Sprouted Grain Bread: Anything To It?
My local grocery store sells sprouted wheat bread for twice the cost of standard whole wheat bread. My wheat farmer friend laughs, and says that grain that gets wet starts to sprout, and that the farmer has to sell it for a deep discount at the elevator. The nutrients go into the sprout, which falls off as the grain is moved, and therefore it's used as cattle feed.
My friend is a very intelligent man, and I take his opinions very seriously — especially in this case because he has grown wheat for decades. I am uninterested in vague testimonials, but AM interested in hearing from people who know what they are talking about, both in the underlying biology and how sprouted wheat works in the flour-making process.
The descriptions I've read imply that the purveyors of sprouted grain bread are buying regular unsprouted wheat and sprouting it later, under different conditions. If so, why would it matter? I will appreciate intelligent answers and will have followup questions if this winds up being a useful discussion. Many thanks in advance.
Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Healthy Living Support Group.
Thinking back to both chemistry and nutrition classes a million years ago, but I'll take a stab here.
First, whole wheat flour is not identcal nutritionally to the whole wheat berry because there are losses in the milling process due to heat and oxidation. (This is an older article from McGill University that has a quite good explanation of this topic: http://www.eap.mcgill.ca/publications/EAP35.htm )
Second, the process of sprouting can transform the nutrients into a more bioavailable form. There is a discussion in the Harvard article cited above.
Bottom line, it's still bread, a carbohydrate, and should be a limited part of a healthy diet. And either whole grain or sprouted grain versions are better for you than bread made from refined grains.
I invite a nutritionist to step in with further info.
Thanks for the reply and especially for the great McGill link. Exactly the approach I respect, at least at first skim. I will have to spend more time with it, but I learned something right off the bat: I didn't know that flour spoils. Truly never occured to me. The same friend gave us a lot of Dakota Maid flour, and I will have to rearrange one of our freezers to hold it. The Harvard article fell short of convincing me on bioavailability, and particularly on the magnitudes and therefore the materiality issue. But my mind is far from closed.
In a weird way, the Harvard article reminds me of a lot of what I've read about marijuana. A lot of repetition of what I'll call "stoner certainties" out there. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not rejecting anything out of hand, but I have a generally skeptical nature — maybe I should have been born in Missouri, "the show-me state." Not only that, but anyone with miles on the tires has to know that nutrition is a refuge for a whole lot of neurosis and laughable hype. So I look as carefully as I can. We've been fed a lot of what the bull leaves on the ground over the years.
By the way, I can make a credible claim to have a good handle on how to lose weight using 102-year-old science. Maybe I'll post about that sometime. The secret starts with a 1919 paper, "A Biometric Study of Basal Metabolism in Man," by Harris and Benedict. If they'd only teach it in high school, we'd have a whole lot less obesity in this country. Of course, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, et al wouldn't like it. Face it, where would they be without obesity? Whatever they say, I happen to think that "Weight Loss Inc." ought to be called "Fraud Inc." or "False Hope Inc." Atkins works, but it was designed as a pre-surgery crash diet and is not a good plan to keep it off.
By the way, I don't think it's "refined grains," but rather refined flour. The McGill link does a good job of detailing how different kinds of flour are made.
Yes, it is indeed refined flour, not grain. Indeed, flour can spoil, I use mine slowly, so it is all either refrigerated or frozen.
With respect to sprouting claims, I'm still looking for the article from my past that was actually well researched…
As for the nutritional claims we read… I'm in your camp, along with claims about supplements, cures, and many more popular ideas. I'm pretty adamant here on Connect and elsewhere about evaluating studies and research before believing, quoting or recommending.
I did some clicking, and for about 60 years there's been a "falling number test" (FN) to determine how much of a load of grain has sprouted. This is extensively covered; your Google search term would be "wheat sprout damage," without the quote marks. The lower the FN, the lower the quality of the flour and what it goes into. I assume that the purveyors of sprouted wheat bread have found ways of dealing with it, but one thing's clear: If you buy a sack of flour at the store for use in baking cakes, bread, cookies, etc., you want a high FN.
Low FN wheat goes for a steep discount at the elevator, and sometimes they won't take it at any price depending on the demand. The main use is for cattle feed. It can also be used as seed, but care must be taken because it might not germinate. And yes, it has less starch. Not a whole lot less, but flour made from low FN wheat is not kind to baked goods. I am new here so I cannot post links yet, which is frustrating. All I can say is that the USDA has documented it backwards and forwards, and I found a very good USDA explanation that goes through it chapter and verse.
"Sprouted wheat" varies by the degree of sprouting. (There are plenty of pictures out there.) I didn't look for FN comparisons from the makers of sprouted wheat bread, and I'd be somewhat surprised if any of them would go into that level of detail. My guess is that the sprouted wheat in sprouted wheat bread isn't very sprouted. Or it's combined with non-sprouted. If I'm Mr. Sprouted Wheat Bread Guy, selling a 20-ounce loaf for $6.30 rather than $2.80 for a 24-ounce loaf of regular whole wheat bread (those were the shelf prices this week at my local store), I'm going to use the highest FN possible.
I don't even know if there's a USDA or FDA standard that specifies how sprouted the wheat has to be in "sprouted wheat bread." I say that because, when you do the research, sprouted wheat is framed in negative terms. Something to be avoided, not sought after. Not only that, but as FN goes lower, the dough is harder to work with. I, the theoretical Mr. Sprouted Wheat Bread Guy, would have every good reason to want my flour made from barely sprouted grain. Or, heaven forbid (!!) to simply lie about it. One thing we can be sure of: None of those health food sites (or Harvard) that promote the stuff will do the deep dive. As for sprouted wheat bread tasting better, well, there's always the secret known to every restaurant that didn't go out of business. If I say the word I might be killed, but I will spell it: S-A-L-T.
