Ezekiel Bread: Superfood or Gluten Trap?

Ezekiel bread is a type of sprouted grain bread that is prepared using traditional methods of soaking, sprouting and baking that have been in existence for thousands of years. Ezekiel bread is made using sprouted whole grains, legumes and sometimes seeds. It contains no sugar, no preservatives and no artificial ingredients, unlike most other commercial breads.

Compared to breads that don’t contain sprouted grains, Ezekiel bread has more protein, fiber, and absorbable vitamins and minerals. It also contains less harmful antinutrients, like phytic acid, and is even less concentrated with gluten.


Is Ezekiel Bread Gluten-Free?

Ezekiel bread is not gluten-free because it’s usually made using sprouted ancient wheat grains, barley and rye, all of which contain the protein gluten. This is one of the main reasons I don’t recommend everyone make Ezekiel bread a staple of their diet.

Research now shows that a large percentage of the general population report that they react negatively to eating gluten and feel better when they remove gluten-containing grains and products from their diet, despite not positively testing for celiac disease or having a confirmed allergy to wheat. (1) A gluten intolerance is very common and something altogether different than celiac disease, which is difficult for many people to comprehend.

Gluten is also linked to many negative reactions and conditions, including not only Celiac disease, but also irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other forms of digestive distress. (2) For all the above reasons, gluten-free diets are a big trend nowadays and gluten-free products are springing up all over supermarket shelves.

However, many gluten-free products are very highly processed and refined, while being devoid of nutrients. As a result, consuming packaged gluten-free products doesn’t usually solve the root of most digestive problems.

While research isn’t yet conclusive, gluten, the protein found in wheat and its cousins, may be linked to increasing cases of attention deficit disorder (ADD), dttention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD), autism, anxiety, anemia, cancer, Crohn’s disease, depression, dermatitis and skin disorders, allergies, epilepsy, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, IBS, lupus, multiple sclerosis, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia.

For those who are sensitive to gluten but who aren’t truly allergic to it, soaking, sprouting, fermenting and lightly cooking wheat products can greatly reduce their gluten content. That being said, though, Ezekiel bread and other sprouted grains still contain gluten and aren’t meant for those with a true allergy to gluten (such as celiac disease).


Ezekiel Bread Nutrition Facts

According to Food For Life, the makers of one of the most popular types of Ezekiel breads, one slice of Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread has: (3)

  • 80 calories
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 8 percent vitamin B1 thiamine
  • 8 percent phosphorus
  • 6 percent magnesium
  • 6 percent niacin

Ezekiel bread is made with the following ingredients: organic sprouted wheat, filtered water, organic malted barley, organic sprouted rye, organic sprouted barley, organic sprouted oats, organic sprouted millet, organic sprouted corn, organic sprouted brown rice, fresh yeast, organic wheat gluten and sea salt.

ezekielbreadnutrition

How Did Our Ancestors Eat So Much Bread Without Any Problems?

The wheat our ancestors ate were more easily digested forms of wheat. In addition, their diets weren’t so laden with wheat and wheat byproducts. Instead, they ate a diverse range of plant foods. Lastly, our ancestors properly processed their grains, including wheat, before eating them.

Since then, both overexposure to wheat, in its many forms in processed foods, and the development of high-yield wheat crops contributes to rising cases of celiac disease and gluten intolerance. People with celiac disease develop and pass on genes that react drastically to even miniscule amounts of gluten.

In fact, modern wheat can affect all of us negatively. There are many compounds in wheat gluten that can damage us, including gliadins, gluteomorphins, glutenin, lectins and wheat germ agglutinin.

It’s the structure of these compounds that have detrimental health effects on humans because they create a negative reaction within the digestive tract for many people.

  • Gliadins make up the bulk of gluten and are very hard for us to digest. Worse, their amino acid structure is very similar to that of human organs, so when we develop antibodies to gliadins, our immune systems can attack our own tissues.
  • Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is a lectin that causes severe issues for people with celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten. Sprouting wheat grains doesn’t eliminate this lectin. WGA isn’t checked for during gluten intolerance tests, and it can damage human tissues even when allergies or sensitivities aren’t present.

Studies suggest that sourdough bread fermentation can partially degrade gluten proteins in bread and pasta. That’s good news if you have gluten sensitivity because few gluten-free products are completely gluten-free and those that are lack nutritional value.

If you do have celiac disease, look for gluten-free products and those in which fermenting practices have been used. A 2012 study has found that sourdough fermentation can help reduce intestinal inflammation in those with celiac disease, and fermentation increases the nutrient value of foods. (4)


Why Sprouted Grains Are Healthier

The reason that Ezekiel Bread is the healthier option over other breads has to do with its preparation, specifically that the grains used to make Ezekiel bread have been sprouted. Many plant foods, especially grains, contain factors that can be toxic and mess with your gut lining. Specifically, unsprouted grains contain something called antinutrients.

