Fiber and Grains

Sprouted Grains

January 11, 2017   /
Elaine M. Hinzey, RD, LDN

Sprouted grains are whole grains, because they contain all parts of the grain (the germ, endosperm, and grain). It is believed that sprouted grains offer all of the benefits of whole grains, but are more easily digested. It is possible that sprouted grains are less allergenic to individuals with sensitivity to grain proteins.

The sprouting of grains:

  • Increases the total protein content
  • Changes the amino acid composition
  • Decreases starch
  • Increases sugar content
  • Increases crude fat content
  • Increases fiber content
  • Increases certain vitamins and minerals

However, these increases are exaggerated on some websites, in some magazines, etc. A review article published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition concluded that “the magnitude of the nutritional not large enough to account for in feeding experiments with higher animals.”

Other studies have found that most of the increases in nutrients result from the loss of dry matter during sprouting and do not represent superior nutritive value of sprouted grains over ungerminated grains. As the carbohydrate content decreases from the loss of dry matter, the percentage of other nutrients increases. The nutritional content of sprouted grains is influenced by the seed quality and sprouting conditions, and obviously by what type of grain is sprouted.

No regulated definition of “sprouted grain” exists. Sprouting is a sensitive process. If the grains are in an environment that is too moist, the grain will drown and the seed will split open as a result of swelling. The sprout also could ferment and rot in an environment that is too moist. If a sprout is left to grow for too long of a time period, it will become a new grass stalk, which we are unable to digest well. Companies marketing sprouts do so under carefully controlled conditions to avoid these problems.

The two approaches for making sprouted grains are:

  • The dry method—the grains are dried after sprouting and then are stored until cooking or milling
  • The wet method—the wet, sprouted grains are made into a thick puree and then used to make bread, tortillas, muffins, and other products (these foods often are labeled as “flourless” and sold frozen)

You can sprout grains at home yourself with some good instructions and attentiveness. You can keep sprouts for a few days to over 1 week in the refrigerator and use them in a wide variety of dishes. You also can sprout some nuts and legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils.


References and recommended readings

Chavan JK, Kadam SS. Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1989;28:401-437.

Lorenz K. Cereal sprouts: composition, nutritive value, food applications. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1980;13:353-385.

Reinagel M. Sprouted grains. Accessed May 31, 2012.

Whole Grains Council. Sprouted whole grains. Accessed May 31, 2012.