A Review of Organic and Non-GMO Sprouted Grain Manna Bread
What Is Manna Bread?
Manna bread is a delicious unleavened product made from sprouted grains. The bread may be produced from whole grains and water alone or may have added fruit, nuts, and seeds. It contains no yeast, added sugar, salt, oil, or preservatives, is cholesterol free (like all plant foods), and is suitable for vegans. The sprouting process and the simple recipe produce a dense, nutritious, and tasty product.
Some people make their own manna bread at home. Others find it more convenient to purchase the bread in a store. The version that I buy and that I will review in this article is produced by the Manna Organics company in Illinois. Their bread is certified organic, kosher certified, and made from non-GMO ingredients. It comes in eight different varieties, ranging from plain grain breads to loaves that contain fruit, nuts, or seeds in addition to grains.
The bread was created by the Nature's Path company in British Columbia, Canada. In 2007, the manna bread division of the company was purchased by Manna Organics LLC, which is based in Lisle, Illinois in the United States. This is not the same company as Manna Organics Inc., which is based in Newark, New Jersey.
How Is Manna Bread Made?
The basic steps in making manna bread are to sprout the grains, blend them with water in a food processor to make a dough, put the dough in a pan, and bake it. Some people who make their own manna bread like to eat "raw" food and place the dough in a dehydrator. They leave the dough at a low temperature for a long time to turn it into a solid bread. The Manna Organics website says that their sprouted grain breads are "slowly baked at a temperature much lower than conventional bread". They don't offer any more details about their sprouting and baking processes because their preparation method is proprietary.
Manna bread is sometimes called Essene bread. The Essenes were an ancient religious sect. Both of the names for the bread are based on the idea that earlier people ate or made this natural and nutritious product. According to the Bible, manna was a food provided by God.
Manna bread contains simple ingredients. Since the bread is minimally processed, many of the nutrients in the ingredients are retained.
Whole Grain Bread That Is Rich in Nutrients
The Manna Organics version of manna bread contains whole grains and is high in insoluble fiber. This type of fiber provides bulk to the stool and helps it move through the large intestine. It may also reduce the risk of some diseases. Whole grain bread is far healthier than white bread, which has had the bran removed. The bran is the outer layer of a grain kernel and contains insoluble fiber.
Manna bread also contains soluble fiber, which reduces the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. This type of cholesterol is often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol.
The various varieties of the bread are high in protein. They are very low to moderately low in fat. The nut and seed versions contain a little more fat than the plain grain versions. The whole grains in the breads provide useful vitamins and minerals. The fruits, nuts, and seeds that are added to some varieties of the bread supply more vitamins and minerals.
The flax and hemp seeds in the bread contain omega-3 fatty acids as well as other beneficial nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease, and reduce the triglyceride level in the blood.
Manna bread contains a moderate amount of natural sugar. The fruit and nut version contains a lot of natural sugar, however. A buyer might want to save this version for a special treat.
Possible Benefits of Sprouted Grains
The sprouting process causes complex carbohydrates to change into simple sugars, such as maltose, which gives manna bread its sweetness. I don't find this sweetness overpowering, though. The bread varieties without fruit taste mildly sweet to me, while the varieties that contain fruit are sweeter.
Proponents of sprouted grains claim that eating a grain in sprouted form provides several health benefits compared to eating it in an unsprouted form. They say that the sprouting process increases the vitamin levels in the grain. They also say that phytic acid is broken down during sprouting. Phytic acid binds with minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc, making it harder for our small intestine to absorb them. When phytic acid is destroyed, more minerals are available. It's also said that sprouting makes grains easier to digest.
Sprouting grains does provide the claimed nutritional benefits, but some scientists wonder whether the benefits are large enough to be significant. Researchers say that sprouted grain breads are good for us even if sprouting the grains doesn't significantly increase their health benefits, however. The breads are made from whole grains, are minimally processed, and tend to include healthy ingredients and omit less healthy ones.
How to Sprout Grains
The Manna Organics website says that all the ingredients in their products are GMO-free. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It's a classification used to refer to a plant, animal, or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered by humans, generally in an attempt to improve a useful property or behavior of the organism. Some people are very concerned about the consequences of changing an organism's genetic material, or genome, especially when it's done in a plant or animal that is eaten by humans. The behavior of genes in a living creature is very complex and isn't completely understood by scientists. It's possible that altering a genome may have unexpected and detrimental consequences.
All of the ingredients in the bread listed below are organic. The main ingredients are sprouted; the others aren't. The cinnamon date version of the bread may be available somewhere in a frozen form, but the Manna Organics website no longer lists it for sale. It seems to have been discontinued.
