Q&A – Sprouted Grains
My grocery store carries bread made from sprouted grain. Is it healthier than regular whole wheat bread?
Bread made from sprouted grain is also called Ezekiel bread because the recipe is based on one given in that section of the Bible. Healthy? Well, truthfully, the jury’s still out on that one. First, let’s look at what sprouted grain actually is. Basically, the process to producing this food product that, was popular in the ’70s and seems to have experienced a renaissance, is simple. Take a handful of seeds — alfalfa, mung bean, lentils, quinoa — soak them in water until they begin to germinate. Rinse them, dry them, package them, and voilà, sprouts!
Now you know how sprouts are produced. The next question is why bother going to that trouble. Take a minute to Google ‘sprouted grain’ and you’ll find yourself scrolling through an almost infinite number of websites touting the amazing health benefits of any kind of sprout. The claim is based on the idea that a seed contains all of the nutrients needed for life. If it didn’t how could a seed possibly grow into a healthy plant? Encouraging the seeds to begin germinating will help to release all of those nutrients, which will then make them more available to us when we eat them. See? I’m not disputing that claim, and neither is Health Canada. Although, there also haven’t been any Health Canada approved studies that back up that theory. Instead, researchers and nutritionists have found that the specific nutrients of plants can change daily depending on their exposure to air, water and heat. There’s no way to really be sure that we’re getting more benefits from eating sprouted grains than by eating the regular ones. Enjoy them for taste rather than any added health benefits they may or may not possess.
Because these seeds are sprouted in humid conditions, controlling bacteria growth isn’t always easy. In fact, there have been no less than 40 outbreaks worldwide of food borne illnesses linked to sprouts since 1973. That’s not 40 people. During an outbreak, hundreds of people can become seriously sick. Sprouts have been known to harbour Salmonella and E. coli. Despite the statistics, you don’t need to swear off sprouts. Just like any food you purchase, you should make sure you’re informed about how the seeds have been treated throughout the process. You don’t want to buy any that have been left in standing water or that have been processed on dirty equipment. If you’re not sure, call the company.
Health Canada makes the following recommendations to ensure that you get the maximum taste and health benefits from the sprouts you buy.
– Ensure that sprouts have been stored at refrigerated temperatures or are surrounded by ice. Temperature should be at or below 4°C (40°F).
– Select crisp-looking sprouts and avoid those that look dark or smell musty.
– Use tongs, gloves or place a bag over your hand to place the sprouts into a plastic bag, if you are buying bean sprouts from a bulk display.
– Keep fresh produce, including sprouts, separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood to avoid cross-contamination.
– Respect the best before date on prepackaged sprouts.
– Sprouts that are not prepackaged should be consumed within a few days.