Sprouted grains and beans are shooting up all over the grocery store as ingredients in products like breads, cereals and snacks, and as sprouted whole foods like mung beans, lentils, rice and quinoa. Touted for their nutritional superiority, I thought I’d dig through the research and give you the scoop.
What are they? Remember those beans you brought home from grade school in a little paper Dixie cup, and how, if you remembered to water them, they’d eventually grow a shoot that split the bean apart? Well, that is the stage in a plant’s life cycle when a sprout has formed, but before it grows into a full-fledged plant, that it is said to be “sprouted.”
Are they really better? When grains and beans are sprouted, some of their starch is used up for the young shoot’s growth, so the relative amount of starch in the food is reduced and other nutrients like B vitamins, zinc, iron, calcium, fiber, and protein become more concentrated. This starch breakdown may also make the grain or bean somewhat easier to digest. Plus, sprouting activates enzymes in the plant which make some nutrients more easily absorbed by the body.
Sprouted products are usually minimally processed and free of artificial additives and preservatives, which is why you often find them in the refrigerator section of the store. They have a unique nutty texture and flavor that can add interest to your usual routine. But, based on the scant research available, the differences between sprouted grain products and their “un-sprouted” whole-grain or bean counterpart seems to be pretty marginal, overall.
The bottom line – Sprouted grains are certainly healthy and may offer some nutritional and digestive benefits. While worth trying, don’t feel like you have to make the switch from your usual whole grains and beans.