But IRL, it is again tricky to make hard-and-fast determinations about the nutritional advantages sprouting leads to.
Which vitamin levels might go up and to what degree really depends not just on the grain but the exact sprouting conditions, James says. This is pretty clear when you look at the studies collected in a recent meta-review. Some show sizable increases, while others found more moderate, or zero changes in vitamin content after sprouting And crucially, as James notes, there is a lack of human studies showing that this increased bioaccessibility actually leads to increased vitamin and mineral absorption.
A final health-related reason many people prefer sprouted grain bread (or bagels or english muffins) is that these products are more likely to be low in or free of added sugar.
Sprouting can cut the natural bitterness of some grains by imparting a natural sweetness, thanks to the breakdown of starches into sugars, Carson explains. So while regular whole wheat bread, for example, can taste a little bitter without any additional sweetener, sprouted grain products “will have more of a sweet flavor naturally without having to add in sugar,” Carson says. But that’s not always the case, obviously, so check the ingredients label if that’s important to you. (Just remember that added sugars are not necessarily worse for you than naturally occurring sugars.)
So, are sprouted grains worth it?
This one’s pretty easy. If you love ‘em, hell yeah. Otherwise, nah.
Sprouted grain products can cost a good bit more than their unsprouted counterparts (which makes sense considering the extra time, space, and resources they take to produce). “They’re usually much more expensive,” Lin says. (Think a $6 loaf of bread instead of $3.50, for example, although of course it varies by brand.) And, obviously, while sprouting grains yourself at home mostly involves waiting around, it does require time and attention. If those couple extra bucks or minutes are totally worth it to you, then consider this your permission to go for it.
But if you aren’t a fan of the taste or price (or effort, if you DIY), there’s really no reason to take the sprouted route. “Your personal preference is key,” Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Culinary Dietitian Marisa Moore, M.B.A. R.D.N.. L.D., tells SELF. If you feel like you’re sacrificing the enjoyability of your food for the sake of a little bit extra nutritional value, it’s really not at all worth it. “There’s no pressure to make all of your grains sprouted,” Moore says. “If it’s not something you enjoy, skip it!”
Consider just opting for the more wallet-friendly, low-effort option that gives you the best of both worlds in terms of nutritional benefits and taste. “If you don’t like sprouted, I say just go with regular whole grains and whole grain bread,” Carson says. “They’re basically just as good.”
If you do want to give sprouted grains a go, there are lots of ways to experiment with them. Try subbing them in for regular whole grains—as a side dish, sprinkled on a salad, as a grain bowl base—wherever you don’t mind a more pronounced taste and texture, Moore says. Maybe the easiest way to hop aboard the sprouted grain train is to buy sprouted grain bread. “If you like hearty whole grain breads, you’ll probably enjoy sprouted ones too,” Moore says. She likes to toast it and use it as a sturdy base for avocado or nut butter. “It holds up well to lots of toppings,” Moore says.
Another suggestion? Enjoy grains in all their forms. “I still love regular bread,” Moore says.