by Shelley Summers, Founder, Summers Sprouted Flour Co.
Author, Creating Heaven Through Your Plate.
Why use Sprouted Flours?
Because they are so easy to digest!
In the 25 years I have done nutritional counseling, I have found most bodies struggling to digest grains. Yet these same bodies flourished with grains that had been sprouted. I found that grains normally digested as starches in the body using pancreatic enzymes, but most people were only producing these enzymes in small quantities. When grains were sprouted, the starch molecules changed into vegetable sugars and most people produced large quantities of vegetable enzymes that digest these simple sugars.
So, for years, I had people eat only sprouted breads while they healed their bodies and increased their production of pancreatic enzymes. Over time we could reintroduce 'regular' grains but even when bodies could 'handle' regular grains, they never wanted large amounts of these in the diet and preferred sprouted grain products.
When I decided to develop a company to make Sprouted Flours, it was for the above reasons. But as I started on this journey, other information came to me about the problems inherent in regular grains. Read on for this information.
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Sprouting Radically Changes Natural Chemicals in the Grain
The purpose of all seeds is to reproduce its parent plant. As far as a seed is concerned, being eaten means the end of this purpose! It means death to that line of plants. So, plants, in their wisdom and evolvement, developed defense mechanisms to try and survive even if they were eaten! When I first read the following information about the difficulty of digesting any kind of seed, a picture sprang to mind that made me aware of these plant defense mechanisms.
I saw the image of a horse eating a stalk of wheat. If the seeds were not broken by the teeth, the seeds merrily worked their way through the digestive system untouched until they were pooped out into this wonderful pile of compost, where they were able to develop into a new and beautiful plant, thus completing their true purpose!
These defense mechanisms create havoc in the human digestive system, literally making it difficult to digest any grain, nut or seed! When they are sprouted and the plants growing mechanisms are triggered, all these defense mechanisms are chemically changed or neutralized!
So, sprouting radically changes grains by:
First, changing the composition of starch molecules, converting them into vegetable sugars, so the body recognizes and digests sprouted grains as a vegetable.
Second, enzymes are created that aid digestion, complex sugars are broken down which can eliminate painful gas, and vitamin and mineral levels increase.
Third, sprouting neutralizes potent carcinogens and enzyme inhibitors, as well as an acid that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
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Are Sprouted Flours 'Raw'?
This is an area of confusion…. Different people and agencies look at this differently. And to discuss this issue we need to explain our flour-producing process.
We first rinse, including a hydrogen peroxide soak, then sprout our grains with warm water. Once the grains are sprouted, they are put through another water rinse, but this one is at a high temperature of 155-degrees. This is to, literally, kill any surface bacteria that might have developed during the sprouting process. Then the grain is dried in a dehydrator at 110-degrees.
Most 'raw-foodists' that I have spoken with feel this leaves the flour in a 'raw' category, as far as their principles are concerned. But, I understand that other raw-food advocates consider
110-degrees to be cooked.
But the FDA regulations on Sprouts place our flour in the 'cooked' category because they consider both the hot-water rinse and the sustained 110-degree-drying heat to be 'killing' processes.
Lab tests on our flour show that we have never had a problem with bacteria growth. We feel this is due to the cleaning process we do before sprouting, the hot-water rinse after sprouting and the cleaning maintenance that we do on our grinder.
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What is Different About Spelt?
Spelt is an old genus of wheat. It used to be called the 'breadmaker’s wheat' and was prized, at one time, because it made the lightest loaves of bread available. Now, you have to understand that before the 1900’s, loaves of bread were like bricks! If you have ever tried an old-fashioned rye bread, you will know what used to be 'standard'. Once wheat began to be hybrid, everything changed. Other wheat varieties besides spelt came into favor because they were now higher in gluten and higher in starch and they could made light, fluffy loaves.
