Why It's Worth It to Add Sprouted Whole Grains to Your Diet

Having fewer carbs than regular wheat products is just one of the bonuses for bread lovers.

When staring at the overwhelming number of options in the bread aisle, there's a good chance you'll find a few loaves containing 100 percent whole grain or sprouted whole grain. There might even be a selection of sprouted whole grains (such as Ezekiel bread) in the freezer section. If you're seeing more of these products sprouting up at the store, now's a good time to get acquainted with them. Yes, the price tag is a bit more than the average loaf, but there are actually a lot of health benefits to swapping that plain white bread to sprouted grains. Whether you're a person with diabetes or a bread lover looking for a lower-carb alternative, here's what to know about sprouted grains and how they differ from other whole grains.

What Are Whole Grains?

Rather than being processed (aka refined), whole grains keep the entire seed intact. To get the full scientific picture, the Harvard School of Public Health says the three parts that make up whole grains are bran, germ, and endosperm. "Each section houses health-promoting nutrients," the report states. The bran's fiber-rich outer layer supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals (natural compounds in plants that can help prevent disease). Some examples of whole grains include whole wheat, barley, buckwheat, oatmeal, brown rice, millet, and popcorn.

sprouted whole grains in a jar with a wooden spoon
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Whole Grains Vs. Sprouted Grains

While whole grains are better for you than refined grains, they can be bitter when the whole, unaltered seed is kept intact. Sprouting the grains by soaking them in water (like you would seeds in your garden at home) helps reduce the bitter quality. To illustrate, Angelic Bakehouse founder Jenny Marino says to think of a seed's natural goal of becoming a plant. "Seeds have defense mechanisms such as an outer shell and bitter taste, and they are hard to digest," she says. "That seed wants to avoid being eaten, so it can become a plant. Well, when we unlock the sprouting process, the seed no longer needs those defenses and you get something that's naturally healthier and better tasting." There's not one tried-and-true method for sprouting grains, but in general, manufacturers sprout them under controlled conditions with just the right moisture and warmth so they don't rot. From there, they can be puréed and used wet or dried and be milled into flours for products.

Health Benefits of Sprouted Whole Grains

The sprouting process unlocks further nutritional benefits such as fiber, reduces phytic acid (which can harm digestion), adds antioxidants, and creates a naturally sweet flavor that you probably wouldn't get from whole wheat bread. Since sprouting the grain starts the process of breaking whole grains down for you (again, better digestion), all these quality nutrients are more easily absorbed into your bloodstream and will route to the proper target tissues in your body. "Consider them your superpower for guilt-free carb consumption," says Marino. "For carb counting, net carbs are the name of the game, and (sprouted whole grain) bread offers lower net carbs than many other whole grain products."

Angelic Bakehouse bread with toppings on a cutting board
Sprouted whole grain bread looks just like regular wheat bread, only with a slightly nuttier and sweeter flavor. Courtesy of Angelic Bakehouse

Where to Buy Sprouted Whole Grain Breads

Food For Life's Ezekiel Bread (which also offers a gluten-free option), Angelic Bakehouse, and Silver Hills are some of the common sprouted grain bread brands available at most grocery stores. With its increasing popularity, stores such as Trader Joe's and Aldi also now offer options in their own brands. Look for labels that include sprouted whole grains (i.e. wheat berries, millet, rye berries amaranth, etc.) in the ingredient list. Expect the cost to be a bit higher than regular wheat or white bread as well, ranging from $3 to $6. Oh, and if you don't see them in the regular bread section, you might want to look in the refrigerated or freezer section. Many of the brands don't have preservatives (yay!) and can have a shorter shelf life at room temperature.

In addition to bread, you can also look for wraps, cereal, pizza crust, pasta, and more all made from sprouted whole grains. Or if you want to start adding some whole grains into your everyday meals, pick up some barley or quinoa on your next grocery trip to make one of our delicious whole grain recipes.

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