Which are healthier – sprouted grains or whole grains?
A walk through the bread aisle has changed. It’s not quite like what it used to be – should I buy white bread or whole wheat? Within the past few years, a revolutionary dietary trend has swept away what was once a simple decision on contemplating which loaf of bread to bring home.
Today, dozens of health crazes have overtaken bread making it more challenging to know for sure which bread is healthier for us and our families. One such trend that comes into question is the difference between sprouted grains versus whole grains. Is one more nutritious than the other making it a better option to buy?
What are sprouted grains?
Grains are the seeds of certain plants, primarily cereal grasses. Like all seeds, grain kernels are a marvel of nature, containing the potential of a whole new plant, patiently waiting its turn in the sun.
Curiously, there is actually no regulated definition of a “sprouted grain.” However, the American Association of Cereal Chemists and one of the world’s leading authorities on grains, defines sprouted grains as the following: Sprouted grains are malted or sprouted grains containing all of the original bran, germ, and endosperm are considered whole sprouted grains as long as sprout growth does not exceed kernel length and the nutrient values have not diminished.
Think of sprouted grains as simply whole-grain seeds that have just begun to sprout. When this happens, in order to catch the sprouts at just the right moment in the growing process, whole-grain seeds are typically soaked and then nurtured in environments with controlled amounts of warmth and moisture.
What are whole grains?
Whole grains are grains with all three edible parts of the whole grain – the germ, endosperm, and bran – each being crucial in development of a new plant. In order for a grain product to be labeled “whole grain,” it means that 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain. But, of course, a whole grain has bypassed the sprouting process which is what signifies the difference between them and sprouted grains.
There are a variety of grains that, when consumed in a form including the bran, germ, and endosperm, can be considered whole grains. These include amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, and wheat.
Which one is healthier?
When comparing which type of similar foods, such as whole grains versus sprouted grains are healthier, keep in mind the benefits are most pronounced in context of an overall healthy diet. No one food – even whole or sprouted grains – will guarantee good health. Also note that any of the above mentioned varieties of whole grains can also be in the form of a sprouted grain.
The main benefits of whole grains that are most documented by repeated studies include the following:
· Reduced risk of stroke
· Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
· Reduced risk of heart disease
· Better weight maintenance
· Healthier blood pressure levels
· Lower risk of colorectal cancer
· Reduction of inflammatory disease risk
When looking at sprouted grains, they also have many health benefits. When grains are allowed to sprout, it increases many of the grains’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine. The reason why these nutrients are found in higher percentages in sprouted grains than whole grains is because during the germinating or sprouting process, it breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that normally reduces absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. So sprouted grains have more available nutrients than mature or whole grains do. Sprouted grains may also be less allergenic to those with grain protein sensitivities.
Here are some health benefits documented from studies found in consuming sprouted grains:
· Fights diabetes
· Protects against fatty liver disease
· Reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease
· Decreases depression and fatigue in nursing mothers
· Reduced blood pressure
Even though both sprouted grains and whole grains have the same nutrients, sprouted grains win out on having a higher percentage of these nutrients available. But that’s not to say you should ditch whole grains altogether by any means. The best practice is to take advantage of what each has to offer, and to replace some whole grains with sprouted grains at least once a day. Overall, aim for between three to six servings of whole grains each day with a serving being a slice of whole grain bread or a half cup of whole grain pasta. Also be sure to always check the Nutrition Facts Label to compare nutrient content between a whole grain and a sprouted grain.