Varieties of Manna Organics LLC Manna Bread
Sprouted rye kernels, filtered water
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, millet, brown rice
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, brown rice, barley, millet, flax seeds, rye kernels, soybeans, rolled oats, oat bran, cormeal
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, millet, poppy seeds, caraway seeds
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, carrots, raisins
Fruit and Nut
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, raisins, raisins, dates, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, oatmeal
Banana Walnut Hemp
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, dried banana, walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds
Fig, Fennel and Flax
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, diced figs with oat flour, flax seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
Sprouted wheat kernels, filtered water, dates, cinnamon, oatmeal
Sprouted Grains and Celiac Disease
Gluten is a protein complex that is present in certain grains. It's very important to note that although there are chemical changes in a grain when it sprouts, sprouted wheat, rye, and barley still contain gluten. Oats may sometimes contain gluten as well. Check with your doctor if you have celiac disease and want to eat oats.
People with celiac disease mustn't eat any version of manna bread. In this disease, the tiny projections on the lining of the small intestine, which are called villi, are damaged and destroyed due to the presence of gluten. This greatly reduces the absorption of nutrients. Celiac disease can produce a long list of very unpleasant symptoms. In addition, it can sometimes cause serious complications.
People with celiac disease must completely avoid gluten in their diet. They also need to ensure that anything that enters their mouth—such as toothpaste—is gluten-free. Even a small amount of the protein can trigger damage to the villi.
If you can't tolerate wheat but can eat other gluten-containing grains such as barley and rye and if you have also tested negative for celiac disease, you might want to try sprouted grain wheat products. Some people who develop problems when eating wheat find that sprouted wheat suits their body better than wheat that hasn't been sprouted.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Some people may choose to eat manna bread because they're yeast intolerant. Others may want to avoid the high sodium content in many other breads or they may wish to avoid added sugar or preservatives. Manna bread is not gluten-free, however.
There may be some disadvantages to buying manna bread, even for people without celiac disease. The bread is not the best type for making sandwiches, for example. It's a dense and moist product that doesn't have the soft, spongy texture of flour bread. For me, this isn't a disadvantage, however. I treat manna bread like a healthy version of cake, even though it doesn't have the texture of a cake. A slice of manna bread with a nut butter spread on it is delicious as a snack or as a meal accompaniment. I buy a different type of bread for making sandwiches.
Manna bread could be used to make sandwiches if a person is determined to do this. One problem with this idea is that the bread is sold in small loaves, each of which is quite expensive compared to many regular brands of sandwich bread. In my area, the varieties without fruit cost about $3.20 Canadian, while the varieties with fruit cost about $3.85. The healthier flour breads and the sprouted grain breads with yeast cost the same amount or even more than the manna bread, but they are sold in bigger packages that last longer. Using manna bread to make daily sandwiches in a family with several people could get very expensive!
Another problem with using manna bread to make sandwiches is that the slices made from a loaf are smaller in area than the slices produced from a loaf of sandwich bread, unless the manna bread is sliced lengthwise.
Manna Organics brand manna bread is sold frozen (at least in my area). When it's defrosted it needs to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a few days, since it doesn't contain preservatives. I happily accept this "disadvantage", however, because I like to avoid preservatives in my food. To me, having no preservatives is an advantage, not a disadvantage.
Another Potential Problem: Plastic Packaging
All of the brands of manna bread that I've seen in stores, included the brand that I buy, are wrapped in a plastic bag. In fact, each Manna Organics loaf is packed in two plastic bags—an outer one and an inner one. This is okay if the purchaser conscientiously recycles all their plastic and if their recycling depot accepts bread bags, but not if these requirements aren't met. Plastic garbage is a serious environmental problem, especially for animal life. Most plastic either doesn't degrade or takes many years to do so.
Nut, Soy, and Corn Allergies
People who are allergic to soybeans must avoid the multigrain version of Manna Organics manna bread, since the beans are one of the ingredients. The multigrain manna bread also contains corn, which causes an allergic reaction in some people. If you have a nut or seed allergy, or if you wish to avoid certain seeds, several varieties of the bread will have to be avoided. Luckily, there are nut and seed-free versions of the bread, as the table above shows.
Your Favorite Manna Bread
Which variety of manna bread appeals to you the most?
Where to Buy Manna Organics LLC Manna Bread
Manna Organics LLC manna bread is sold throughout North America as a frozen product. Here in Canada my local stores are well supplied with the bread. It's generally sold in health food stores, although I have occasionally found it in a nearby supermarket. The company's website says that the bread is sold in "most" Whole Foods markets. I've seen it in the markets close to my home. The bread can also be bought from the online store on the Manna Organics website, but since it needs to be transported in a frozen form the store only sells it to United States addresses.
Manna Bread in My Diet
Manna Organics manna bread is one of my frequent purchases and has been ever since it was produced by Nature's Path. I don't have the bread in my refrigerator or freezer all the time, but I buy it often. The eight varieties give me lots of different flavors to choose from. I choose the plainer kinds most often and save the sweeter ones for an occasional purchase. I like incorporating the bread into my diet for both its nutritional benefits and its taste.
© 2012 Linda Crampton