Sprouted grains: Not what you thought

Manufacturers of sprouted grain frequently make claims that suggest that the process of sprouting the seeds somehow confers magical properties to grains, eliminating their adverse effects and yielding new or increased benefits. Is this true?

I’ve previously discussed how the grain industry tries to reduce the toxicity of wheat and grains using various manipulations. Recall that there is a basic rule of logic we follow in the Wheat Belly lifestyle: If you replace something bad with something less bad and there is an apparent benefit or less harm, this should not necessarily be interpreted to mean that the less bad thing is therefore good. My favorite example is replacing white flour (bad) with whole grains (less bad) that has been associated with less heart disease, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain—all true. These are the observations that misled the USDA and other agencies into advising Americans to “eat more healthy whole grains.” But take the argument one step further and eliminate grains (as done in low-carb, paleo, ketogenic, Wheat Belly lifestyles, for example) and markers for disease, such as HbA1c, fasting glucose and insulin, bowel habits, and small LDL particles improve hugely, substantial quantities of fat weight are lost, gliadin-derived opioid peptides that stimulate appetite are removed, blood levels of minerals increase (magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, manganese, copper), the initiating factor for autoimmune diseases (gliadin) is removed, etc. In other words, while whole grains are less bad than white flour products, NO grains are even better.

So if we cause the seeds of grains to sprout over several days to weeks, what happens to the various components contained? Among the changes:

  • The amylase enzyme within the seed breaks the generous quantity of amylopectin carbohydrate down into glucose, maltose, and sucrose—simple sugars. Sprouted grains therefore have more sugars than non-sprouted grains. If you make a sandwich with two slices of Ezekiel 7 sprouted grain bread, you will be exposed to 24 grams net carbs, more than enough to set the glucose-insulin response in overdrive and contribute to insulin resistance, weight gain in visceral fat, provocation of small LDL particles and other effects.
  • The quantity of prebiotic fibers is often reduced, sometimes as much as 50%.

There are indeed positive effects of sprouting. Grain proteins are broken down into fragments or amino acids, reducing the toxic effects of proteins such as gliadin. Phytates that bind calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, and copper are modestly reduced in content, typically by 30%. But, just as putting a filter on cigarettes only reduces, but does not eliminate, undesirable components such as cadmium and tar, so it goes with grain: less bad is not necessarily good. Toxic components can be reduced by sprouting, but they are not eliminated and remain at substantial quantities. As I’ve pointed out in past, i  and sugars 

In short, just like being persuaded that filtered cigarettes are somehow healthy, sprouted grains are little different from conventional bread. If wheat/grain consumption is going to trigger rheumatoid arthritis or type 2 diabetes in you, it will happen with sprouted as quickly as with non-sprouted grains. So don’t fall for the marketing of these products that try to persuade you that something less bad must therefore be good.

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