Spelt also had another drawback. Wheat seeds grow with a simple hull and chaff surrounding them to protect them. The hull and chaff are easy to separate and remove from the seed itself. Spelt, on the other hand, has a husk around each seed. It is difficult to remove the seed without some damage and it is much more difficult to separate the whole seeds from the husk, stems and broken pieces this separating process can produce. This extra processing and cleaning made spelt more expensive and so also added to its decline as a 'favorite'.
When people started changing the basic makeup of food, they usually had specific intentions in mind. With bread grains, these intentions were to make a light, white and fluffy product, to raise the gluten and starch levels. Lab anaylsis done on wheat in the 1900’s showed it be to about 50% starch molecules and 50% vegetable protein. By 2000, anaylsis’s showed average wheat to be 92% starch and only 8% protein! Unfortunately, these hybriding intentions didn’t include the maintaining of vitamin and mineral levels or take into consideration that changing the basic makeup of the food might interfere with a body’s ability to digest that food!
You may hear it said that 'Spelt is easier to digest than wheat'. One of the reasons that this may be true (for certain people) is that spelt maintains the old levels of gluten, starch and protein. Our slowly evolving bodies deal much better with food when it reflects natural chemical structures that we have dealt with for eons. New chemical structures are much harder for bodies to deal with.
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We are making 100% Organic Sprouted Spelt Flour, Sprouted Wheat Flour and Sprouted Rye Flour; and we coarse-grind the spelt to make 100% Organic Sprouted Cream of Spelt Cereal. Personally, I think that the taste of all grains becomes milder than the unsprouted counterpart.
All of our flours are very finely ground. Little or no bran is evident because the sprouting process changes the outside of the berries. If we try to produce bran, we end up with very coarse particles throughtout the flour.
Our Sprouted Spelt Flour is light-tasting with a slight malty taste. Spelt is low in gluten, but NOT gluten free. We are frequently asked if our spelt is‘white spelt flour’… as far as I know, white spelt is regular spelt flour with the bran and germ removed. Our spelt is grown in Canada and it is widely known that the farther north wheat varieties are grown, the higher the protein levels will be. We tested southern grown spelt and didn’t like the way it sprouted, dried or ground because it was much starchier.
We have hear many bread bakers say they have stopped using spelt flour because they find it is difficult to find consistency from one batch of flour to the next. Sprouted spelt flour seems to address and minimize these problems. We think this inconsistency results from two grain industry problems. One, you never know what variety of spelt you are purchasing from a grain distributor and different varieties will certainly bake up differently. Second, different varieties have different water activity levels which will also make the flour act differently in the same recipe. Again, the sprouting process and especially the drying process makes our sprouted spelt flour much more consist.
The first time I made my excellent peanut-butter cookie recipe with sprouted spelt flour, I couldn't find words to describe the incredible improvement.
Sprouted Wheat Flour is made from hard, red winter wheat and is high in gluten. It tastes very mild and I prefer using it when I don't want an added or additional flavor to what I am making, like in my Almond-Butter Shortbread or a pie crust for a banana cream pie. Our wheat comes from a Colorado organic farm.
Sprouted Rye Flour is made from a mid-range rye, not a light or dark variety. Like all rye flour, it has little or no gluten and needs to be mixed with other flours to give it a light texture.
Sprouted Cream of Spelt Cereal is our sprouted spelt, coarsely ground with just enough 'powder and chunks' to make a wonderful, creamy hot cereal. Since it only takes a couple of tablespoons of cereal to make a 1/2 cup serving, I figured that selling this product in 2# bags would be perfect. Then I had a number of customers requesting 10# bags and found they were making waffles with it... they said they love the chewy texture it adds in. Check out the Sprouted Cream of Spelt Waffles in the Pancake, Crepes, Waffles & Fritters section of the Recipe Archives.
All our sprouted flours are very dry. Regular wheat has a water activity level of about 8%. When regular wheat is ground, you can squeeze it in your hand and it will hold the shape. Our sprouted flours have water activity levels that range from .9% to .1% moisture! You will find that your mixes of dough or batter will require slightly more liquids added to them because of this dryness.
