Suddenly they're everywhere, should you buy them?

Maybe you've spotted grains labeled "sprouted" in the health food aisle, or seen some breads touting sprouted grains as an ingredient? Sprouted grains certainly sound healthy, but what are they, exactly? Actually, they're just what they sound like: grains that have sprouted. To understand what that means, though, here's a super-quick lesson on grains: Grains are the seeds of certain plants, mostly what are known as "cereal grasses," and they have three edible parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran. As the germ grows, it feeds on the starchy endosperm. Once the sprouting portion of the grain's life cycle starts, the endosperm's starch changes to simpler molecules that are easily digested by the growing plant.

Catching the sprouts during that germinating process-essentially, harvesting them before they've developed into full-fledged plants-means accessing a host of health benefits. Just as the baby plant finds those simple molecules easier to digest, so may you. There's more: Tim Schultz, VP of Research and Development at rice and grain producer Lundberg Family Farms, says sprouted grains are filled with vitamins and minerals including folate, iron, zinc, and magnesium. The grain's fiber content may also get a boost thanks to the sprouting process. On top of that, sprouted grains and sprouted grain products (such as breads, tortillas, and even granola) tend to be less processed than traditional grain items.

Aside from all these nutritional perks, sprouted grains will appeal to anyone looking to get dinner on the table more quickly, since they have a shorter cook time: for example, sprouted brown rice cooks in 30 minutes, versus 45 minutes for regular (non-sprouted) brown rice. And because some of the starches are broken down into sugar during the sprouting process, you may notice sprouted grains can taste somewhat sweeter.

As long as the germ and bran are intact, any type of whole grain can be sprouted: rice, wheat, quinoa, barley, farro, millet, amaranth, you name it. And you can use sprouted grains the same ways you'd use regular, non-sprouted grains, such as in salads; in a stir-fry; or as an easy, goes-with-everything side dish.


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