If you’ve stepped foot inside an upscale grocery store—or if you’re following the diet plan in our Ultimate Beach Body training program—sprouted grain products, like Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread, have probably caught your eye. But what exactly are sprouted grains, and should you make the switch? To answer these questions, we chatted with licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel, who set the record straight on these healthier-sounding whole grains.
What exactly are sprouted grains?
A regular grain is essentially a seed that you could put in the ground to grow a new seed-producing plant. When you let that grain start to grow, but harvest it before the shoot turns into a full-fledged plant, you end up with sprouted grain. Pretty straight forward, right? Well, here’s where things get more complicated… In order for a shoot to grow, it digests some of the starch inside the seed and uses it as fuel to break through the grain’s outer shell. So, since sprouted grain is lower in starch, it has higher proportions of other nutrients, like protein, vitamins, and minerals, compared to unsprouted grains.
Are sprouted grains a smarter choice?
More protein, vitamins, and minerals—sounds like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the protein boost at the seed level doesn’t mean a whole lot for human nutrition. “I don't think the difference would be significant enough to translate into muscle-building advantage,” says Reinagel. Plus, the sprouted grains in baked products, like breads, lose some of their oomph during the production process. “The advantages of sprouted grains are maximized when you are eating the sprouted grains themselves,” notes Reinagel. “But most of those nutritional benefits get lost when you take that sprouted grain, then dry it, grind it into flour, and expose it to heat”
Still, while the grams of protein in sprouted grain bread are comparable to the protein in whole grain bread, sprouted grain products may be a better choice for vegetarians. Those made with variety of grains and legumes, like Ezekiel bread, deliver all of the amino acids necessary to make up a complete protein. And while most of us don’t rely on grains as a good source of protein, sprouted grains can be a good place for vegetarians to pick up some of the complete protein they’re missing out on by not eating meat.
The bottom line
Sprouted grains are whole grains, and whole grains are healthier than their refined-grain alternatives, like white bread, pasta, and rice. “The sprouted grain products I've seen, like breads and cereals, tend to be clean, whole grain foods, so I think they are a great option, especially if you like the way they taste,” says Reinagel. “But if you can't find them or they are crazy-expensive, similar whole grain products would be just as good.”
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