Our Organic Sprouted Flours can be used like regular flours with some minor adjustments. Go to our Recipe of the Month and Recipe Archive sections for information on making various biscuits, cakes, cookies, muffins, breads, pastas and pie crusts.
Also check out the information in my nutritional guide book, Creating Heaven Through Your Plate and Janie Quinn’s cookbook, Essential Eating—A Cookbook. Both books have numerous recipes that use sprouted flours, quinoa flour and tapioca flour.
The eating plans, developed by my work with clients, center around various concepts of digestion. When you eat foods like vegetables, that take small amounts of nutrients, enzymes and energy to digest, you create a 'stress-free environment' that allows your body to thrive. Both books teach you how to create a stress-free environment in the body by eating easy-to-digest foods. Sprouted flour and products made with it are a must in helping create this environment.
My book, Creating Heaven Through Your Plate, takes you through various eating plans with clear explanations about why you are eating certain foods and eliminating others (for a time, anyway). There is an extended reference chapter on dealing with specific problems on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Essential Eating - A Cookbook takes you through the eating plans with an emphasis on cooking the food allowed and added in through the year to year and a half that it takes most people to complete the program.
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About Our Standards
We are dedicated to producing the highest quality products possible. To this end, we follow a number of importance guidelines throughout the production of our sprouted flours that sometimes run counter to the way the health food producers operate.
Purchasing: We require a quality of raw grain that is considered 'very high' by the grain distributors I work with. We only use 100% certified Organic grains. Where we can, we deal directly with the farmers. Otherwise, we deal with respected organic grain distributors.
Production: Not only are we thorough in our cleaning processes, but we do not grind our flour 'ahead' and store it in that form. We keep our dried, sprouted berries in sealed containers until it is time to grind, pack and ship and we only grind what we predict we will need to fill orders for that week. We would rather grind more frequently than hold ground flour in storage.
Spelt grain is an especially difficult grain to acquire with any consistency. When dealing with distributors, we have no control over what variety of spelt grain we will get. As a major aspect of our company, we are more concerned with overall cleanliness (you can’t believe the amount of dirt we have seen in some grain lots), the number of foreign particles that can be found (from wild plant seeds to broken pieces of corn, soybeans, etc. 'inadvertently added' from the processing plants) and the number of broken pieces of spelt berries that will not sprout.
We examine and test 'sprout' grain lots before we contract for them to be held for our future use. And we still reject numerous lots because of problems we find.
We take pride in our cleaning process because we, first, make every effort to remove all foreign particles (this takes hand sorting of wet grain). And, second, as mentioned above, we add hydrogen peroxide to our cleaning process to remove coloforms, which are basically microscopic bug bacteria and other excrements! All of this effort results in a high-quality product.
We have also had our stone grinder re-fashioned so that we can blow out and clean the inside of the machine between grindings. This is not normal! (see the section- Info on the Food-Producing Industry)
Sales: Another little known fact about the food industry has to do with the way it uses distributors. Wholesale food distributors warehouse huge quantities of food products which they purchase directly from the producers. Most stores purchase their goods from one or two of these wholesale distributors because it is easy for them to deal with only one or two ordering sources and because their total store order will be delivered within a day or two.
As far as we are concerned, there are some serious problems with dealing with these wholesale distributors when you have a more ‘delicate’ product. One, if we sold them flour, they would want to purchase huge amounts of flour that may sit for months in a warehouse with no temperature control and no control over how long the flour may sit there.
So, we have chosen to not sell our flour through distributors unless they will guarantee the proper storage of our products and a quick turn-around, which means that they only buy what they think they will sell within a short period of time. Most of our accounts, then, are direct sale accounts. We understand and appreciate the stores that are willing to deal with this situation because it adds to the mountain of work and attention that a manager already has to deal with. We suggest you take the time to thank these people!
'Date Coding': Even though flour is perishable, there are no regulations for 'date coding' it. This is not realistic to require for flours because there would also have to be rules and regulations for handling them.
