The Popularity of Sprouted Greens (June 2016)
Several years ago on a Sunday morning I was at the farmers’ market when I had my first encounter with a sprouted-grain vendor. My only experience with sprouted grains before the farmers’ market was seeing, at the end of a salad bar, what I would describe as the following: crunchy legumes with a little string that had a bitter taste. As I was curious about what the vendor had to offer, he gave me an explanation about his various sprouted beans and sprouted legumes; I sampled several varieties of them. Finding some less bitter than others, I realized that not only could they be introduced into salads, but I could also add them to various stews, pastas, baked good and grain dishes as toppings.
The nutritional benefits of sprouts are the same as or better than legumes or grains that have not been sprouted; therefore, I decided it was important to research the reasons it would be wise to incorporate sprouted grains into our diet. Sprouted grains have been shown to include more protein, folate, vitamin C, and soluble fiber than their non-sprouted counterparts. In addition, because sprouts contain higher levels of amylase, therefore lower gluten content, sensitive individuals may find them easier to digest than the non-sprouted grains/legumes.
A Japanese study showed that sprouted brown rice may control blood sugar as well as lead to beneficial lipid profiles. Another study demonstrated sprouting of grains for a limited period of time caused increased activities of hydrolytic enzymes in the human body. Such activity can result in the body’s enhanced ability to efficiently break down protein into essential amino acids, carbohydrates into total sugars, and fat molecules into their simplest forms. All of these actions can be nutritionally beneficial.
Any grain can be sprouted as long as the germ and bran are intact, although the sprouting process varies among grains. Examples of grains that are commercially sprouted include farro, quinoa, amaranth, millet, black beans, mung beans, pinto beans and more. In commercial processing, grains generally are soaked, rinsed, drained and kept moist for sprouting. To sprout grains yourself it is recommended that you also “soak, rinse and drain.” (Important note: for sprouting at home, purchase your grains, which are essentially seeds, in the natural food section of the grocery store, NOT the gardening store.) Grains that are altered, pearled, or rolled will not sprout.
Food safety is always a topic of concern. To reduce the risk of food poisoning sprouted grains are kept in a controlled environment with the temperature and humidity closely monitored because such conditions can stimulate the growth of harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. The equipment used must be sterilized and kept clean. In spite of the precautions the commercial industry takes, for children, pregnant women, nursing women, the elderly and anyone with a suboptimal immune system it is recommended that sprouted grains are cooked before being consumed. Sprouted grains are sold in natural foods stores in containers (rather than in bulk). I always recommend rinsing them even if the package says they are prewashed.
Many people may just prefer to continue buying their sprouted grains in breads such as Ezekiel Bread or Alvarado Street Bread, in addition to sprouted English Muffins, tortillas, crackers and cereals. I think it is worthwhile to give sprouted grains themselves a try as they can add interest, texture, and a nutritional advantage to your food. So go ahead and try them; you might be in for a pleasant culinary treat.
Oldways Whole Grains Council, “Health Benefits of Sprouted Grains,” http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-sprouted-grains
Hsu, TF, and others. “Effects of Pre-germinated Brown Rice on Blood Glucose and Lipid Levels in Free-living Patients with Impaired Fasting Glucose or Type 2 Diabetes,” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 54, no. 2 (2008):163-8
Chavan, J.K., Kadam, S.S., “Nutritional Improvement of Cereals by Sprouting,” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 28, no. 5 (1989): 401-37.