Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Germinated Brown Rice: Has the U.N. Finally Heard “Nourishing Traditions” Wisdom?

March 31st, 2010 · 61 Comments · Food for Thought, Science of Nutrition

germinated brown riceIn Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig claim that brown rice is low in phytates and therefore does not need a very long soak time; seven hours is sufficient for increased digestibility, or even just a long, slow cook time of an hour and a half.  Unfortunately, rice is also dismally low in phytase, the enzyme that is the most efficient proven way to neutralize phytic acid and truly release the nutrients contained in the bran of the grain.phytase activity in grains Look how low the phytase, the enzyme that neutralizes phytates and phytic acid, is in rice compared to wheat!  It doesn’t get significantly better as you look across the chart at soaked or germinated rice, either.

Luckily for us, white rice isn’t the only other choice.

During this “Get out the Gluten!” week, it’s only appropriate to discuss proper preparation of a popular gluten-free grain.  I spoke with Rebecca Wood, the Julia Child award-winning author of The Splendid Grain and The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, and she clued me into GBR, or germinated brown rice, a preparation method that the U.N. is recommending for its much increased vitamin and mineral content.

What is Germinated Brown Rice (GBR)?

Germinated brown rice has been soaked long enough for the process of germination (growing a seed) to begin.  According to Japanese Food Economist Ito Shoichi in his 2004 presentation for the Rice Conference held by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it is likely that ancient peoples in Japan ate their brown rice soaked.  GBR is easy to prepare at home and allows the nutrients in the rice to be more assimilated in the body.

What Nutrients are Increased in GBR?

The most highly touted nutrient that is doubled or even magnified ten times in germinated brown rice is an amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA for short.  Other remarkable improvements are shown in the amounts of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, zinc, Vitamin E and many B vitamins.

The Health Benefits of Germinated Brown Rice

Researchers Kayahara and Tukahara concluded in 2000 that “continuous intake of GBR” can lower blood pressure, improve brain function, and relieve some symptoms of menopause.  It also may prevent headaches, relieve constipation, regulate blood sugar, and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers, including colon cancer and leukemia.

How Do I Make GBR?

Making germinated brown rice is not much different than the NT recommended soaking, but with some key changes.

  1. Soak brown rice in water at about 85-105 degrees F (30-40 C) for 20 hours.
  2. Change the water a few times during the process.
  3. Rinse rice before cooking.
  4. Cook as usual with a little less water, because rice will have absorbed some of the soaking water.
  5. No acidic medium is necessary, because your goal is germination, or starting the seed to sprout.
  6. To keep the water at such a high temperature, you can use a basking light like those sold for reptiles or a cheap hot plate rigged with a thermometer.
  7. If you choose not to go to such measures for rice (seems complicated to me), you can soak at lower temperatures for longer – perhaps 2-3 days – and achieve nearly the same result.  You can tell you’ve had success if you can see the end of the rice changing color, bulging a little, and perhaps even a tiny sprout (see image above).
  8. Note:  It is important to use rice that is as fresh as possible; old rice harvested long ago will not germinate.
Can I Sprout Brown Rice?

Although sprouting brown rice shows positive impacts on reducing phytic acid and increasing mineral bioavailability, it takes many days to achieve the best results.  When I sprouted brown rice for 5 days (below), I hated the taste.  No one in my family could eat it because it was so sweet, just not appropriate for a stir fry (maybe for a sweet dish like rice pudding?  Haven’t tried that yet.)

sprouted brown rice

When you soak your brown rice, be sure to give it at least 20 hours in very warm water, longer if you can, especially at room temperature.  This will reduce the binding properties of phytic acid and make the rice more digestible and more nutritious.  UPDATE:  You can also buy germinated brown rice (called GBR) ready to go, no soaking needed.  See details here.

I’m excited to share another, even MORE effective and more simple method for cooking rice tomorrow, along with research into rice and phytates.  Stay tuned!