But we have implemented our own 'date coding'. If you will note the lot numbers listed on the nutritional facts label, you will see seven numbers. The first 3 numbers refer to the in-house lot number that the grain came from. The last four numbers are the month and day that the flour was ground and packed.
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About Shelf Life and Storage
All flours are perishable foods. They have oils that can go rancid and over time their vitamins and minerals can deteriorate. We recommend a three month shelf for the retailer and this will allow another 3-7 month life for your flour at home.
The side panel gives suggestions for proper storage, but basically, all flours should be stored in air-tight glass or plastic containers in a cool, dark place, fridge or freezer. You can expect your flours to be fine for months: in a cool, dark place for 3+ months, in the fridge for 5+ months and in the freezer for 7+ months.
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Starch-Intolerant vs. Gluten-Intolerant
There has been alot of confusion about these two terms. They have been used interchangeably and incorrectly. I have found that more recently, medical professions and various health-oriented groups are realizing this error in diagnosis and are re-categorizing people, moving many of them from gluten-intolerant to starch-intolerant status.
In my nutritional counseling work, I found that most people ARE starch-intolerant for the reasons stated above, the low production of pancreatic enzymes and the defense mechanisms of the grains themselves. Starch-intolerant bodies can handle sprouted grains and sprouted flour products. They find that these foods do not create heartburn, gas, bloating, constipation and other body problems the way that these same unsprouted grains will.
Even problems like celiacs diseases have a lot of misconceptions around them. Case in point, here is a story from a sprouted flour user: "When my son was a year old, he was diagnosed with celiac disease. He was falling off the growth charts …and had horrific eczema…a skin condition, dermatitis herpitiformis, that accompanies celiac disease.
ALL the gluten-free food protocols failed…my son continued to waste and have skin as hard as asphalt…. he either threw up or his skin became tight, rougher and untouchable...it would even crack and bleed.
I suspected starchy grains prominent in most gluten-free foods. I was on a mad hunt to find starch-free easy-to-digest foods when I came across Summers Sprouted Flour. Immediately I bought 10# and began to make foods for my ailing, thin son.
Within a month of changing this one food in his diet, I am happy to report my son is a healthy child who maintains a handsome weight for his tall frame. All vomiting episodes stopped and his skin is as soft as butter.
I am 100% convinced that the Summers Sprouted Flour helped him to turn the corner from what was really a major sensitivity to the STARCH in grains and not the GLUTEN!" (Tonya C. Johnson, Mother of a Celiac Child, Chicago, IL., Founder of Vision's Sown, An Ancient Vegan Baking Co. that uses Summers Sprouted Flour in all products.)
True gluten-intolerance is a whole other ball of wax. Gluten is a protein molecule that is relatively easy for most people to digest....but in bodies that cannot digest it, it can create serious health problems from allergic to immune reactions. And trace amounts of gluten exist in many other plants besides grains!
A gluten-intolerant client I worked with for five years (who can now eat sprouted grains with no negative reactions) would have violent reactions to simple things like alfalfa tea! She couldn't tolerant any regular vitamin and mineral supplements as well as food supplements like barley grass, bee pollen, or herbs. Even small doses of these could send her to bed for weeks with flu-like symptoms.
Most truly gluten-intolerant people are relatively limited in the food choices that work in their bodies. They frequently have health issues that are confusing and hard to nail down. Their immune systems are compromised and they get every cold or flu that crosses their paths.
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How Do I Tell Whether I'm Starch-Intolerant or Gluten-Intolerant?
Bodies are very intelligent. As soon as you put one bite of a food in your mouth, your body knows whether it will be able to digest that food or not. And it acts accordingly.
If you can digest that food, your body will start getting ready to receive and work with that food by creating the needed enzymes down through the intestinal tract.
Now, you really can't tell if this positive action is happening or not...
But, if your body cannot digest that bite of food, a whole different set of reactions gets triggered. The body immediately will go into a defense or immune reaction when it realizes you have put something in it that it can't handle, that it is allergic to or that it can't create the enzymes needed to digest it. And at least one of these reactions is very easy to see.