Antinutrients are compounds found in foods like grains, legumes and nuts that bind to minerals and make them unusable by the body. (5) So even though whole grains do have nutrients in them, the presence of antinutrients means you’re not actually absorbing most of the minerals and vitamins from the whole grains. While sprouting lessens antinutrient content, many traditional cultures also choose to ferment sprouted grains in order to further lower antinutrient content.

Sprouting and fermenting foods, especially grains and legumes, greatly increases their nutrient content and makes them more easily digestible. But probably most importantly, sprouting grains deactivates important nutrient blockers (antinutrients). (6) This means that compared to breads that haven’t been sprouted, Ezekiel bread’s nutrients are more easily used by the body, and you’re also less likely to experience digestive problems from eating it.

When compared to breads that are made with grains that haven’t been sprouted, sprouted grain breads are the following:

  • A form of complete protein: Ezekiel bread contains 18 amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, including all nine essential amino acids.
  • Increase their digestibility: This happens because sprouting breaks down starches in grains and turns them into more easily digested simple sugars.
  • Increase how well their vitamin and minerals can be absorbed: Sprouting breaks down antinutrients, or the enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with your ability to absorb calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc found in the grains.
  • Increase the vitamin and mineral concentration: Vitamin C, the B vitamins and vitamin E all become more concentrated when sprouting.
  • A high source of dietary fiber: Sprouted breads are made using a combination of sprouted whole grains and legumes, both of which have high fiber contents that help digestion and make you feel full.

Ezekiel bread is a much healthier option than most other breads. However, that being said, for most people who are looking to reverse disease or to reach a healthier weight, I usually recommend staying away from grains altogether, at least for a period of time.

Once you’re able to reach your health-related goals through eating a healing diet, then you can try reintroducing certain whole grains and grain products, like Ezekiel bread for example, back into your diet to see what kind of reaction you have. Some people do better eating grains than others and usually the only way to know if you can tolerate grains, or if you experience any sort of grain-related symptoms such as leaky gut syndrome or gluten sensitivity, is to eliminate them altogether for a period of time.

Once you reintroduce grains, if you find that you can tolerate them well, I always recommend eating grains that have been sprouted and fermented, like Ezekiel bread. These types of grains have many more health benefits and less risks associated with eating them than more refined carbohydrates do.

I also recommend consuming sprouted grains on occasion, as opposed to with every single meal, or as the center of your plate. The same rule goes for Ezekiel bread: It can play a part in an otherwise healthy diet for some people, but it’s best not to think of it as a staple of your diet.


History of Ezekiel Bread

Sprouted Ezekiel bread has a very long tradition that stems back to the Biblical times. Ezekiel 4:9 bread is said to be “crafted in the likeness of the Holy Scripture, verse Ezekiel 4:9.” Ezekiel 4:9 refers to a passage in the Bible that describes how to prepare sprouted bread using the grains wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and fitches (which is spelt). The passage was meant for the Israelites who would be in exile for 390 days.

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof … — Ezekiel 4:9 (7)

It’s believed that the biblical bread recipe was intended to help people survive famine during an upcoming siege. Certain grains, like barley and millet for example, throughout history had actually been considered somewhat of a poor man’s food. This is because these hardy grains were able to last through times of drought and frosts, and when the grains were sprouted and all combined together, they made a good source of complete protein that could nurture the population.

Similar breads have been made ever since ancient times, with different cultures tweaking the recipe in various ways. For example, Essence bread is a type of ancient sprouted Hebrew bread that is made in a similar way to Ezekiel bread still today.  Essence bread is said to stem back thousands of years to around the time of the 2ndcentury B.C.

Many other cultures have made fermented sourdough breads for centuries. Sourdough breads are made using an acidic substance that ferments when combined with grains and creates a natural yeast. These types of breads were made before cultivated yeasts even existed and result in a slightly sour taste to the bread. Ancient sourdough breads have been popular in parts of Europe since before written history! Some sources claim that a type of ancient sourdough bread was first made around the time of 3,700 B.C.


How to Make Homemade Ezekiel Bread

Some people prefer to make their own sprouted bread to ensure they’re getting the freshest product with the best ingredients. If you’d like to try making your own sprouted bread, look for unprocessed, untreated whole grains in health food stores (usually in the bulk section) or try buying them online.

You can sprout almost any grain, but you need to start with whole grain berries and not the kind that have been milled, rolled, flaked or prepared in other ways that will prevent them from sprouting. Some of the best options to include in sprouted bread are: wheat, spelt, oat groats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, einkorn wheat, as well as various seeds like sesame, poppy, chia and flaxseeds.

The process of making homemade sprouted bread involves:

Soaking grains: You can do this in a large bowl or even a crockpot/slow cooker.

Draining the grains: You’ll need either a strainer with small holes in it or a sleeve/cheese cloth. This step is to separate the soaked grains from the water they’ve been sitting in.

