Ezekiel bread is as healthy as bread can get.
It’s a type of sprouted bread, made from a variety of whole grains and legumes that have started germinating (sprouting).
Compared to white bread, which is made of refined wheat flour, Ezekiel bread is much richer in healthy nutrients and fiber.
But is it as healthy as marketers claim? This article takes a closer look.
What is Ezekiel bread?
Ezekiel bread is different for several reasons.
Whereas most types of bread contain added sugar, Ezekiel bread contains none.
It is also made from organic, sprouted whole grains. The sprouting process changes the nutrient composition of the grains significantly.
In contrast to most commercial loaves of bread, which consist primarily of refined wheat or pulverized whole wheat, Ezekiel bread contains several different types of grains and legumes:
- 4 types of cereal grains: Wheat, millet, barley, and spelt
- 2 types of legumes: Soybeans and lentils
All the grains and legumes are organically grown and allowed to sprout before they are processed, mixed together, and baked to produce the final product.
Wheat, barley, and spelt all contain gluten, so Ezekiel bread is out of the question for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Summary: Ezekiel bread is made from whole, sprouted wheat, barley, spelt, millet, soybeans, and lentils. It is marketed as a healthier choice than conventional white bread.
What does sprouting do?
Even though grains like wheat or corn look simple on the outside, they contain enormously complex molecular machinery.
There are genes, proteins, and enzymes that can turn a tiny seed into an entire plant.
When the grain receives the right signals, a complex biochemical process begins.
The seed starts germinating, breaks through the shell, and sends sprouts up into the air and roots into the soil. With enough water and nutrients in the soil, it eventually turns into a plant.
A sprouted seed is somewhere between being a seed and a full-fledged plant.
But there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: the seed doesn’t sprout unless the conditions are favorable.
By giving the seed the right signals, mainly hydration (water) and the right temperature, it will start to sprout.
Grains and legumes contain antinutrients
There’s another important thing to keep in mind: most organisms don’t want to be eaten. Grains and legumes are no exception.
To get their genes to the next generation, they need to survive.
Most plants produce chemicals to discourage animals from eating them. Some of these function as antinutrients.
Antinutrients are substances that can prevent the absorption of nutrients and inhibit digestive enzymes.
One example is soybeans. Due to enzyme inhibitors, they are toxic when raw.
Even though most grains and legumes are edible after being cooked, cooking doesn’t eliminate all antinutrients.
Many non-industrial populations throughout the world have eaten grains without problems.
However, most of them used traditional preparation methods like soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and cooking to significantly reduce the number of antinutrients.
While antinutrients don’t adversely affect health in most people, they can contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in people who rely on legumes or grains as a dietary staple.
Also, keep in mind that antinutrients aren’t necessarily unhealthy. Phytic acid, for example, is a strong antioxidant that contributes to the beneficial health effects of grains and seeds.
Summary: Sprouting reduces antinutrient levels in grains. Antinutrients are substances that can prevent the absorption of nutrients.
Are sprouted grains healthier?
Sprouting, as in soaking the grains in water and allowing them to germinate, causes a number of biochemical reactions in the grain.
Suggested read: 14 healthy whole-grain foods (including gluten-free options)
The benefits of this are twofold:
- Sprouting increases the number of healthy nutrients.
- Sprouting reduces the number of antinutrients.
How sprouting increases nutrients
Due to the sprouting process, Ezekiel bread may contain more of some vital nutrients.
Studies show that sprouting grains increases their lysine content.
Lysine is an amino acid that many plants contain in only low amounts. Increasing its levels through sprouting increases the nutritional value of grains and seeds considerably.
Also, combining the grains (wheat, millet, barley, and spelt) with the legumes (soybeans and lentils) may somewhat improve the protein quality.
Studies also show that sprouting wheat may lead to significant increases in soluble fiber, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.
Sprouting also partially breaks down the starch, since the seed uses the energy in the starch to fuel the sprouting process. For this reason, sprouted grains have slightly fewer carbohydrates.
By sprouting the seeds, Ezekiel bread should be more nutritious than most other types of bread.
Summary: Sprouting increases nutrient levels and availability in grains and seeds.
How sprouting decreases antinutrients
Sprouted grains also have lower numbers of antinutrients, which are substances that inhibit the absorption of minerals:
- Phytic acid is a substance found in grains and seeds. It can bind minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron and prevent them from being absorbed. Sprouting modestly reduces phytic acid.
- Enzyme inhibitors are also present in seeds. They protect them from spontaneously germinating but may also make the nutrients in them harder to access. Sprouting inactivates some of them.
Another benefit of sprouting is that it reduces the amount of gluten, a protein to which many people are intolerant and which is found in wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
Suggested read: 10 healthy ways to replace conventional wheat bread
Due to the reduction in antinutrients, Ezekiel bread may provide a higher number of nutrients than bread made from grains that have not sprouted.
Summary: Sprouting decreases the levels of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. These antinutrients reduce the absorption of nutrients from grains and seeds.
Ezekiel bread is available in many supermarkets and health food stores. You can also make your own by following one of the many recipes available online.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that wheat is still the number one ingredient in Ezekiel bread.
Although sprouting may decrease the levels of gluten slightly, people with gluten intolerance need to avoid Ezekiel bread and other types of sprouted bread that contain wheat, barley, or rye.
If you’re not gluten-sensitive and not on a carb-restricted diet, then Ezekiel bread can be a healthier choice.
It’s certainly a lot better than 99% of the loaves of bread on store shelves, which are usually made from refined wheat and often contain lots of sugar.