She was sizing-up the offerings in Aisle 3, the aisle that contained – according to the wooden overhead sign: “Cereal, Crackers, Cookies, Bread”. She reached into the shelves giving the loaves, in rapid succession, a firm squeeze. She performed her study like a skilled examiner and after manually scanning a half dozen, had a winner. The Softest Bread On The Shelf was a pure white bread by the brand name BIMBO. She tossed two bags into her cart. They landed without a sound.
Though the soft-bread shopper is populous, I am a “peasant” bread person. I want my bread to tumble into my stomach and land with a thud. I like bread with grains visibly poking out of their sides, breads with deep tans and weathered faces, breads made from sprouts. And it seems I’m not alone – Whole Foods has just launched a private label sprouted bread line.
Sprouts?! Why The Hype
The problem with eating grains (including whole grains) is that they don’t want to be eaten. In their dormant, hard form they are resistant to digestion because they are saving themselves for themselves. They want to be blown around, land in soil and grow. They don’t want to be captured, pounded into flour, and swallowed.
When you sprout, you’re tricking the grain into thinking it’s being planted. It doesn’t know the difference between a glass jar in a kitchen and a plowed field in Iowa. It doesn’t know it’s being grown to be eaten and that everything it’s doing to help itself grow will be helping you digest it. When it sprouts it releases stored up nutrients (mostly B and C vitamins), increases its protein, and gives up its anti-nutrients such as phytic acid (that prevents your absorbing minerals) and lectin (a hard-to-digest chemical that can aggravate your gut). Sprouting also starts the digestion of the plant’s starch by converting it into sugar (so there’s less for your body to do). (If you taste a grain/sprout after a couple days of sprouting, it’s sweet.) To convert the starch, the grain creates enzymes, which your gut can continue to use to digest the starch.
Basically, you’re turning the grain from a hard-to-digest seed into an easy-to-digest plant. Grow them before you eat them – make it all about them, and it becomes all about you.
How Are Sprouted Breads Made?
The first breads ever made thousands of years ago, were from sprouted grains that were mashed into dough and baked. No flour. The Bible even refers to using sprouts for bread and one of the more popular brands has taken its brand name from the verse, Ezekiel 4:9.
The big difference though with sprouted breads today and those from Biblical times, is the latter was either baked in the sun or in a very low temperature “oven”. Once you cook live sprouts at 350 degrees, you destroy many of the freshly-created nutrients. You’re still getting the advantage of the pre-digestion of the starch, but when you go above 130 degree water soluble vitamins (B and C) as well as the enzymes, are greatly diminished.
When buying sprouted breads, look specifically for ones that mention they were slow baked.* And to get full advantage of the nutrients, be sure it’s made with 100% sprouts and not simply sprouts added to the the flour (since flour is made from dormant, non-sprouted grains).
(One way to ensure you’re getting the full nutrients from sprouts is to forgo the bread and consume them in a salad or toss them into oatmeal, pancakes or cold cereal.)
Can I Do It At Home?
If you’re going for 100% sprouted like the Prophets, you’ll have to create the sprouts, massage them into a dough and bake below 130 degrees for the better part of a day. I opted for a less religious approach, sprouting wheat berries and adding them to the whole wheat flour (along with raisins) and cooking them at full heat. So the sprouted wheat berries really made more of a guest appearance, rather than actually being the bread.
Here’s a link to the bread recipe as well as instructions on how to sprout any grain or seed. One caveat – sprouts grow fast! By day two, use them. If you wait til day five (which I did with the first batch) they will grow long tails and you’ll end up with stringy hairs woven through your bread. (You can kind of see this in Bread Version 1.0, above). For Version 2.0, I used day-two sprouted wheat berries with tiny tails. Much better. If you’re using them in a salad or growing them specifically for their long sprouts (and not using the “butt” of the grain at all), let them sprout for 5+ days.
In the end, the biggest difference between sprouted bread and non, is that while sprouted breads land heavily in the shopping cart, they land more lightly in your gut.
Ever tried them? Or other forms of sprouts?
Do The French Eat French Toast? (A healthy French Toast recipe using sprouted bread)
How To Fail And Cover It Up (Another bread recipe, that has nothing to do with sprouts)
Tofu: White Bread of The Soy World? (The healthiest way to eat soybeans is not in the form of tofu)
* There is a bread called “Manna Bread” that is available at many stores that is very slow baked and has the weight to prove it.
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