Grains Don’t Want You To Eat Them

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?

Related Posts
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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  • brianne

    Is my Ezekiel bread okay??
    Or am I wasting my money….

    • brianne

      It is the Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted 100% wholegrain flourless bread…

      • Michelle

        Are you a disciple? (Of their bread that is…)

        • brianne

          No. I just love their bread! I buy it at my local co op and saw your article. I am also the one that asked about stevia on your FB page. I am just a fan :)

    • Michelle

      They use pure sprouts, no flour. As for baking temps, hard to say. They say they slow bake at low temps, but they don’t get specific. They also use a combo of sprouts (not just wheat) to give you a pretty complete protein.

  • Raven

    I have been wondering what the sprouted bread was about. Awesome article…thank you SO much for the info. I would love to try making some myself the ancient way. How hot would you make your oven and how long would you bake it to simulate the sun do you think? And, once you sprout the grain and grind it up, what do you add to it to make the bread?


    • Michelle

      Here is a link to one recipe for pure sprouted bread. They say to bake for 3-4 hrs at 160-250, but that will destroy many of the nutrients. If you want to get maximum nutrients, cook it at no higher than 130 degrees for much longer period of time. I would check after about 4 hours to see how much longer you need…

  • Belinda @zomppa

    Sprouted gets shafted so often. That’s funny about squishing the bread – my little sister is a bread fanatic, and yup, she tested the breads.

  • Mary B

    Thanks for the article, some very interesting information, sort of makes me want to start baking. I too like a heavy dark bread…Thanks again!

  • Cindy

    So interesting! I’m not even all that into sprouting and have never even tried sprouted bread, but I’ve always wondered what was going on with sprouts and why some people love them. Makes a lot more sense now.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the article Michelle. I have forwarded your site to a couple of friends, and they ‘love it’. Thanks again…..

  • molly

    this is the most poetic account of whole grains i’ve yet seen. love it!

  • 6512 and growing

    I recently soaked some wheat flour in water and whey before making bread. The finished product was so much lighter and more moist, but I wonder also if some phytic acid is released. Thoughts?

    • Michelle

      Did you pour out any of the water after you soaked it? I would imagine that the flour would have absorbed all the water, which would defeat the purpose? I’m not convinced that soaking releases a ton of phytic acid- maybe a bit (which is one of the reasons people soak beans) -but not as much as sprouting. I have heard some people will add a touch of vinegar when they soak beans, grains, which is believed to help release this acid.

      • 6512 and growing

        According to the cookbook Nourishing Traditions (written by Sally Fallon, disciple of Weston Price), “soaking flour in whey, yogurt, buttermilk or cultured milk activates the enzyme phytase, which works to break down phytic acid. Soaking also increases vitamin content and makes all the nutrients in grains more available.”
        For what it’s worth…

  • Alex

    I just converted to the Trader Joes sprouted grain bread. I love it. I do sprout a mix of radish, fenugreek (too bitter alone) and…um…something else pretty often. Plus sunflower seeds–I sprout overnight before putting them in salad. Mung beans are a neat trick but I have littl einterest in eating them. Broccoli seeds mold or rot or something on me a lot so I stopped.

    Anyone wanting more sprout info should head over to

  • meezermom

    I’m Gluten intolerant. What I miss most is heavy-grained bread! We make Gluten-free bread, but it’s so wimpy. I’ve never been a white-bread person – I like my bread to have flavor.

    And we always have a couple types of sprouts going at our house, which we add to salads, stir-frys and a variety of things. I think we’ll try some added to the bread next time.

    I’m passing on the link to our favorite sprout source:

    These people have many different blends of sprouts (the San Francisco blend is one of our favs), as well as a really easy to use sprout-er.

    I’d like to try some sprouted bread. I noticed the recipes generally call for Wheat berries. Does anyone know if gluten is an issue when the wheat is sprouted then heated? I understand the gluten is produced when wheat or rye (I so miss a heavy rye bread!)and a few other grains are heated.

    Is it possible to make the sprouted bread without gluten producing grains?

    I have this other crazy idea of coating the inside of my crock-pot with oil and trying to bake the bread on low?

    Thank you so much! I’m really glad I added the RSS for this site – so much useful information.

