A few weeks ago, I found sugar-free water for my friend Jennifer who has gestational diabetes. Jen's been a bit down in the dumps about her condition. "I never thought it would be an annoyance to remember to eat every couple hours," she complained to me. "Drawing blood four times a day you expect to be a pain, but eating?" This week's dilemma was bread. "Boy, do I miss Il Fornaio ciabatta bread," she complained. "I'm supposed to stay away from white-flour foods." I assured her I could research some bread that was tasty enough to serve alongside her diabetic-friendly dinners.
I found some help from Misty Orr, marketing assistant at Food for Life Baking Company that produces Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted-grain breads. "How is the bread made? And what is sprouted-grain bread?" I asked Orr.
"To make sprouted-grain bread, we take the grains and we soak them in filtered water. And they will begin to grow...start to sprout. So there is a little sprout growing out of the grain. The size varies depending on the grains; some grains sprout better than others. And in that process enzymes are released and that is what causes it to grow and become a living food. The enzymes break down the proteins and the starches, making them more tolerable. Once the grains are sprouted, we take them all and put them together and mix them and grind them up into dough. We add a little bit of sea salt and fresh yeast to some of the products, and they are baked in small batches.
"Ezekiel 4:9 is a complete protein," Orr continued. "A complete protein contains all the amino acids that your body can't make on its own. So you are getting a protein similar to that of milk or eggs; it is like the highest source of protein. I wouldn't call the bread itself a protein. It still has carbohydrates; it is still made from grain, but it is going to be the good carbs, the complex carbohydrates, and complete protein in it as well. So your body processes it differently."
What about the flourless aspect of the bread?
"To be flourless is a good thing because flour in general doesn't have a whole grain, and even with whole-grain flour, your body still has to break down the grain to get to the nutrients. Even if it has been ground up into a powder, it still has to go through the process of breaking it down to get those nutrients. When a grain is sprouted, because it predigests the grain, it makes the vitamins and minerals more available for your body to absorb so you get more of the vitamin content of the grain. It also makes it more glycemic to your body. When you have just flour or whole grain, it has to convert the starches, and it will convert the starches into sugars and your body will store some of that as fat, rather than using it all for energy. In this sprouting process, because the starches have already started to be converted into maltose, the maltose is usable energy for your body; it makes a lower glycemic index. So people who are diabetic do a lot better eating our sprouted grain bread."
Good news for Jennifer.
"If someone is gluten intolerant," Orr offered, "many times the bread is fine for them to eat. If they just have sensitivity or a mild intolerance, a lot of people can eat the Ezekiel breads with no adverse reaction. But if someone has an allergy or celiac disease" -- a genetic gluten intolerance -- "I don't recommend Ezekiel breads because they do still have some gluten in them. There is less, because it is sprouted, but it is not completely gone."
The breads come in sesame, cinnamon raisin, low sodium with no sea salt added, and the original Ezekiel bread.
And what about the name: Ezekiel 4:9?
"The owners of the company are Seventh Day Adventist. They took that scripture verse from the bible and combined those grains, beans, and lentils and found that in sprouting them, it also made the bread that much more nutritious, and in using the soybean and lentils with the grains it made it a complete protein."
Ezekiel 4:9 says, "Take also unto thee wheat and barley and beans and lentils and millet and spelt, and put them into one vessel and make bread of it."
The next day I popped into Stringbeanz Low Carb Foods in College Area. I found another bread option: Julian Bakery's Smart Carb #2, A Complete Protein Bread ( $5.99 for a 24-ounce loaf). The Cinnamon Almond Raisin bread was tasty, and it also contained sprouted whole grains. And it had 15 grams of carbs, 16 grams of protein, and 12 grams of fiber per slice. I spoke with Julian Bakery manager Cheney Mantooth. "The Smart Carb #2 Cinnamon Almond Raisin is sweet, but it has no sugar. The thing that makes it sweet is the cinnamon, and then the raisins have their natural sugar. But if you want totally sweet-free, wheat-free, and yeast-free bread, we also sell Manna from Heaven [ $5.99 a loaf]. It's recommend by Dr. Rosedale in his diet book for heart, diabetes, and weight release. It really moves through you pretty fast, but it keeps you full. It has ten grams of carbs, eight grams of fiber, and nine grams of protein. Both breads have the kamut grain, which makes the bread high in protein and fiber."
For gluten-intolerant folks, the bakery makes bean bread and also southern corn bread ( $5.99 ).
Julian Bakery breads can be ordered online at julianbakery.net or bought at Whole Foods, Jimbo's, some Albertsons in North County, Lazy Acres, and some Bristol Farms.