by Les Saidel - July, 2011

Sprouted wheat and sprouted wheat bread is the latest rage amongst the health conscious, but what exactly is sprouted wheat? and is it really healthier than regular dry wheat?

So firstly, what is sprouted wheat? These are simply the wheat kernels, seeds, berries, or whatever you like to call them, that have been allowed to germinate and sprout. Like any living seed, a wheat seed when placed under the appropriate conditions of humidity, light and warmth - will germinate and grow. Sprouted wheat is wheat kernels that have germinated and begun to grow little green sprouts from the seeds.

Apparently when the wheat kernels sprout they become more healthy. Nobody could tell me WHY exactly they are more healthy, but it generally revolved around "a living seed is healthier because it has 'lifeforce'", or something similarly esoteric. That is all very nice and well for the mystical among us, but for the more scientific minded like myself, it was insufficient.

So I decided to do a little research and this is what I found.

According to a study done in the University of Minnesota the nutritional content of the wheat kernel mutiplies, sometimes by a factor of 4, when the kernel sprouts. Below are figures of the increase in certain vitamins when the wheat kernel sprouts -

Vitamin B1 (thiamin) increase of 28%
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) increase of 315%
Vitamin B3 (niacin) increase of 66%
Vitamin B5 (pantathenic) increase of 65%
Vitamin B12 increase of 400%
Biotin increase of 111%
Folic acid increase of 278%
Vitamin C increase of 300%
Vitamin E increase of 300%

In addition to the increase in vitamin content the sprouted wheat kernel has 3 -4 times more fibre than and unsprouted wheat kernel.

The chemical process responsible for this increase is beyond the scope of this article, but it is indisputable that a sprouted wheat kernel is more nutritious than an unsprouted one and the best thing about it is that while the vitamin content of sprouted wheat increases, the calorie count does not increase considerably. So kernel for kernel a sprouted kernel packs more punch for the same calories.

To sprout your own wheat is really simple, although it will take you 3 days. Here is how you do it in 10 easy steps -

1. Fill a bowl with the required amount of wheat kernels
2. Fill the rest of the bowl with water.
3. All the extraneous shards, husks and other dirt will float to the top. Pour these "floaters" off and leave just the clean kernels behind.
4. Fill the bowl with water that is double the amount of the kernels.
5. Soak and cover (not seal) overnight for 12 hours.
6. The wheat kernels will rehydrate and absorb their maximum capacity of water.
7. The following day (2nd day), pour the water off (it may contain some bubbles).
8. Three times a day on the 2nd and 3rd day, rinse the kernels, drain and cover.
9. The kernels should be moist but not soaking in water.
10. By the 3rd day the kernels will have sprouted. If you want white (blanched) sprouts, keep away from light. For greener sprouts (more vitamin content), expose to more light (but not direct sunlight).

After the kernels have sprouted store them in a container in the fridge, like any other vegetable.

This next part is perhaps the most IMPORTANT part about sprouts (must read) -

Sprouts in general, and in our case wheat sprouts, are prone to infection by bacteria. Think of any fruit or vegetable that is eaten raw and not cooked - there always exists some possibility (however small) that it may be infected by E-coli and Salmonella bacteria which may originate from the manure/compost in the field where it was grown. Unlike other fresh vegetables/fruit however, sprouts are cultivated over a 3 day period in a highly humid, warm environment, in short - the ideal environment for growing bacteria.

If any bacteria are present on the seeds before sprouting begins - they are going to grow at an alarming rate during the 3 day sprouting process and you are going to make yourself extremely ill (or worse) by eating them. The 2011 outbreak of E-coli in Europe was traced to bean sprouts eminating from Germany. A lot of people died!

For that reason, it is my suggestion that you do NOT eat wheat sprouts raw! (despite the extra health benefits). It is MUCH better to heat the sprouts to at least 165 F (72 C) to kill any bacteria. If you have a cooking thermometer, we suggest heating them in water to 80 degrees C.

A great way to get the benefits of sprouts and eliminate the risks of bacterial infection is to make a sprouted wheat bread. Note however that normal baking temperatures (anything over 100 degrees C) will destroy most if not all the -

Vitamin B1
Vitamin B5 and
Vitamin C

Therefore sprouted wheat breads need to be baked for a long time (2 hours or more) at low temperatures (under 100 degrees C).

Most commercial bakeries do not have the infrastructure or the time to bake at such temperatures, for example the Saidels Bakery brick oven is always kept at temperatures close to 200 degrees C, which is close enough to most regular bread baking temperatures and can be heated or cooled for a bake in a short time. It is for this reason that we do not make a sprouted wheat bread at Saidels Bakery.

If buying a commercial sprouted wheat bread, investigate their process - at which temperature and for how long they are baked, to know if they are for real or just climbing on the bandwagon and cashing in on buzzwords.

Here's to your good health.

Les Saidel

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