White bread is so yesterday. Everyone's into whole grains these days. And some take it one step further and try sprouted grain bread or Ezekiel bread. So, what is it?
Ezekiel bread (or more accurately Ezekiel 4:9 bread) is the trademarked name for sprouted grain bread made by the company Food For Life. You figure there must be a story behind this unusual name. In the biblical book of Ezekiel, Chapter 4, Verse 9, it says, "Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself." Food for Life includes those six grains in their bread and uses no flour.
A company representative told us that the bread was "inspired by the Bible verse but is not meant to be taken literally." However, in an earlier interview with Jewcy, director of sales and marketing Gary Torres said that "Ezekiel 4:9 bread has never been produced to fill a religious purpose. Rather, it's a nutritionally superior bread produced by divine inspiration."
Food for Life was started in 1964 by Max Torres, who had become very passionate about natural foods, and the company is still owned by his family. "Our bread is also one of the only sprouted breads on the market that is completely preservative free," emails Gary Torres.
But, What Are Sprouted Grains, Exactly?
These are grains that are soaked in water until they begin to sprout. Once they sprout, they are drained and ground up and mixed into dough.
"The sprouting process removes enzymes in the bread and breaks down acid," says Torres. "This breaking down of acid is what actually enables consumers to better absorb the nutrients in our bread. So, by eating Ezekiel 4:9 Bread consumers can more easily absorb calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin C and vitamin B. This is what makes sprouted grains superior."
Registered dietician Brittany Modell concurs in an email interview. "Ezekiel bread is sprouted, which increases digestibility and increases the bioavailability of nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins among others. All sprouted grains are whole grains because they contain all the components of a grain (bran, germ and endosperm), which are required for a sprout to grow," she says.
"Ezekiel bread also contains legumes in the ingredient lists, which contributes to a higher protein and fiber content. Lastly, the simple ingredients and no added sugar are other reasons why Ezekiel is a great choice and often recommended by registered dietitians."
Ezekiel bread is very popular with people looking to eat more wholesome food or who have trouble digesting regular bread. Cyndie Todd in Nashville, Tennessee, is a big fan. "I switched to Ezekiel bread when I decided to get off wheat, influenced years ago when I read a book called 'Eat Right for Your Type,' she explains. "It was a great addition to my eating habits and very effective in helping me reduce bloat and lose weight."
Sprouted grain bread is also full of naturally occurring fibers, also known as "intrinsic" fibers. These are present in many nutritional heavy-hitters, like vegetables, whole grains, cereal bran and fruits. According to the Food and Drug Administration, whole grains are labeled "intact," because the fibers aren't removed from the food, a good thing because foods with intact fibers are considered highly beneficial.
What Does Ezekiel Bread Taste Like?
Despite the laundry list of accolades, some people are skittish about switching to sprouted grain bread from their traditional brand. "The bread itself is a bit heavier than your standard bread, or not as fluffy as some people might like – although that really comes down to a matter of personal preference," says diet and health coach Jamie Bacharach with the Acupuncture Jerusalem Clinic in an email.
Food For Life is aware that making the change can be a transition process for some who've grown up eating standard bread. "We recommend that those who are having trouble becoming acclimated with the texture of Ezekiel 4:9 Bread lightly toast our bread — especially if the product has been stored in the freezer," Torres says. "For softer bread, we tell consumers to allow the bread to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, to allow the bread to thaw naturally. Then place it in the toaster or oven until it warms up and is your desired sandwich consistency."
A couple of other factors sometimes get in the way. Sprouted grain bread typically costs more than the less "healthy" versions, which is par for the course in the health food industry. And although many chain grocery stores do carry it, the product can be difficult to find (helpful hint: it's often in the freezer section since it doesn't have preservatives to keep it shelf-stable).
Lastly, it pays to be picky with sprouted grain breads, at least for the moment. "The Whole Grains Council warns that there is not a regulated standard definition of sprouted grains," Modell says. "This means it is not always clear what conditions the sprouting process is occurring under." She adds that whole grains are better than refined grains whether sprouted or not. "Shunning nonsprouted grains is a mistake."