    • Michelle

      Unfortunately even when you sprout the gluten remains – I believe it is reduce somewhat but its def not gluten free. If the grains used are exclusively non-gluten grains, eg. rice, corn, quinoa or seeds or legumes (which are sometimes used), then the bread would be gluten free, but I have never seen sproued AND gluten free bread all in one. Here is a recipe I came across for making sprouted-gluten free at home. It does call for flour as well though, so its’ not pure sprouted. But give it a try.

      I HAVE heard of crock pot baking – so go for it! I’ve never done it, but it has been done …

  • Ginny

    What a wonderfully clear explanation of why sprouted is better — I’ve been searching for just the words to explain this and “grains just don’t want to be eaten” is IT. Hurray!

    Almonds can be sprouted too — they sell sprouted almonds in the bulk bin at my health food store, but you can do it yourself easily. They become wonderfully sweet and much more digestible (for those of us who notice nuts just sitting in our guts). Great info, as always!

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  • Mardi

    I love this! I eat ezekiel toast with hummus tomatoes and sprouts every morning!
    You truly write beautifully about food! Such a great site :)

    • Michelle

      Thank you Mardi – food has so much personality and it effects us on so many levels (culturally, nutritionally, politically…) not to mention an endless source of entertainment!

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  • Laura

    What a great article! I’ve seen sprouted breads in the store but never really understood what they were about – this definitely makes me want to try them.

    And YUCK to the Bimbo bread :)

    • Michelle

      I just find it hilarious that that’s actually the brand name – the parent co that makes it is Grupo Bimbo a Mexican Co, and I’m guessing that the word bimbo in Spanish does not have any real meaning as it does in English.

  • B

    Fantastic post Michelle, thank you!!! I love sprouts and want to learn how to sprout at home. I’m a bit intimidated but I am going to give it a try! ~;o) Thanks again girlfriend, I look forward to all of your posts!

  • fifty

    Wow. I hate seed and sprout bread. Some of my teeth are SO sensitive to cold and small hard things. Even after lots of dental stuff. I can’t eat that kind of bread. So sad.

    But even before this, I loved seed and sprout bread for toast, but truly loved plain old 100% whole wheat bread for sandwiches. It seemed to not compete with the sandwich ingredients.

    FWIW, “Nature Bake” of Milwaukie, OR makes one of the best (I hesitate to say THE best, tho I personally think so) 100% whole wheat sliced bread for everyday use that you can find.

  • fifty

    People should also look at the source of their sprout seeds. There have been several recalls of tainted sprouts (E Coli & Salmonella) in the past few years. Pretty repeatedly, actually. So, unfortunately, as a result, I don’t do any sprouts now (used to lots, years ago). Tho it may be true that baking kills those bugs, it still sounds unsavory. Esp considering my just previous post.

    • Michelle

      It’s true that sprouts can easily grow bacteria – the combination of a warm moist environment (which they need for growing) is condusive to it. Best to buy from a store where there is high turn over of produce or … grow your own. It’s super simple to do … see the how-to in the link in the post!

      • fifty

        Well, that brings up an interesting question. Is it the basic seeds that are contaminated with bacteria (which I thought it was – could be wrong) or is it contaminated in the growing and processing?

        If the seeds were contaminated in the growing process (just like the lettuce and spinach contaminations a while ago), then it wouldn’t matter where you bought the sprouts or how careful they were in growing and packaging them.

        If the growing and packaging introduced bacteria, then a safety conscious grower and packager (and a store with lots of turnover) would help a lot.

        • Michelle

          Yes, the bacteria growth happens during the sprouting. But it’s a good point you raise — if the seeds get contaminated at the processor, during the sprouting then it’s too late by the time they get to the store. This is true. Shop at a store that has high product integrity and is is know for quality produce. Look carefully at the sprouts themselves – if there is any indication that they’ve gone a little “off” don’t buy them. There should be no discernible smell either.

          • fifty

            That’s good advice, Michelle.

            But what do you mean by shopping at a store that has high product integrity, esp when it relates to growing sprouts? How does a shopper judge high integrity? It looks great and the owner says all the right things? How does one know that the store owner or processor does all the right things? Just because there have been no sprout bacteria episodes before does not necessarily mean that they won’t in the future.

            I really don’t want to be contentious, as I like your blog, but I don’t grow sprouts anymore.


