier, N., & Delcour, J. A. (2018). Impact of Cereal Seed Sprouting on Its Nutritional and Technological Properties: A Critical Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12414
10. Gupta, R. K., Gangoliya, S. S., & Singh, N. K. (2013). Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52(2), 676–684. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-013-0978-y
11. Jribi, S., Antal, O.T., Fustos, Z., Papai, G., Naar, Z., Kheriji, O, Debbabi, H., Influence Of Sprouting Bioprocess On Durum Wheat (Triticum Durum) Prebiotic
12. Properties. Options Méditerranéennes, A 124, 2020 – Research and innovation as tools for sustainable agriculture, food and nutrition security. MEDFORUM 2018. Bari, Italy, September 18-20 2018, Extended abstracts and papers. Available from: https://om.ciheam.org/om/pdf/a124/00007806.pdf