Sprouted Grains

Sarah Merson looks at a process which claims to deliver better quality nutrition in a more digestible form than even a craft-baked organic loaf.

Sprouting grains is an ancient practice with full biblical authentication - the prophet Ezekiel is said to have lived for two years on bread made from sprouted grains baked on hot rocks in the scorching desert sun.
Two thousand years later sprouting grains remain popular, especially amongst ‘wholefoodies’ and those with food intolerance or impaired digestions because sprouted grains are believed to be both more nutritious and more digestible than unsprouted grains.

So, what are sprouted grains?

The grains - wheat, barley, rye or millet - used to make ‘normal’ bread are young grains milled into flour. A sprouted grain, for example a whole-wheat kernel, is one that, unlike the young grains, is left to germinate. During the germination, nutrients and enzymes are formed, which can then be passed on in nutritional value to the bread.

‘The process involved in sprouting grains is relatively simple although it takes a fine art to perfect it and make it into quality bread’, says Ingrid Greenfield, owner of Artisan Breads one of the few specialist bread manufacturers who use sprouted grains. Some sprouted breads use only grains that have been sprouted, mashed and then ground; other brands may have regular flour incorporated into their recipe.

‘The Ezekiel and Essene breads, which we make at Artisan Breads are made from 100% sprouted grains, which along with our method, gives them a completely unique flavour and texture’ says Ingrid Greenfield.

The science - enzymes

Ongoing studies, at the American Cancer Society and Johns Hopkins University suggest that sprouting can radically change the composition, nutritional properties and digestibility of grains bringing significant health benefits.

Common to all of the studies is the finding that sprouting creates enzymes. Depending on the type of sprout/grain, enzymes can range from digestive enzymes to an enzyme called sulforaphane, which has significant antioxidant properties.

According to Dr Talabay at Johns Hopkins University, ‘enzymes like sulforaphane act as a defence mechanism triggering broad spectrum antioxidant activity that neutralises free-radical activity and is effective over many days’.

While added free radical activity is always welcome, the digestive enzymes created by sprouting are of even more interest to those with sensitive or sluggish digestions as increased enzyme activity helps to break down proteins into simpler and more easily digested amino acids.

Although there have been few studies done in this area, anecdotal tales about the greater digestibility of sprouted grains and the breads made from them abound. A significant number of wheat intolerant people also find that they can eat sprouted wheat grains without ill effect.


Crucial in sprouted grain science is the role of lectins. But, what are lectins and what effect can they have on us?

Dr Peter D’Adamo, originator of the blood-type diets and author of a number of successful books (Eat Right for Your Blood Type among others) uses information about blood types to design dietary plans biologically suited to each person’s makeup.

‘Everyone has blood-type markers called antigens, which act like security checks on all the cells of your body. These antigens define your blood type. For example, if you have type-A blood, you have type-A antigens, and if you have type-B blood, you have type-B antigens. Some of these antigens are sugars that rest on the surface of your cells, much like the fuzz on a tennis ball. Most foods contain sticky proteins, called lectins that selectively cause blood and other body
tissues to stick together. In this case, the lectins stick to the antigens (like Velcro would stick to a tennis ball)’.

In his laboratory research, D'Adamo found that different lectins stick to different antigens, which he believes is because lectins are blood type specific. ‘Some lectins have affinities for A antigens and others have affinities for B antigens. Lectins from foods that do not have an affinity with a specific blood type, can irritate the cells of the digestive tract. And, when the digestive tract is irritated or swollen, it can cause fatigue, weight gain, irritable-bowel syndrome, or even stomach ulcers’, says Dr D'Adamo. The key to eating according to your blood type, suggests D'Adamo, is to avoid foods
containing the lectins that do not have an affinity with your blood type.

So, what does all of this have to do with sprouted grains?

The lectins in many grains, including wheat, rye, barley and millet are contained in the seed coat. As the seeds germinate the seed coat is metabolised thereby eliminating the lectin and with it, any associated problems that it may otherwise have caused.

Support for sprouting

Says Mayur Shah, owner of Everfresh Natural Foods, manufacturers of Sunnyvale Organic sprouted breads:
‘Many of our customers who are sensitive to either wheat or gluten buy our sprouted wheat, sprouted rye or sprouted spelt breads. This is because as a seed germinates, the amino acids are broken down into simpler formats that are more easily digested by many people. We also find that some people, including sports people choose sprouted bread as it gives them sustained energy over long periods of time. Just like a low GI product, the sugars in sprouted grains don't enter the blood stream all at once.

We find that people are drawn to sprouted breads for a few different reasons. Initially our customers seemed to come to us because they'd heard about the blood group diet and the role of lectins but then many have also been drawn to sprouted bread as part of the increasingly popular raw food diet.

During the baking process, the core temperature never reaches 100oC, so sprouted grains are often seen as a raw, or uncooked food.’

Yeast free

Sprouted grains rely on the natural leaven in the grain to raise the bread and so appeals to those on yeast-free diets.


Many customers see the fact that sprouted bread is high in fibre and requires a lot of chewing as an added benefit.
Chewing allows the bread to get well mixed with saliva, thus creating more digestion-helping enzymes. Although sprouted bread is dense, because it requires more chewing, it's easier to digest’, says Ingrid Greenfield.


Artisan bread is also made from biodynamic grains*, which Ingrid Greenfield believes to be the best sprouters.
‘Organic grains don't have the right vitality as they don't sprout as well as biodynamic ones. And, when they don't sprout, organic grains cansometimes create black moulds in the bread, which are very hard to get rid of, and obviously aren't very good for the consumer. By comparison, 99% of biodynamic grains sprout successfully.
‘Rather than crushing the grains, we mill them as whole sprouted grains. We find that this maintains the properties of the grain and creates a slightly less dense bread.’

*Biodynamics -
Holistic sustainable organic agriculture
Biodynamic methods work toward the development of the farm or garden as a balanced and sustainable unit. They include organic practices such as crop rotation, recycling through composts and liquid manures, and increasing plant and animal biodiversity. Special plant, animal and mineral preparations are used. The rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars are recognised and worked with where possible. These methods lead to a natural reduction of pests and diseases in plants and animals, and an increase in the nutritive and health-giving value of food produced.
Courtesy of the Biodynamic Farming Association of New Zealand.

Sunnyvale make a range of breads, both plain and fruit, from various different sprouted grains. They are available mainly from health food stores. Contact 01296 425 333 or www.gluten-free-bread.co.uk for more information.

Artisan Bread
Artisan Bread make two sprouted breads:
Essene bread from sprouted rye and spelt grains with spring water and Seagreens (see p18) - £1.65 for 400g & £3.10 for 800g - and
St John’s bread from rye and spelt grains, carob flour, spring water and Seagreens - £1.65 for 400g.
You can order bread direct from Artisan (01227 771 881 or www.artisanbread.ltd.uk) or find it in wholefood shops in south east England.

Blood type diet
For more information on Dr Peter D'Adamo and the blood type diet, go to: www.dadamo.com or check out one of his books at Amazon.


Click here for more articles on digestive conditions

Back to top

If you found this article interesting, you will find many more general articles and research reports on coeliac disease here, and lots of information on the management of coeliac disease here.
You can also find articles and research reports on gluten intolerance here and articles on a wide range of other digestive conditions here.

For hundreds of gluten free foods see our freefrom food section here, and for nearly 800 gluten-free recipes see here.

And if you would like to get our FREE fortnightly e-newsletter with new products, recipes, articles and all the latest news from the allergy and freefrom world, just sign up here.