          • Michelle

            It’s a subtle judgement call. If you feel like the store’s produce in general is fresh and crisp and the sprouts themselves look fresh, then I think you’re ok, but if you’re feeling anxious about it, skip the sprouts. There are plenty of others vegs that bring many of the nutrients that sprouts do – and unsprouted grains in moderation (in bread etc), are fine too.

  • ben

    Isn’t Broccoli sprouts higher in sulforaphane (myrosinase) than mature Broccoli?

    Mature broccoli is also good for the gut and may prevent cancer, but since its higher in oxalates, I like to use the sprouts on my salad instead.

    (My salad recipe: red leaf lettuce, broccoli sprouts/watercress, red peppers, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, ham, and green onions)

    • Michelle

      I am not sure about that. Both the sprouts (which is just an immature broccoli) AND the full grown broccoli plant are outstanding foods. Eat both!

  • es4d

    you can put just about anything on a toasted piece of hemp bread and it’s amazing! and SO SO good for you! no yeast, no white flour, whole sprouted grains, fiber (5g) protien (13g!!) O3’s for DAYS! 2108mg of O6, 884mg of O3) i have it with avocado, almond butter + banana, eggs, butter + jelly, hummos. it’s even good for diabetics. (but i don’t think it’s gluten free)
    as my friend Jello Biafra says….”GROW MORE POT!”
    (hemp really can save the world.)
    best blog ever.

    • Michelle

      Love it! Actually hemp IS gluten free! So celiacs – indulge! It’s pretty sad that hemp is not allowed to be grown in the US. The regulations are so archaic and so backward. It’s b/c of this that hemp is a) quite expensive relative to say flax and b) much less commonly eaten. There is a movement happening to change this, but it’s taking time … Hemp on!

  • Maris (In Good Taste)

    I agree – the more rustic, the better…and healthier!

  • Marilyn

    I am interested in preparing kasha. Is groats the grain used in kasha? Do you have a recipe for kasha?

    • Michelle

      The term “groat” simply refers to the hulled part of ANY grain – could be oats, wheat etc …. I believe kasha can be made with any grain but is often made with buckwheat. I have never tried to make it myself but here is one recipe I came across….

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  • frances

    I love sprouting wheat berries and tossing them in salad. They really do get sweet as you mentioned.
    I also make raw granola with sprouted buckwheat and it is delish. I have posted the recipe on my blog
    check it out!
    I have linked your article in that post and added you to my blogroll – hope that’s ok!
    I love your blog!

    • Michelle

      It’s more than, “ok” ! Thank you Frances!

  • frances

    awesome…thanks michelle!
    also – here is the correct link (i was being careless before…oops)

  • GreenerGreener

    This was really interesting. When I was a kid you could give me a loaf of bread and a stick of butter and I was in heaven.

    Unfortunately now I have to watch my carbs or I get reflux attacks.

    Do you know how sprouting the grains affects the carbs of the final bread? From reading your description of the changes to the seed after sprouting it seems like it might lower the carb count but I haven’t found anything to back that assumption up.


    • Michelle

      Sprouting doesn’t actually lower the carbs, it simply starts the conversion from starch to sugar (both carbs just in different forms) so it’s easier for your body to digest those carbs (of which there is now a higher % of sugar).

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  • Karen

    Great article! Very informative and explains why I feel so much better when I have the Food for Life breads, vs. “restaurant” bread. Thanks!

    • Michelle

      Indeed! Food for Life makes some awesome sprouted breads and I have to admit I was kinda of skeptical of sprouted until I started to dig deeper into WHY this process was so valuable. We can learn much from taking a look in our rear view mirror and seeing what cooks did to their grains thousands of years ago!

  • Lesliedalton49

    Thanks for the information…I’m going to check out Whole Foods line of sprouted breads.  I have one from Alvarado Bakery and I’m not sure that it’s “all sprouts.”  The ingredients list: Sprouted organic wheat berries, filtered water, wheat gluten, honey, fresh yeast, sea salt, soy based lecithin, and cultured wheat.  Is this okay??  

    • Michelle Madden

      Sounds like it’s pretty pure sprouted grains. Unless it lists “flour” in some form, then you can be confident they do not use any unsprouted grains/flour. The wheat gluten is added to help hold the bread together so it’s not too crumbly.