What are the advantages to eating sprouted grains and pulses?

Photo courtesy Second Spring Foods

You’ve likely noticed the term sprouted on an increasing number of packaged foods these days. As scientific research recognizes the health benefits of sprouting, food manufacturers are bringing a quickly expanding variety of products, such as breads and flours, to the marketplace. For a change, it’s an example of food processing that offers nutritional perks.

What are sprouted grains and pulses?
Grains and pulses, such as lentils and chickpeas, are actually the seeds from which these various plants grow – consider that seeds are jam-packed with nutrition as they allow a plant to grow from that little packet. At one time, you would only find these sprouted seeds out in the fields as they had been left too long before being harvested. But now, assorted grains and pulses are being sprouted under controlled conditions using proper temperatures, light, moisture and for the optimal length of time to provide maximum nutrition. The result may lead to increased health benefits and easier digestion for some people.

What science says
Firstly, consider that when it comes to sprouted grains and pulses, they are a whole food. That means, that when it comes to grains, they contain the entire kernel of that grain – the bran, germ and the endosperm. Refined grains, on the other hand, are stripped of the nutrient-rich bran and germ.

But even these whole foods contain what’s called anti-nutrients – compounds which decrease the absorption of valuable nutrients, such as iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium. During the sprouting process, anti-nutrients, such as phytate, or phytic acid, are broken down, leading to increased absorption of these nutrients.

Some of these anti-nutrients, though, may provide disease-fighting capabilities, such as anti-cancer action, though, so eating a variety of foods offers the best of both worlds.

While those nutrients are likely not a concern for people who eat a varied diet, some can be in short supply in vegetarians and vegans or as people move towards a much heavier plant-based eating pattern.

Sprouting can unlock a bounty of nutrients
As the grain or pulse begins to sprout, it draws on its stored nutrients making them readily accessible for the plant to grow. Not only are nutrients, such as minerals, more available for digestion, but protein and fibre counts along with the antioxidant totals are also higher.

What’s on the store shelf?
The offerings on store shelves and online are growing at a remarkable pace. You can now find sprouted grain flours, including wheat, spelt and oat, and products made from them, such as an assortment of breads. Or you can go for sprouted brown rice, quinoa or amaranth – an extra perk is that they require shorter cooking times than their regular counterparts. Also consider sprouted flax and pulses, like chick peas and lentils.

A note of caution
As with any food product, such as bread, be sure to read labels. As the term sprouted gets more recognition, some food manufacturers may use the word on their label while not providing a product with maximum nutrition. (I’ve written about this before).

In addition, if you decide to sprout various grains or pulses in your own kitchen, keep in mind that you should avoid eating these sprouts uncooked. As they’re sprouted in ideal conditions for various microbes to grow, as is the case with alfalfa and bean sprouts, they can be a source of foodborne illnesses.

Commercial sprouted grains and pulses are not only safe but they can actually have a longer shelf life than their regular counterparts.

Coming up: recipes made with sprouted grains and pulses

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Categories: Food Trends, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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  1. What are the advantages to eating sprouted grains and pulses? — Enlightened Eater – newdeal kitchen - June 12, 2020

    […] What are the advantages to eating sprouted grains and pulses? — Enlightened Eater […]

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