Sprouts growing on tastebuds

2011-02-09 19:06

Seattle - Is it really possible that sprouts are hip again?

Maybe that's a bit much to ask of a sprout. But they are hot. And they look - and taste - nothing like what you remember.

In the 30 or so years since they seemed to rule the sandwich and salad bar scenes, sprouts have, er, grown. They aren't just frilly green tendrils any more. They are "sprouted" whole-wheat bread, rye crackers, baking flour, even brown rice.

Advocates say these foods - which are made from sprouted, or germinated, grains and other seeds - are tastier and better for you. Nutrition experts paint a more nuanced picture about that latter claim, but sprouted foods nonetheless appear to be a natural food niche that is, yes, sprouting.

"It's really been kick-started in the last four or five years as our customers have been demanding raw foods and sprouted grains, pulses and legumes to add to their diet," says Errol Schweizer, Whole Food Market's senior global grocery co-ordinator.

Alfalfa sprouts have been a health food staple for years and mung bean sprouts are common in Asian food. But many people don't realize grains such as rice and wheat also can be sprouted through a process of soaking and draining.

As producers have caught on to this, they have unleashed a torrent of sprouted foods. At Whole Foods alone, there are sprouted versions of breads, quinoa, lentils and granola.

Cusp of sprouts

None of this is surprising for Whole Foods, known for its organic foods selection. But more mainstream chains are offering sprouted foods, too. The natural Asian food brand Annie Chun's says sales of its microwavable sprouted brown rice, which is sold in large chains like Safeway, Kroger and Wegmans, grew by more than 24% last year.

"I think we're just at the cusp of people starting to understand what that product is and why it's a better choice," says Diana Wang, marketing director for Annie Chun's.

Sprouted food often tastes different. Sprouted brown rice, for instance, can have a softer texture and some people say it has a mild nutty flavour. Sprouted breads - there even are sprouted bagels and English muffins - tend to be denser and chewier.

But taste is just part of the attraction. Erica Kerwien, who lives in the Seattle area and blogs healthy recipes at comfybelly.com, has purchased sprouted breads, bagels and frozen pizza dough for her family. They like much of it. Kerwien also finds it easier to digest sprouted foods.

"I still feel full, but I don't feel stuffed up," she said.

That's a common claim. Proponents say that sprouting breaks down carbohydrates and other compounds, thereby easing digestion.

It's true that grains do change their make-up when they sprout.

Broccoli good for you

Researchers have found decreases in starch, increases in sugars and an increase in the quality of protein, according to a summary of scientific studies by University of California Davis doctoral student Anna Jones. Some changes could increase digestibility.

But Dr Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, a nutrition specialist at the university, cautioned that the changes are slight and that there is no research yet showing humans have an easier time metabolizing sprouted grains.

"What actually is measured in the laboratory might show some potential for increased digestibility," Zidenberg-Cherr said, "but it's so small that it most likely wouldn't have an impact, and no study has actually shown that it would."

There also are people who claim that sprouts are so dense with nutrients that they can help people fight disease.

Dr Paul Talalay at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the `90s found that broccoli sprouts contain a cancer-fighting chemical called sulforaphane at concentrations much higher than mature broccoli heads.

Separately, Japanese researchers reported a decade ago that germinating brown rice increases the levels of fibre and beneficial amino acids.

There also is research showing certain sprouts with higher levels of bioactive compounds that have been linked to health benefits - such as isoflavones in soybean sprouts and reservatol in germinated peanut kernels, says Chang Yong Lee, a professor of food chemistry at Cornell University. 

Emerging field

But Lee said that does not necessarily mean that all sprouts contain higher levels of beneficial nutrients. He said it needs to be considered on a case by case basis.

Despite some intriguing findings, sprout research remains an "emerging field," says Alice Bender, registered dietitian with the American Institute for Cancer Research.

"It will be interesting to see where it goes," Bender said. "But in terms of making any one food sort of a magic bullet or the key, we want to look at the overall pattern of diet."

Ironically, sprouts tend to make headlines occasionally for a negative health effect. There have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illnesses associated with raw or lightly cooked sprouts since 1996, according to the Centres for Disease Control.

A good number of these cases involve alfalfa sprouts and salmonella, including an outbreak late last year that sickened more than 100 people in 18 states.

"The problem with all sprouts is that the conditions that are optimal for that seed to make a sprout also happen to be absolutely perfect for growing bacteria," says Donald Schaffner, professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University.

Schaffner added that the industry has done a better job keeping its food safe recently.

"The number and size of the outbreaks is going down over time" he said.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  health
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.