Sprouted grains have more nutrients, easier to digest..

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Wheat germ in a glass

Exercise Daily – Sprouted grains are whole-grain seeds that have just begun to grow and aren’t quite plants yet. Inside the seed’s outer shell (the bran), the plant embryo (the germ) relies on the seed’s endosperm — the starchy food supply — to fuel its growth. “This germinating process breaks down some of the starch, which makes the percentage of nutrients higher. It also breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that normally decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. So sprouted grains have more available nutrients than mature grains,” Secinaro says.

Those nutrients include folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein.

Another benefit: because the germinating process breaks down some of the starchy endosperm, sprouted grains may have less starch and be easier to digest than regular grains. “It may help people who are sensitive to digesting grains,” Secinaro says.

Risks of sprouted grains

In order to catch the sprouts at just the right moment in the growing process, whole-grain seeds are typically soaked and then nurtured in environments with controlled amounts of warmth and moisture. This can be done at home (in a vented jar) or at food manufacturing plants (in special equipment). But in any location, the moist environment can promote bacterial growth. For that reason, Secinaro recommends that you don’t eat raw sprouted grains. Instead, mash them into a paste for use in baked goods, or cook the raw sprouts before adding them to a meal. Cooking or baking the sprouts should be enough to kill any bacteria. You’ll also need to refrigerate cooked sprouts and sprouted-grain baked goods.

Some food makers also mash the sprouted grains for use in products, or they dry the grains when they sprout, and then grind them for use in products.

Buying and using sprouted grains

You can find sprouted grains in grocery stores. Cook the grains in a little water, and flavor with spices to use as a side dish or add to salads.

If you’d like to try products made with sprouted grains, you’ll find flours, breads, buns, muffins, tortillas, crackers, and even pizza crust. “They should be in a refrigerated or frozen section of the store. If they’re not, they probably have preservatives in them, although sprouted quinoa or rice flour is safely kept on the shelf,” Secinaro says.

Whatever you choose, she advises that you read the ingredient list. “Sometimes there are just small amounts of sprouted grains in a product, so don’t rely on marketing promises on the package. Sprouted grains should be the first ingredient listed,” Secinaro says.

She also points out that sprouted-grain products tend to be more expensive than products with regular whole grains.

Are they better for health?

Sprouted whole grains and regular whole grains contain the same nutrients, but in different quantities. And just because a product contains sprouted whole grains, that doesn’t mean it has more nutrients than a regular whole-grain product. You’ll have to read the Nutrition Facts label to compare nutrition content.

So should you make the effort to eat sprouted whole grains? “I do think there are benefits to sprouted grains, but they’re not a cure-all. I would replace some whole grains with sprouted grains at least once a day,” says Secinaro, “and over all, aim for three to six servings of whole grains each day.” A serving might be a piece of whole-grain bread or half a cup of whole-grain pasta.

And remember that all whole grains are healthier than refined grains (such as the wheat in white bread), which have been milled to remove the bran and the germ — the most nutritious parts of the whole-grain seed.

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