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Sources: 1, 2 Chart from The Influence of Soaking and Germination on the Phytase Activity and Phytic Acid Content of Grains and Seeds Potentially
Useful for Complementary Feeding by I. EGLI, L. DAVIDSSON, M.A. JUILLERAT, D. BARCLAY, R.F. HURRELL

Entered in Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

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61 Comments so far ↓

  • Kelly the Kitchen Kop

    We love germinated brown rice! I wrote a post on this a while back and included a link to where you can buy it if you don’t want to make it:
    http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2008/07/germinated-rice-organic-chicken.html

    Kelly

  • Lenetta @ Nettacow

    I wonder what temp a crockpot is on “keep warm”… maybe with the lid cracked? I’ll have to do a test. :>) And I’ll be linking!
    .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..Yeast Elimination Diet =-.

  • Michellem

    great idea Lenetta! I looked in the manual for mine and it says keep warm is programmed to maintain a 102 degree temp- so this will work!!!

  • Cori

    Well, clearly I’ll have to wait until tomorrow!
    .-= Cori´s last blog ..Friday night out – Infant formula update #1 =-.

  • Marcia Van Drunen

    I was wondering as well if a crockpot would work. Anyone know?
    We ALWAYS eat brown rice: I’m open to trying germinating it.

  • elaine

    if you sprouted the brown rice and then dehydrated it could you then make brown rice flour? I’ve never cooked with rice flour but it seems that with such a low phytate count perhaps I should think about it!
    Where did you find that interesting chart with all the grains and their phytate/phytase counts? I couldn’t really read it on the screen but would love to be able to look and compare.
    Thanks for such great info!!

    Katie Reply:

    Elaine,
    Great questions! I assume that method would work for brown rice flour, but I haven’t opened my grain mill yet, so… ;)

    The chart is cited at the very bottom of the post, and if you click on the chart it gets a little bigger for you. I didn’t realize it had gotten QUITE so small – it looked better in my interface! :) Katie

  • Simple in France

    This sounds like a great way to handle rice–although I do think the soaking in warm water sounds kind of annoying. Can’t wait to hear the easier method.
    .-= Simple in France´s last blog ..Confessions of a Coffee Addict =-.

  • christina

    We just made pancakes this morning with sprouted brown rice flour. I bought it through our co-op, Azure Standard. But here’s the link to the company.

    http://kgflour.com/order.html

    It is a wonderful GF flour to use. The baked goods come out much more light, fluffy, and less gritty than regular brown rice flour. I’m ordering a bag of the rice next month. Thanks for sharing how to do it yourself as it is a bit pricy.
    .-= christina´s last blog ..My Dad’s Favorite Applesauce Cake – Now Gluten Free =-.

  • Sonia

    Could putting it in the oven with the light on work to keep it warm enough?

    Katie Reply:

    Sonia,
    Check your oven temp! I understand there’s a great variance, but it would be a start, for sure. :) Katie

  • Rachel Wisdom

    I’ll bet a yogurt maker would work. Katie, you say the taste was altered. What about the texture?

    Katie Reply:

    Rachel,
    Soaked brown rice already has a more creamy, porridge-style texture than standard cooked rice, and this was pretty much the same if I remember right.

  • Raine Saunders

    This is great information! We only eat the germinated brown rice in our house. I figure with all the things I have to do every day, I probably won’t be soaking rice as I already soak grains when I do eat them (which is fairly rare). I have definitely noticed a huge difference in how my body reacts to the germinated brown rice as opposed to the regular rice that I had to soak before cooking, as I’m really sensitive to many carbs. This tells me I still have some detoxing to do, and I’m starting a liver/gallballer detox here in the next week or two.
    .-= Raine Saunders´s last blog ..Produce and Pestcides: The Dirty Dozen and Protecting Your Children =-.

  • Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen

    I guess that must be why brown rice is always wreaking havoc on me – I am not soaking it this long!!! Thanks for the tip, this is so helpful!
    .-= Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen´s last blog ..Recipe: Scottish Oat Cakes =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Jenn,
    You need to read the next installment: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/04/01/phytic-acid-in-rice-reduced-96-with-accelerated-fermentation/ on how to utilize the little phytase brown rice has – an even better soaking method! :) Katie

  • darlene

    Hi, i came across your wonderful sight looking for sprouted brown rice recipe. I am doing low carb and wonder if anyone knows how much carbohydrates are left once sprouted.Protein info would be useful too. Any size serving with ounces or grams would be so helpful. Thanks you! Darlene

    Katie Reply:

    Darlene,
    I checked NutritionData.com and they didn’t have it, sadly. I’m not sure! It will be less than regular brown rice, but I’m not sure how much. Sorry! :) Katie

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  • Carrie de

    I planned on soaking brown rice the other day. To remind myself to start it that evening (it was morning when I did this), I put the rice only in a pot and put the lid on.

