Sprouted grains, unlike processed grains, are extremely nutritious and provide a valuable part of any healthy diet. But what are sprouted grains exactly and how can they be used?
The health benefits of wheat, rice, and other grains are entirely dependent on how they are eaten. Refined, processed grains are stripped of most of their nutrients, as the brain and the germ are removed. This is done in order to be able to preserve the grain for longer. When making white flour, over half of the vitamins B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fibre are lost.
Eating refined grains has negative health effects, and they can directly contribute to problems such as obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, hyperglycaemia, and diabetes. The problems from eating refined, processed grains has only really been well documented over the past one hundred years, but people have known of the problem for thousands of years. Traditionally, all grains and seeds, including rice, were sprouted. As much as ten to twenty times more nutrients are found in sprouted seeds compared to processed seeds. Wheat seeds were processed and eaten 2000 years ago but this was only during times of famine or by armies that were on the move.
When grains, seeds and nuts are germinated, their nutritional content changes and, as they are generally not cooked, they retain their natural plant enzymes. These enzymes are beneficial for helping the digestion of the seeds and nuts in the digestive tract. As well as retaining the enzymes, they also retain the nutrients that would otherwise be destroyed by cooking. Sprouted grains, seeds and nuts also encourage the growth of good bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in protective antioxidants.
Sprouts, as well as being very digestible, are a good source of fibre and protein, and are high in vitamins and minerals. As an example, sunflower sprouts are high in vitamins A and C, while mung sprouts are high in vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Most seeds are high in phosphorus, which is important for alertness, increased mental abilities, and healthy bones and teeth. In its cooked form, wheat can cause mucus congestion, allergic reactions and constipation. In is sprouted form, the starch is converted to simple sugars, meaning that many wheat intolerant people are able to eat sprouted wheat bread without any problems.
Sprouted grain breads are significantly higher in protein, vitamins and enzymes, and the complex starches are converted into natural sugars. They are also low GI, so they are digested more slowly by the body, keeping the blood sugar levels stable for longer, making people feel more satisfied. This leads to snacking less. It is interesting to note that the more highly processed a food is, the higher GI it is. A loaf of white bread is significantly higher GI than a loaf of sprouted grain bread.
When eating sprouted grains, seeds, and nuts, it is important that the entire sprout is eaten, including the leaves and the roots. While they can be eaten by themselves, they also make excellent additions to salads, sandwiches, and soups. Sprouts can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, though you should make small amounts available at regular intervals, as seeds and sprouts turn bad if kept for too long.
You can make your own sprouted seeds or grains. Simply place the seeds or grains in a large pot overnight. After they have soaked overnight, pour them into a colander to be rinsed. Rinse the seeds or grains two to three times a day until the sprouts form. Ideally, they should be around a quarter inch in length. Depending on what you are using your sprouts for, you can use them fresh or dehydrate them for use in breads or other baked goods. To dehydrate your sprouts, give them one last rinse and place on a dehydrating tray. They should only take around four to six hours to dry. Use them quickly or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.