This discussion is fascinating. I understand the devastation to crop wheat caused by premature sprouting (and can remember fields being mowed for feed after an early freeze caused sprouting on the plant.)
While sprouted wheat is useless for flour, there is evidence that intentionally sprouted grains do release nutrients. I found the articles you referred to and read them, which made me more determined to find my "lost" analysis. Of all the people on Connect, maybe a handful will wade through this full chemical analysis, but here you are: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/2/421/htm
For everyone else:
"Conclusions and Future Perspectives
Germination leads to substantial changes in biochemical composition of whole grains: starch reserves are mobilized by the action of α-amylase, that corrodes the surface of the granule and forms pinholes; the nitrogen containing fractions shift towards oligopeptides and free amino acids, and amino acids composition changes as well; triacylglycerols start to be hydrolyzed and saturated/unsaturated fatty acids ratio rises up; the amount of anti-nutritional factors (e.g., phytate, trypsin inhibitor, tannin) decreases significantly, and bioactive compounds such as phenolics, phyrosterols, folates and GABA increase. Hence, in sprouted grains almost all nutrients are fully available and various antioxidants occur at higher concentrations, thus providing the base to define sprouts as “functional foods”….
Further research is needed to evaluate: (i) the optimization of germination process (i.e., growth stage, germination conditions, elicitors) as a function of genotype, aimed at modulating/enhancing phytochemical contents; (ii) the pre- and post-harvest technologies to reduce microbiological risks without affecting sprout nutraceutical profiles; (iii) the actual translatability of sprout bioactive compounds to biological benefits in lifestyle-related diseases, through in vivo essays. These objectives should be achieved also taking into account the productive perspective, pursuing the goals of an innovative agri-food technology beyond home-made production."
Bottom line as far as breads made from sprouts – "intentional sprouts" offer a different nutrition than flour made from the same grains. The key for the consumer, make sure that what you are buying lists specific sprouted grains (not sprouted grain flour or whole wheat flour) as at least the first two ingredients on the label.
I read the McGill link more thoroughly (but will re-re-read it), and they push all things organic hard enough to make my antennae go up. But there are lots of citations, so I am not dismissing it.
α-amylase is at the heart of FN that I discussed; FN works by measuring it. I have yet to read that "nutrients" journal link, but I will do so. My underlying question remains the same: How material is all of this? We know that a low FN has very real and quite negative implications for the quality of flour and the products made from it. The lower the number, the more sprouting. This is why I suspect (but cannot know) that the sprouted bread guys are using lightly sprouted grain. I really doubt that intent ("intentionally sprouted") is relevant, but rather that the degree of sprouting as measured by FN is what matters. Without that number, I'm not sure that labelling is useful in that case. That said, next time at the store, I will at least read the label on the sprouted grain bread.
There is a whole lot of hype in the Great American Marketing Machine. It's so ubiquitous that we are trained to just accept it. I am reminded of my weight-loss efforts (which were successful.) Whether it's Atkins or a diet based on Harris & Benedict's work, one thing that happens is that you read labels like crazy. I recall looking at the labels on "multigrain" crackers. It's a good hype example, "multigrain" being perceived as healthy. Quite the eye-opener; in fact, the flour in "multi-grain" crackers is derived almost entirely from enriched white wheat flour, not whole wheat. I quickly migrated to Wasa crackers, which taste like cardboard but are definitely the real thing and work great in a weight-loss program. If you're looking for honest to God real whole grain, I say look for Wasa crackers and get used to their taste.
Your suspicion that "lightly sprouted" grain is what is used. This article: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4337.12414 It delves into the nutritional conversions due to the sprouting process. Interestingly, the US does not define a "sprouted grain" in terms of food.
And they actually address the difficulty of making a palatable bread using either sprouted grains or sprouted flour (no doubt due to the chemical changes sprouting causes.)
Remember modern wheat has been bred specifically for properties which allow fine-crumbled, easily risen, and bland pure white baked goods. It bears little resemblance to the flour my grandmothers used, which varied from brand to brand, sack to sack, etc. Totally unacceptable to commercial bakers. I remember my Gran had a special box of "cake flour" used to make fine white cakes for weddings or ladies' afternoon gatherings and nothing else.
The whole discussion leads me back to my refrigerator shelf of whole grain flours, with which I have learned to make my own versions of breads and treats – even pastry for pies. I'll save my sprouts for soups, salads and guinea pig treats.
Remember modern wheat has been bred specifically for properties which allow fine-crumbled, easily risen, and bland pure white baked goods. It bears little resemblance to the flour my grandmothers used, which varied from brand to brand, sack to sack, etc.
Are you claiming that today's whole wheat bread is toxic? What's the evidence?
No, I am saying that white flour is very different today than in my childhood. I grew up among serious bakers, who had very specific flour preferences for the recipes they used because results could vary so greatly between brands.
In Minneapolis, we had several flour mills, each producing their own flour. Each baker had her own preferred brand. Today we have one mill, producing flour for several brand labels. My sister-in-law, who worked in their test lab when the merger happened, spent 2 years adjusting home and commercial mixes when the company changed from their own flour production to using the "merged" product.
I don't know if specific wheat is used to create whole wheat flour versus white flour nor if the properties have changed.
I would not label any product bad or toxic, merely different.
I jumped the gun. Thanks for the reply. There's a lot I don't know about flour. My wheat farmer friend says that North Dakota Mills flour is the highest quality in this country, but I don't know why. Care to flesh that out?