The first line of defense for your body is the creation of mucous. Mucous is a benign substance that surrounds toxic particles to both stop your body from absorbing them and to remove them from your body. And this reaction is swift! It will happen anywhere between 15-20 seconds up to 15-20 minutes!
So, you can use this mucous reaction to test foods in your body. Take one bite of a food and sit back and wait. If you get a mucous reaction, you will experience any or all of the following symptoms: mucous in the back of the throat and you'll find yourself trying to clear your throat, coating on the tongue, post-nasal drip, sniffing or sneezing, itchy eyes and a twinge of an upset stomach.
If you don't have any of these reactions within 20 minutes, then your body is at least saying it can handle small amounts of that food. If you find you are getting mucousy as you eat, it is your body's way of saying, "Stop. You've had enough of this food!"
One of the 'mucous confusions' out there has to do with dairy products. I have heard and read that 'milk forms mucous'. But this isn't true! Milk does not form mucous....but because milk is one of the hardest-to-digest foods, most people's bodies do create mucous as a reaction to drinking milk!
So, are you starch-intolerant or gluten-intolerant? Use the mucous test to find out. Try a sip of alfalfa tea. Do you get a reaction? Try a bite of barley. Do you get a reaction? Try one bite of any of the totally sprouted breads on the market that does not have yeast like the (Manna, Sprouts Delight or Rudy's) Essene Bread. If you have a mucous reaction to all of these foods, it is highly likely that you are gluten-intolerant and sprouted flours may still cause you problems.
But, if you don't have mucous reactions to all of these foods, then it is more likely that you are starch-intolerant and you probably will not have negative reactions to the use of sprouted flours.
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About Gluten-Testing Kits
Because of the growing number of people who are gluten-intolerant, we are seeing more and more gluten-free foods being offered in the marketplace. But there are changes in the ideas and understandings of what exactly constitutes 'gluten-free'.
At this time the World Health Organization lists anything that is 200 parts per million and less of a protein called 'gliadin' as gluten-free. But my understanding is that they are working on changing this to lower that level to 20 parts per million. And some allergy specialists expect the standard will eventually be lowered to 8 parts per million.
There are only two laboratory tests available that test gluten quantities in food. The Elisa Technologies, Inc. (4581-L NW 6th St., Gainesville, Fl 32609, 352-337-3929, www.elisa-tek.com) conducts tests that can tell you if a food is above or below a 200, 20 or 8 parts per million level. And they sell tests kits that allow you to get these same readings on foods in your home for a very reasonable price. (Home Test Kit-$80.00 gives you 5 tests, the Rapid Test Kit-$160-gives you 10 tests)
The University of Nebraska also has developed a gluten test that can tell you exactly what the level of gluten is in a food. (Sue Hefle, University of Nebraska, 402-472-4430 and the testing lab at 402-472-4484)
We have had our 100% Organic Sprouted Spelt Flour tested for gluten at the U of N, along with a sample of regular organic spelt flour. The test results showed that both the Sprouted Spelt and the regular Spelt contained the same low levels of gluten, 5,000 parts per million (compared to regular wheat levels that tend to begin at 50,000 parts per million and go up.)
This means that our Sprouted Spelt Flour does contain gluten. This was not a surprise for those of us who use it because it is wonderful to bake with, even though these levels are considerably lower than other forms of wheat. In the future, as we make available Sprouted Wheat and Sprouted Rye Flours to the public, we will be testing these sprouted grains also.
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Comments on 'Nutritional Facts' Labeling
The federal government, the FDA and the USDA, give a lot of lip service to the fact that they are protecting our food supply. The regulations abound! Their intentions may be good but their implementation is poor. And one of my pet peeves has to do with Nutritional Facts Labeling.
The public assumption around nutritional facts labeling is that it is accurate. We all assume (and the FDA does nothing to correction this assumption) that when we read the nutritional facts label on a package of cookies that the company sent a cookie (just like what you are holding in your hand) to a lab to be analyzed. Wrong!
