Ezekiel bread, also known as sprouted grain bread, is a super healthy bread option made from sprouted whole grains and legumes.
If you remember that elementary school science experiment where you put seeds in a bag with a wet paper towel so you could watch them grow out of their shell, then you're familiar with sprouting (or germination). A similar experience occurs for the four types of grain used in Ezekiel bread. The sprouted grains are ground down into a flour that's used to make a hearty, fulfilling bread.
The name "Ezekiel bread" is inspired by the Bible verse Ezekiel 4:9, which states: "Take also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it." Health food companies followed these instructions and came up with a bread that's packed with more fiber, nutrients, vitamins, and other good stuff than almost every other bread. Let's bite into what exactly makes this bread so much more nutritious than your regular loaf.
Everyone has their own dietary restrictions and preferences, but there are some general types of bread that we like to consider "healthy" when we're grocery shopping. Gluten-free and whole wheat bread are typically labeled as the healthy choice, especially when compared to unenriched white bread, but how do they stack up against Ezekiel bread?
Pros: As we mentioned above, Ezekiel bread contains four types of whole grains. Wheat, millet, barley, and spelt each have their own unique health benefits, and a slice of this special bread offers a bit of them all. We’ll get into the details later, but the key takeaway is that these grains provide good amounts of essential nutrients and vitamins.
It's also a good option for those with dietary restrictions. Ezekiel bread is both vegan and vegetarian, with no eggs, dairy, gelatin, or other animal products added.
Instead of adding sugar or syrups, it uses malted barley as a natural sweetener. Paired with its high amounts of fiber and nutrients, sprouted grain bread has a lesser impact on blood sugar levels than wheat bread.
The sprouting process brings in several unique benefits. It lowers the amount of gluten and calories in the bread, which means it's a great option for anyone who wants to lower their gluten intake. Sprouting also creates more fiber content, protein, essential amino acids, and B vitamins. The essential amino acids mean that the bread’s proteins are actually complete proteins, which are usually only found in animal products like eggs or milk.
Cons: Sprouted grain bread will be a little more expensive than a generic brand of whole wheat bread most of the time. It can range anywhere from a dollar to a few dollars more.
Although it has less gluten than whole wheat and other breads, it's still not totally free of gluten. This means it's not a great choice for those with gluten sensitivity, and it's simply not a choice for those with gluten intolerance. It's also a coarser texture than its processed competitors, so anyone expecting a soft and pillowy crumb will be disappointed.
Pros: For those who suffer from celiac disease, gluten-free brands are a godsend. Made from a variety of ingredients ranging from tapioca starch to lentils, gluten-free bread is exactly what it sounds like: bread you can enjoy without the threat of gluten attacking your intestinal system. Gluten-free bread also packs a nice amount of fiber and protein.
Cons: Gluten-free diets aren’t a choice for some people — they’re a necessity. People who go gluten-free despite not having celiac’s disease may be risking their heart health, according to a study published in The BMJ. Gluten-free diets in non-celiac individuals may not meet adequate dietary guidelines for whole grains. This could mean a higher risk of heart disease.
Plus, gluten-free breads often use a variety of binders — eggs, agave syrup, molasses, just to name a few — that end up adding a bit of sugar and animal products to the final product.
On top of dealing with a severely limiting diet, those with gluten intolerance have another burden to bear: cost. Gluten-free products are often twice as expensive as their gluten-filled counterparts.
Pros: What many would consider the “baseline” of healthy bread choices, whole wheat lives up to its name with more protein and fiber than any white bread. Both sprouted grain and whole wheat bread use flour that’s composed of the entire grain, meaning they’re getting more good stuff than white breads that only use the soft insides of the wheat berry.
This translates to a satiating and hearty slice that’s both incredibly affordable and decently healthy. Whole wheat bread also tends to offer up a good amount of iron, a critical nutrient for blood transportation in the body.
Cons: While it does use all of the wheat berry, it only uses the wheat berry. You’re only getting the limited benefits that wheat can provide. Additionally, whole wheat bread tends to include added sugars and preservatives. Those aren’t necessarily the worst things in the world, but they can add up if you’re a bread fanatic.
The bottom line of sprouted grain bread is that it’s jam-packed with good stuff (and possibly jam, depending on how you like your toast).
As we mentioned in the Pros section, sprouted grain bread’s four grains each have unique benefits. Barley is a good source of iron, niacin, and vitamin B6. Millet is an excellent way to get the daily recommended dosage of both potassium and magnesium. Wheat helps ensure the body receives enough folate and phosphorous, while spelt contains a large amount of protein, iron, and magnesium.
Besides all of the increases in nutrient content, sprouting also causes the grains to absorb more water than non-sprouted grains, which is what results in a lower calorie bread. It results in noticeable increases in antioxidants, beta-carotene (one of the best sources of provitamin A, which gets converted to vitamin A by normal digestive processes), and vitamins C and E.
Sprouting also removes some less-than-healthy parts of the grains and final product. It reduces gluten content by an average of 47 percent, begins breaking down starches (meaning a lower amount of carbs), and results in a lower amount of antinutrients.
Antinutrients are effectively chemical compounds that inhibit our body’s absorption of nutrients. Phytic acid is an antinutrient commonly found in plants and seeds, including the grains that go into most breads. Sprouting, as you may have guessed, results in a noticeable decrease in phytic acid, meaning sprouted grain bread contributes to your vitamin intake on two fronts.
Some smaller markets have yet to catch on to the wonders of the sprout, meaning it’s hard to find a local loaf. Fortunately, online suppliers aren’t in short supply — Amazon offers several brands, with Dave’s Killer Bread as our personal favorite. FoodServiceDirect also offers sprouted grain bread, but be prepared to order in bulk and freeze the other loaves if you place an order.
Ezekiel bread is available from most big-name grocery stores. Target has a few brands available, and Walmart carries a somewhat limited selection. Trader Joe’s proudly displays its line of sprouted grain breads, while Whole Foods carries a few varieties.
Food for Life, creators of Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain products, offer a handy store locator if you don’t want to spend time going to the store without confidence that they’ll have it in stock. We’d also recommend checking in with your local grocery store to see if they carry their own variety of sprouted grain breads.