You know that bread in the colorful bag in the grocery store freezer section — the one with the Bible verse on it? It's called Ezekiel bread or, sometimes more specifically, Ezekiel 4:9 bread. According to package labels, it's inspired by the Old Testament verse: "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 ... "
What Is Ezekiel Bread?
There are more than a dozen types of Ezekiel breads (from the brand Food for Life) and they're all marketed as flourless (but not gluten-free!) breads made with sprouted grains. (The company also offers tortillas, waffles, cereal, and more.) The company says it's those six grains and legumes from the Old Testament verse that "harvests benefits beyond what we normally expect from our breads." The bread is touted as a complete source of protein, containing 18 amino acids, for aiding in mineral absorption, and more.
With all the talk we hear about white bread being a less-than-ideal nutritional choice, is this stuff the key for when you're trying to be healthy but just can't let go of sandwiches? Or is this just another gimmick? I asked Marisa Moore, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Atlanta, to give us the lowdown on this stuff, and she obliged.
Wait, What Are Sprouted Grains?
There's not a regulated definition of "sprouted grain" in the industry, but the folks at the Whole Grains Council explain what's generally meant by the term. In the old days (more than about a hundred years ago), they say harvested grains were tied into sheaves and left in the field until it was time to thresh (that is, separate the grain from the rest of the plant). This exposure to the elements meant some of the grain would start to sprout on its own. Modern techniques eliminated this practice, but fans of the stuff believe we're missing out. "Grains that have just begun sprouting — those that are straddling the line between a seed and a new plant — oﬀer all the goodness of whole grains, while being more readily digested," the site explains.
"Sprouting certain grains can result in higher nutrient concentrations and accessibility," Moore says. "For example, sprouted wheat has been shown to have more fiber, folate, and vitamin E compared to regular. Of course the bread benefits will vary based on the grain used."
Is Ezekiel Better than Other Breads?
Just for kicks I compared nutrition labels for plain ol' white bread, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, and Whole-Grain Ezekiel bread. Here's what I found: It's marginally better by the nutrition numbers, and the ingredients are real food (as opposed to stuff out of a science textbook in the white bread, especially).
If you're curious, here's how the numbers shook out.
White bread has 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein in two slices (for 140 calories). In addition to unbleached enriched flour and a bunch of many-syllable words I can't pronounce and don't recognize because I'm not a chemist, white bread also contains high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, sucrose, and sugar. I think we can agree those ingredients aren't our friends, even if the numbers on the nutrition label don't sound awful.
The whole-wheat bread I looked at has 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein in one slice (for 100 calories). Besides the whole-wheat flour, there were a few other recognizable actual food ingredients including water, bulgur wheat, sugar, wheat gluten, and honey, and then some multi-syllabic additives.
One (80-calorie) slice of this Ezekiel bread has 3 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. It's made with organic sprouted wheat, filtered water, organic sprouted barley, organic sprouted millet, organic malted barley, organic sprouted lentils, organic sprouted soybeans, organic sprouted spelt, fresh yeast, organic wheat gluten, and sea salt.
What Does Ezekiel Bread Taste Like?
"Some versions are dense and a bit gummy, which doesn't make for the most delicious eats," Moore says. "But many offer a nutty and pleasant flavor. Toasting can help make the texture more appealing — especially since many of these breads are refrigerated."
Amazon reviewers agree. Recommendations to toast pop up as often as do warnings about the bread arriving mildewy. (Pro tip: Buy this at the grocery store and take it right home.)
If you want to buy online: Ezekiel bread
Maybe you're not just going to gobble this up by the slice, but Moore says it would be the perfect base for avocado toast with all the toppings or a more basic toast with fresh jam or nut butter. "Think of sprouted grain bread as a step above whole-grain bread — offering a nutty flavor to complement many traditional bread toppings," she says.
I bought a bag and gave it a shot — toasted with a smear of avocado and some sea salt. I'll be honest, I wasn't a fan. The Amazon reviewer who wrote, "If you love Wonder white bread, this probably is not for you," is spot on. My ultimate bread is a crusty real-deal French baguette so when I eat bread, that's what I go for. This had more in common with cardboard in texture and (I imagine) taste, than with good bread. I think I'd rather just not have bread than have this as a substitute.
Do you have a secret for making it taste good, or do you have another brand of sprouted? Let's hear it!