When I first started on my road to making homemade bread, the word wheat berry was being tossed around. Wheat huh? You mean flour comes from a wheat berry? Yes, the 5lb bags that we buy at our local grocer filled with powdered flour is actually ground, whole grain wheat berries from the wheat grass.
A wheat kernel (berry) is an edible seed composed of three parts – the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Since the wheat kernel is left intact, virtually none of the nutrients are stripped away.
The bran is the outer covering of the kernel. It makes up only a small portion of the grain but consists of several layers – including the nutrient-rich aleurone – and contains a disproportionate share of nutrients. The bran layers supply 86 percent of the niacin, 43 percent of the riboflavin, and 66 percent of all the minerals in the grain, as well as practically all of the grain’s dietary fiber.
The starchy endosperm accounts for about 83 percent of the grain’s weight. Most of the protein and carbohydrates are stored in the endosperm, as are some minerals and B vitamins (though less than are in the bran). This layer also has some dietary fiber; for example, about 25 percent of the fiber in wheat is found in the endosperm.
The smallest part of the grain is the germ; it constitutes about 2 percent of the kernel’s weight. Located at the base of the kernel, the germ is the part of the seed that if planted would sprout to form a new plant. It contains a good amount of polyunsaturated fat, and, as a consequence, is often removed during milling to prevent grain products from turning rancid. The germ is also relatively rich in vitamin E and the B vitamins, though it has fewer of the latter than are found in the bran or endosperm, and some minerals.
White flour is actually made by stripping the bran and the germ, leaving the white endosperm. This refined flour looses between 48-98% of the many naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
For those of you familiar with Nourishing Traditions, a lot of focus has been pointed to the phytic acid level in the whole grain. In the book it’s explained that all grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. In order to neutralize the phytic acid levels, Nourishing Traditions teaches it’s readers to soak their flour in an acid medium overnight. It starts a fermentation process creating lactobacilli to aid in digestion and breaks down the phytic acid allowing our bodies to absorb important minerals.
This took me awhile to understand and quite honestly, it never really made sense to me. Now, I’m not saying that soaking is not doing something, but I honestly feel their are inaccuracies in this research. Katie, from Kitchen Stewardship brought this to my attention a few months ago and she is currently doing A LOT of research to figure this whole thing out. If you’re interested, she’s running a series on this topic that is very interesting. In her latest post, she pointed to an article called, Phytic Acid – Friend or Foe by Sue Becker. Her knowledge in this area makes tons more sense to me so I will no longer be posting about soaking any type of flour or legume for reasons provided by NT.
So now that that is out of the way, a nourishing technique that does go back centuries is sprouting your whole grains. When you sprout a whole grain or any seed for that matter, it is the beginning of it’s life… germination. This life begins in the germ of the grain. When a grain starts to sprout, it begins to multiply and develop nutrients in order to provide enough nourishment for a fully mature plant. Some protein is lost during the sprouting process, however, vitamins, enzymes, minerals and trace elements skyrocket shortly after germination!
Baked goods using sprouted grain are significantly higher in protein, vitamins and enzymes, and the complex starches are converted into natural sugars. Since these starches are converted into natural sugars, many wheat intolerant people are able to eat sprouted wheat bread without any problems. They are also low GI, so they are digested more slowly by the body, keeping the blood sugar levels stable for longer, making people feel more satisfied. This leads to less snacking. It is interesting to note that the more highly processed a food is, the higher GI it is. A loaf of white bread is significantly higher GI than a loaf of sprouted grain bread.
So the benefits…
- Increased vitamins, enzymes, minerals and trace elements
- Easier digestibility
- Low GI, great for diabetics!
It’s a win win situation and so easy to do at home!!
Sprouting Whole Grains
- Quart Glass Mason Jar
- Sprouting Screen or Coffee Filter
- Chemical Free/Organic Wheat Berries
- Food Dehydrator
- Grain Mill
- Fill a quart mason jar with 2 cups of wheat berries and 4 cups of filtered water overnight.
- The next day, rinse the wheat berries and add a sprouted screen to the top of the lid or a coffee filter. Place upside down in a food colander in your sink.
- Rinse the sprouts every few hours or a minimum of 3 times for a maximum of 3 days.
- The wheat berries can start to produce sprouts within 1 – 3 days after you start the process. Keep your eyes on them. After the sprouts are a small bump or 3mm they are done!
- After your grains have sprouted, the next step is to dehydrate the wheat berries so that you can grind them into a flour to use for home baked goods!
- Place the sprouts on the racks of your food dehydrator and dry them on the lowest setting (95) overnight.
- You can then place your dried sprouted berries in a large mason jar and store them in your refrigerator to keep them fresh!
- Grind them in your grain mill, or blender and use for an additional boost of nourishment in all of your baked goods!
Click here for my sprouted whole wheat bread recipe.