Sprouted grain products are all the rage. But does sprouting a grain improve its nutritional value?
One of my fellow opera singers, Jason, called me a while back with a great question:
Hi Monica. My question is about sprouted grains and whether they are whole grains or not. Also, do sprouted grains have any additional nutritional benefits that regular grains don’t?
Jason, a lot of other listeners have emailed with similar questions about sprouted wheat, too. So let’s tackle this topic today.
The first part of your question is easy: A sprouted grain is definitely a whole grain, because all the parts (germ, endosperm, and bran) are still there. The second part of your question is a little more complicated: Are sprouted grains more nutritious than unsprouted grains? Listen on.
What exactly do we mean by a “sprouted grain”? Grains are basically seeds that you could plant in the ground and grow into a new plant. You can sprout most grains and seeds by keeping them moist for a couple of days. This causes the seeds to germinate, or start to grow. Given the right conditions, they would eventually grow into full-sized plants and bear fruit (or make more seeds). But sprouts can also be harvested and eaten after just a couple of days.
I’ve sprouted alfalfa, clover, broccoli, radish, sunflower seeds, lentils, mung beans, wheat berries, and chickpeas. Sprouts are fun and nutritious! If you’d like more information on how to get started sprouting, I’ll include a link in the show notes to a blog post I wrote on this last year.
But back to Jason’s question: Are sprouted grains more nutritious than unsprouted grains?
The Case For Sprouts
If you talk to a sprouting enthusiast, they’ll probably tell you that sprouted foods are super nutritious because of the changes that a seed undergoes when it shifts from its dormant state into an active growing state.
According to proponents, sprouting increases the protein, essential amino acids, enzymatic activity, vitamins, and fiber content of the seeds. In fact, if you consult the Wikipedia article on “Sprouting” you’ll read that sprouting can increase the protein content of a seed by up to 50% and the vitamin content to 20 or 30 times its original value.
Sounds pretty good, huh? But is this enough to make a real difference nutritionally? Although Wikipedia is now considered to be the font of all knowledge, I still sometimes find it worthwhile to check the actual scientific literature on things like this. And there, I found a slightly different story.