Nutritional Facts Labels for all processed goodies are computer-generated. All the RAW ingredients' nutritional facts are entered into the database and the cookie's nutritional facts labels are generated from these numbers!
We all know that exposing foods to high temperatures through baking DESTROYS nutrients, yet this is NOT what you are reading on the nutritional facts label! Personally I find this extremely misleading!
The one good thing about the required labeling is that most of the ingredients have to be listed, though there are still numerous loopholes like the one for additives that are clumped together under the heading of 'natural additives'. Manufacturers and the government have bowed to the pressures that allergy groups have exerted to have high allergens clearly listed, like soy and peanut additives, but even the requirements for these foods have loopholes.
About Our Labels. Since we are the only company making sprouted flours for resale, we have had our sprouted flours individually lab-tested to meet the federal requirements. If you will look at the Nutritional Facts Labels below, you will see that we list only certain nutrients. There are federal standards that require these specific nutrients be tested: Vit. A, Vit. C, Iron and Calcium. Further testing is at the discretion of the manufacturer... and you will only see these additions when the manufacturer can use the information in their advertising to the public!
I would love to have lots of tests run on our flour but the expense is enormous! To test Vitamin B's, we would be looking at $100-150 for each B! And, the only way this information would be useful is if we did a control test with flour ground from those same unsprouted berries. But we feel that the use of these tests would be misleading. Once you make cookies and bake them at 350 degrees, what B vitamins are going to be left?
This is exactly what we did with our sprouted spelt flour when we ran gluten tests; we had both regular spelt flour and sprouted flour tested (they came out with the same levels of gluten).
With nutritional facts, we compared our sprouted spelt flour with regular spelt flour that had already been inserted into the nation's database. There were several interesting differences: the protein levels in our sprouted flour were higher... this indicates that there is a higher level of enzyme activity... and the calcium levels were 2% higher! Besides these two changes, the levels of other required tests (fat, cholesterol, sugars, sodium, dietary fiber) were basically the same.
So, what do we think about eating baked goods? We think that enjoying some treats in your life is important, but more for emotional nurturing than for physical nourishing! The advantage of using sprouted flours is that the goodie is going to be easy to digest, giving you quick sugars and energy, some fiber, some fats for slower burning and some emotional soothing. Any other nutrients that are available are likely to be on a homeopathic level only... not to say that this level is not important! You just cannot look at our labels and really assume that you are going to get 10% of your daily iron needs met just because the raw flour contains that!
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Comments on the Food-Producing Industries
It's a little known fact outside of farming, processing and milling businesses, but the machinery used in getting food from the fields to the consumer is not built to be easily cleaned. There are bends and elbows and little 'joined' places where things get stuck and drop into the next load of produce sent through the system. We have rejected lots of grain that were full of dirt, corn, and once, a lot of mice droppings, none of which could be seen until it was wet! And since regular mills don't wash their grains, all of this ends up in regular breads that are carrying an organic label! It's truly scary!
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"Ever since using Sprouted Spelt Flour in my quiches and muffins, I no longer have the chronic headaches I suffered while using wheat flour. Sprouted Spelt Flour is easy to use and very delicious."
Vera Tobis, Grand Forks, British Columbia
"For years I have made what I deemed a very 'healthy' apple pie. The filling is only apples, raisins and walnuts. The crust was whole wheat flour, olive oil, salt and water.
Although I always had indigestion after eating the pies, they were one of the few pastry treats I allowed myself.
Since I started using the Sprouted Spelt Flour, I no longer have this unpleasant result! I am thrilled and have found similar results with other baked treats like muffins and cookies...all made with Sprouted Spelt Flour from the Summers Sprouted Flour Co."
Jo Sage, Mountainair, NM
"Just wanted to drop you a line and thank you. I am a senior. I have used your Sprouted Spelt Flour and just love it! I made the Chocolate Zucchini Cake for my son-in-law and it was a winner. Everyone thought it was delicious. Thank you so much!"
Dorothy Hoover, T or C, New Mexico
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