Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.
Sprouted grains are a trendy food, but they're also a polarizing one. Some people love them, and others think they're a waste of money. One common claim about these grains is that they’re easier to digest. Is there any truth to this idea? Let's look at what science says.
What Are Sprouted Grains?
Sprouted grains are grains that have been soaked in water and then allowed to germinate, or sprout. These grains are high in fiber and vitamins and have a lower glycemic index than non-sprouted grains. This means they cause less of a rise in blood sugar than unsprouted grains.
You can buy grains pre-sprouted or sprout your own at home. Some common types of grains that work well for this include wheat, rye, barley, and rice.
Effect on Digestion
Sprouted grains are easier on your digestive tract than unsprouted grains. This is because during the sprouting process, grains release enzymes that reduce starch in the grain, making it easier to digest. This means that when you consume sprouted grains, your digestive tract has to do less work to break them down.
Sprouted grains are also higher in enzymes that aid in digestion than unsprouted grains. Some of these enzymes break down phytates and tannins, components in grains that reduce mineral absorption. By breaking tannins and phytates down, your body can absorb more minerals.
Phytates and Tannins Reduce Mineral Absorption
Phytates are anti-nutrients found in plants. They bind to minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium, making them unavailable for absorption by your body. Tannins are also anti-nutrients found in many foods—not just grains.
Not only do they bind with important minerals like iron and zinc but also with proteins from the food you eat with them. This can cause digestive problems like bloating or gas after eating certain foods at mealtimes (like beans).
However, if you have celiac disease. An autoimmune condition, or a gluten intolerance/sensitivity (or other issue with gluten), sprouted grains may not be suitable for you—even if they are modified whole grains.
Celiac sufferers need to avoid any and all food products containing gluten because they can cause inflammation of the small intestine and other problems.
Sprouted Grains Aren't for Everyone
If you're uncertain if sprouted grains are appropriate for your diet, talk to your doctor before trying them. Additionally, if you have a wheat allergy or sensitivity but don't have celiac disease, avoid consuming these grains without consulting your healthcare provider.
If you're thinking about giving sprouted grains a try, start slow. You can do this by adding small amounts into your diet and seeing how they affect you. If the effects are positive, then increase the amount that you regularly eat.
Where to Buy Sprouted Grains
You can find sprouted grains at many natural food stores, as well as some regular grocery stores. However, the best place to buy them is at a local farmer's market. This way, you can be sure that the grains are fresh and of the highest quality.
When purchasing these grains, look for those that are plump and have a slightly greenish tinge to them. Avoid ones that are shriveled or have brown spots. You can also sprout your own at home. Instructions are available online.
Relative to unsprouted grains, sprouted grains are easier to digest and may allow you to absorb more minerals, such as calcium, zinc, and iron.
However, they’re not for everyone, especially those who have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten or wheat. But if you don’t have the conditions above, these grains are a nutritious food that are easy on your tummy.
- "Sprouting the Truth About Sprouted Grains - Penn State Extension." 18 Jan. 2018, https://extension.psu.edu/sprouting-the-truth-about-sprouted-grains.
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- "Are sprouted grains more nutritious than regular whole grains?." 06 Nov. 2017, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sprouted-grains-nutritious-regular-whole-grains-2017110612692.
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- Benincasa P, Falcinelli B, Lutts S, Stagnari F, Galieni A. Sprouted Grains: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients. 2019 Feb 17;11(2):421. doi: 10.3390/nu11020421. PMID: 30781547; PMCID: PMC6413227.
- "Sprouted Grains | The Whole Grains Council." https://wholegrainscouncil.org/grain/sprouted-grains.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.