(Family Features) Sprouted grains have been popular among health food junkies for years, but they've only recently hit the mainstream, popping up everywhere from breads and cereals to restaurant menus. This hot new healthy ingredient has loads of nutritional benefits and is increasingly easy to find. But what exactly are sprouted grains?
A sprouted grain is the beginning of a grain seed's life cycle, before it becomes a mature plant. Given just the right temperature and moisture conditions, the outer layer will split open and a young shoot will sprout out of the grain, releasing vital nutrients and enzymes stored inside. Grain seeds are similar to long-term storage packages, designed to keep their goodness locked inside until conditions are right to grow a new plant.
According to the Whole Grains Council, the sprouting process can increase the amount and availability of some vitamins (notably vitamin C) and minerals, making sprouted grains a potential nutrition powerhouse.
"With the attention paid to gluten-free, a dark cloud has been surrounding whole grains for several years," said registered dietitian, Kashi nutrition partner and author, Toby Amidor. "Unless you have celiac disease or other individual needs, whole grains - including sprouted grains - are an important part of a healthy diet."
"Sprouted grains are a delicious way to add fiber and essential minerals such as iron, zinc or magnesium to your diet," continued Amidor. "They aren't just for the serious health food aficionados anymore - many new packaged foods feature these unique and nutritious grains."
Eating real, pure foods is at the core of a healthy lifestyle. By taking a closer look at packaging while at the grocery store, you can find items made with wholesome ingredients and positive benefits. These days, many grocery stores carry a variety of nutritious options on their shelves as well.
"People don't always check the nutrition label while they're shopping," says Amidor. "Take a moment to pause and read the labels to get the full picture and really understand the foods that are going into your grocery basket and onto the family table."
For tasty and nutritious food and recipe ideas, check out www.kashi.com and for additional nutrition information on whole grains, the Whole Grains Council is a great resource.
The scoop on whole grains
What are whole grains and what makes them so healthy? Simply put, they are small, edible seeds that come from grasses such as wheat and barley. Whole grains can be ground, cracked, or flaked, and still retain their benefits. Here are three ways whole grains have a positive impact:
Healthy Weight: Packed with nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and fiber, whole grains contain some of the best elements to keep you on track when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Research supports the notion that eating healthy amounts of fiber, which are found naturally in whole grains, helps people manage their weight.
Happy Heart: Consuming more plant foods, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, has been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease.
Positive Energy: Because whole grains are complex carbohydrates and they naturally contain fiber, they give you more nutrients per calorie than refined carbohydrates. It's a better way to fuel your day!
Sprouted grains are a great way to obtain the essential minerals and fiber that help you feel good:
Iron: Carries oxygen.
Zinc: Nourishes skin.
Magnesium: Helps support bones.
Fiber: Aids digestion.
Sprouted grains in your diet
The daily recommended intake of whole grains is 48 grams, and the nutritional advantages of sprouted grains make them a great option to achieve this daily goal. Here are some ways to incorporate sprouted grains into your positive eating routine:
Sprinkle them into salads or stir fries.
Check grocery aisles for products with sprouted grains, like Kashi's new Organic Promise Sprouted Grains cereal.
Use sprouted grain flours in your favorite baked goods or homemade pasta.