Drying or dehydrating grains: You’ll need to dry the grains out after they’ve sprouted to turn them into flour. You can either do this by baking them at a low temperature in the oven, or some people choose to dehydrate them.

Grinding the grains into flour: You can either use a high-speed blender like a Vitamix, or choose to purchase a grinder specifically made for flours. There are a range of grain grinders available on the market that differ in terms of price and capabilities, depending on what you’re looking for.

ezekielbreadhowto-1


Recipe for Homemade Sprouted Grain Ezekiel Bread:

Ingredients:

  • 3½ cups of untreated/raw whole grains (try the following combination: ½ cup barley flour, ¼ cup finely ground broad bean (fava bean) flour, ¼ cup millet flour, 1 cup durum/spelt wheat flour, ½ cup finely ground lentil flour)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2¼ teaspoons, or one ¼ ounce package active dry yeast

Instructions:

To make sprouted flours:

  1. Place grains into a large bowl and cover with warm water by about two inches and then add vinegar. Stir together to combine.
  2. Let the grains soak in the bowl for 18 to 24 hours, depending on the kind (see the chart below).
  3. Drain the grains and rinse them well. Then place them in a shallow bowl/dish/container that has a wide opening in which air can circulate. You can add 1–2 tablespoons of water for moisture but the grains shouldn’t be soaking anymore. Leave the grains out on the countertop in a room-temperature space.
  4. Allow the grains to sit and sprout over 2–3 days (depending on the kind). Every 12 hours while they’re soaking, rinse them well. Leave them to sprout until you see tiny, cream-colored sprout emerging at the end of the grains.
  5. Once sprouted, rinse and dry grains. Transfer the grains to the oven or a dehydrator lined with a nonstick sheets. Dehydrate the grains for 12 to 18 hours or until first. You can either freeze the grains to use later at this point, or grind them into flour/dough to use right away. To grind them to flour in order to bake into bread, follow directions below for making bread.

To make homemade bread:

  1. Add about half of the grains to a food processor/grinder and sprinkle half the salt over. Process until the mixture comes together into a ball. Place it in an airtight covered container. If you want your bread to have a fermented sourdough taste, leave the container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. If not, leave it out for no more than about 12 hours.
  2. Add the yeast and knead the dough. Do this on a clean counter by sprinkling the dry yeast over the dough and kneading for no less than 20 minutes.
  3. Allow the yeast to get active by transferring the dough to a bowl and forming it into a ball. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and let it sit for about 1 ½ hours so the yeast and grains can interact, and the dough rill rise.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350F (177C). Grease a bead pan and press in your dough. Bake for about 60 minutes (or if you have a thermometer, until the internal temperature of the bread measured reaches about 180 to 190F).

Storing the bread:

Because your bread will have no preservatives in it and sprouted flour is prone to growing mold over time, it’s recommended to freeze your bread within 2–3 days of making it. You can also try making sprouted bread (or muffins, cookies, etc.) in bulk and freezing them for later.


Where to Buy Ezekiel Bread

Ezekiel bread can be found in health food stores and now even most larger chain grocery stores. Normally it’s stored in the frozen section since it contains no preservatives and goes bad more quickly than other breads.

Some of the most popular brands of sprouted breads are:

  • Food For Life (this is the company that makes Ezekiel 4:9 bread)
  • Alvarado Street
  • Manna Bread
  • Sha Sha Co.
  • Everfresh Organic
  • Silver Hills Bakery

Homemade sprouted grain breads, especially sourdough breads, can also be found at farmer’s markets and traditional bakeries. Ask about the preparation methods to make sure the grains were sprouted first and that what you’re buying is truly “whole grain.”


The Bottom Line on Sprouted Breads like Ezekiel Bread

Considering Ezekiel bread is sprouted, it’s a much better option than types of bread that aren’t sprouted. 

  • Sprouting and fermenting are historical and natural methods of processing plant foods.
  • Sprouting and fermenting can destroy antinutrients in plant foods.
  • Sprouting and fermenting can reduce gluten content in wheat products.
  • Sprouting and fermenting greatly increase nutritional and probiotic content in plant foods.
  • Sprouting and fermenting make foods more easily digestible.
  • You can sprout your own food at home, and it’s probably easier than you thought, too!


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Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine and operates one of the world's largest natural health websites: www.DrAxe.com. He is the author of the groundbreaking health book Eat Dirt, which uncovers the hidden causes and cures of leaky gut syndrome. Dr. Axe is an expert in digestive health, functional medicine, natural remedies and dietary strategies for healing. He has been featured on many television shows, including the Dr. Oz Show, CBS and NBC, and has his own Eat Dirt program running on select PBS TV stations. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has been a physician for many professional athletes. DrAxe.com is one of the most visited websites worldwide for healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, essential oils, and natural supplements.