Friday, October 9, 2015

Are Sprouted Grains a Smarter Choice?

There is no standard definition of ‘sprouting’, however a ‘sprouted grain’ is generally described as a whole grain in the transition phase between a seed and a new plant. The growing popularity of sprouted grains can be attributed to the suggested increase in bioavailability of micronutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron and zinc(1, 2), which in turn is thought to have a favourable effect on health(3-5). The research is however limited and it is unclear whether sprouted grains offer health benefits beyond the benefits associated with higher intakes of whole grain.

The lack of regulation of sprouted grain products means that there are likely to be inconsistencies in the sprouting conditions (time, moisture, temperature) used by manufacturers(2). Whilst further research is required before a standardised definition can be established and regulatory controls introduced, the Oldways Whole Grains Council in the US is seeking to set standards for a definition and recently identified five key areas for consideration(6):

1. Redefining sprouted grains to include a maximum and minimum length of the sprout
2. Determining lab tests to verify if a grain has sprouted i.e. the difference between an intentionally sprouted grain and a grain that has sprouted accidentally
3. Establishing nutrient tests to determine when a grain has sprouted
4. Establishing the percentage of grains that must be sprouted to make a claim
5. Setting microbial and safety tests for sprouted grains.

In the meantime, the totality of the scientific evidence supports higher intakes of whole grains (sprouted or unsprouted) and/or high fibre grain foods for improved nutrition and disease risk reduction. For many, sprouted grain products may offer people with a novel way to enjoy the benefits of grains.

1.            Chavan JK, Kadam SS, Beuchat LR. Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 1989;28(5):401-37.
2.            WGC. Sprouted Whole Grains. The Whole Grain Council; 2015.
3.            Hsu TF, Kise M, Wang MF, Ito Y, Yang MD, Aoto H, et al. Effects of pre-germinated brown rice on blood glucose and lipid levels in free-living patients with impaired fasting glucose or type 2 diabetes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2008;54(2):163-8.
4.            Ito Y, Mizukuchi A, Kise M, Aoto H, Yamamoto S, Yoshihara R, et al. Postprandial blood glucose and insulin responses to pre-germinated brown rice in healthy subjects. J Med Invest. 2005;52(3-4):159-64.
5.            Sakamoto S, Hayashi T, Hayashi K, Murai F, Hori M, Kimoto K, et al. Pre-germinated brown rice could enhance maternal mental health and immunity during lactation. Eur J Nutr. 2007;46(7):391-6.

6.            Crawford E. Oldways Whole Grains Council Begins Crafting Standards for Sprouted Grains:; 2015 [cited 2015 19th of August]. Available from: