Bakers Journal

The Final Proof: March 2014

February 18, 2014
By Jane Dummer RD

Sprouted grains and seeds are perceived as easier to digest and healthier by consumers. Are they right?

Sprouted grains and seeds are perceived as easier to digest and healthier by consumers. Are they right?

New breads, cookies and muffins are literally sprouting up on the grocery store shelves thanks to a growing interest in healthy grains and seeds. The new kid on the block at the Grocery Innovations Canada Expo last October was Lil’ Sprout Bakery cookies. The label indicates that the product is made with nutritious sprouted non-GMO whole grains.

David Mackay of the Goldstream Sprouted Foods (parent company is Lil’ Sprout Bakery) has been in the sprouted grain industry for 15 years and is working with Canadian bakeries to move this product across the country. Mackay explains, “The sprouted wheat adds a robust, nutty flavour to the sweet goods. With books on the market such as Wheat Belly and the Dr. Oz effect, consumers with and without health issues are requesting these products.”


It does seem the general population, as well as individuals with digestive concerns such as gluten sensitivity, are seeking out sprouted grain and seed products. This follows the perception that during the sprouting process the number of healthy antioxidants and enzymes are increased plus there is a breakdown of the starch (which, they may not realize, actually produces sugars!) and the storage proteins (prolamins found in wheat, rye and barley, which are toxic to people with celiac disease) in the grains. Dr. Koushik Seetharaman, associate professor and General Mills Cereal chair for the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, says, “We know seeds and grains have been part of the traditional diet for centuries. There is a general perception that sprouted seeds and grains are more easily digested and that in turn makes sprouted grains more nutritious. During the sprouting process there is a release of nutrients, which may have beneficial effects; however, the exact mechanism of how the body takes in these nutrients and their health implications are still poorly understood. More research is needed.” I agree more research is needed. As a dietitian, I’m concerned when I read information identifying that sprouted wheat products are suitable for a gluten-free diet. For the celiac population, with the current research, I’d be cautious about including these products in a strict gluten-free diet.

With the obvious growing interest in sprouted products, Ontario’s Everspring Farms has expanded its family company from creating sprouted barley grass to feed its duck and goose crew to offering a wide variety of sprouted grains, pulses and seeds to humans.

“We have noticed a trend in consumers wanting more nutritious and less processed foods. About sixty per cent of our sprouted grain customers want organic over conventional. By volume, our most popular is sprouted wheat. Flax, chia and quinoa are popular seeds due to their health benefits. It gives the baker the opportunity to add a healthy complexity to their traditional recipes,” says Dianne Donaldson, the farm’s quality assurance and product development manager. Using technology and emerging research, Everspring Farms has expanded into the functional foods field with a patented SmartGrain. It is a sprouted grain with omega-3 fatty acids (marine source EPA and DHA) in the grain’s cellular matrix. This adds another health dimension for bakers wanting to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their product lineup. More research is sprouting up for the baking industry, including research into functionality.

Seetharaman explains: “Recent studies are experimenting with different sprouting conditions. For example, if the researchers sprout wheat for a shorter period of time, the grain may still retain the functionality and stability of the proteins required for bread making and the bread will likely have the added nutrients and enzymes initiated by the sprouting process.” 

It is necessary to consider every ingredient and every step of production – from the sprouting method, to the milling process to the way the product is baked – can alter nutritional and chemical properties. Based on this, perhaps the entire sprouting process requires standardized protocols to quantify and ensure consistent benefits. Let’s get back to the Lil’ Sprout Bakery cookie. It’s still a cookie with each small serving (one ounce or 28 grams) containing 120 calories and six grams of fat. Keep in mind, some of these sprouted grain baked goods are indulgent foods, so get rid of the health halo and enjoy them in moderation.

Jane Dummer, RD, is a leading dietitian for the Canadian food and nutrition industry. Jane offers services specializing in agri-food, functional foods and food safety. For more information, visit .

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