Sprouting – does it reduce the FODMAP content of foods?

Sprouting – does it reduce the FODMAP content of foods?

Dr Caroline Tuck - Research Dietitian, 28 March 2017

Our department at Monash University gets many requests for FODMAP food analysis. One that is commonly asked for is whether sprouting can affect the FODMAP content of foods – we have recently undertaken some studies on sprouting and wanted to share our results. Popular sprouted products include grains (such as wheat or rye) and legumes (such as chickpeas). Sprouted grains and legumes are in transition between the seed and new plant phases. While they’re marketed for their superior nutrient profile, there is limited evidence to support the benefit of these products over non-sprouted alternatives.

Three different grains and three different legumes were chosen to sprout and test for their FODMAP content. The foods chosen were:
  • Wheat grain
  • Barley grain
  • Rye grain
  • Chickpeas
  • Red kidney beans
  • Mung beans.
Our methods:Firstly we sourced 3 different brands of each grain (to make sure we had a representative sample) and pooled them together. The grains and legumes were covered in water and soaked overnight for at least 12 hours. They were then wrapped in muslin cloth and left damp in a cool dark place. Additional rinsing with water occurred on a daily basis for 3-6 days until the grain or legume had sprouted. Once the grains or legumes had sprouts of at least 1 cm they were considered to have adequately sprouted (see pictures below). The whole sprouted legume or grain was then frozen, freeze-dried and analysed as per the FODMAP testing protocol as described in our previous blog post here:
Sprouted Chickpeas
Sprouting – does it reduce the FODMAP content of foods?_d660df89
Our results: All types of sprouted grains and legumes had a reduction in their FODMAP content with the exception of chickpeas where the FODMAP content was slightly increased. See the figure below for the differences between fresh and sprouted versions of each grain or legume. The reduction in FODMAP content of some products (mung beans and barley) was enough to change their rating from red to green (see the Monash app for FODMAP ratings and serving sizes)

Sprouting – does it reduce the FODMAP content of foods?_65bd8657

The theory behind the changes in FODMAP content with sprouting are related to enzymes present within the grain or legume. Upon germination of the grain or legume, enzymes are activated which can break down the oligosaccharide chains. In some cases, the enzyme may not be able to act sufficiently to have any effect on the FODMAP content, such as the case with the chickpeas found here.

Key messages:

  • Sprouting grains or legumes may reduce the FODMAP content of foods. However, in some cases it is possible that sprouting will increase the FODMAP content (as seen here with chickpeas).
  • The effect of sprouting may be through enzymes present within the grain or legumes – but further research is needed to confirm this. In addition, further testing will be required to assess the effect on other types of grains and legumes.
  • Testing your tolerance to foods is the best way to identify if you tolerate a food – so if you would like to try sprouting, eat a small amount of your sprouted grain or legume and monitor your symptoms.
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