    I still managed to forget about it. :p So when it came time to make rice the next evening, I just made it like normal using chicken stock.

    Lo and behold, it germinated!!! Maybe there was moisture in the pot when I initially set it out? Dunno! But so it was germinated AND cooked in chicken stock. ;) Obviously, more testing is needed.

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  • Jen

    sooo…If I soak the rice on my counter for three days at room temp (trying to conserve on energy usage:) will it germinate or sprout? I noticed you said the sprouted was too sweet but the germinated is not then I imagine?
    confused in Colorado!!
    thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    Jen,
    You shouldn’t need to soak for 3 days. Just soak about 12 hours, then drain and rinse a few times for about a day. That should be germinated without the sprouts getting too long, I would imagine. You’ll also want to read the next post about “accelerated fermentation” which is really easy as well, just soaking and saving the soak water for the next time. Let me know if you have any more questions! :) Katie

  • Kristie

    How long can I leave rice and it still be healthy to eat? I put 2 cups rice and 2 cups water and 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar on the counter (recipe from one of Jordan Rubin’s books), and it has been there about 3 days. I never rinsed. Is this okay? Or dangerous to eat or just not healthy? (The recipe says to soak 7 hrs. ) Is rinsing an important thing to do?

    Katie Reply:

    Kristie,
    I’ve never left it quite that long, so I’m not sure I could say! I doubt it would be “unhealthy”…unless it’s molded or something, in which case “dangerous” might be more accurate. If you’re following a recipe from a book, just go with it. I don’t think rinsing is a vital step, no. :) Katie

  • doyle

    I’ve recently begun investigating all these things [after a long break of some 12 years in which I just got lazy] and actually came across Stephan’s site with the accelerated fermentation method some time ago.

    But I’m still kinda lazy. I wd rather soak a whole kilo at once, or more.

    So the question becomes: can I drain it well and package in small amounts and freeze to use later, or is it better to cook it all first and then freeze in meal-size amounts?

    tnx

    Katie Reply:

    Doyle,
    I’m not really sure how freezing drained rice would do, but I rely on already cooked, frozen rice for quick meals. It reheats fine, so that would be my suggestion for you! :) katie

    doyle Reply:

    sounds good to me. tnx.
    btw, I see you find the sprouted rice to be sweet. why would it taste sweet? what happens chemically to make it so? any clue?

    Katie Reply:

    My guess was always that as a grain sprouts, it goes from being a seed to a plant. I don’t know what happens chemically there, but is there a transfer of sugar? The sprout would start eating some of the starch in the cotyledon, maybe making it sweeter.

    doyle Reply:

    oh, interesting, um, seed of an idea, Katie. hmmm. definitely worth some followup. tnx for getting back to me on it.

    Jesse Reply:

    If your rice seems sweeter after sprouting the only explaination would be the conversion of carbohydrates from complex starches broken down into simple sugars.

  • Jesse Sumner

    Sprouting rise is very simple. Do not make it harder than it is. First, some rice depending on how it is harvested and/or grown will give it better sproutability. the organic varieties seem to sprout best for me but try some different brands and see what works best for you. Temperature is not a concern for sprouting rice but warmer water up to 100 degrees may spout the rice faster. Simply leave the rice in a jar submerged in filtered water for 8-12 hours(up to 20 hours) and keep on kitchen counter or warm place if you prefer. Drain the water and you have germination. I like to sprout it by rinsing and draining after the soak for 8-12 more hours. repeat rinse and drain once more if you want. You will see the tails coming out if it is sprouting. Good luck.

  • Beef fried rice

    I got my inspiration partly from this web page, but developed my own easy technique for GBR. I soak at room temperature for four days. Supermarket grade brown rice seems to do fine with this, looking more or less like the top picture. No need for a heat source this way. After all, rice germinates in paddies where the water is not artificially warm.

    Just change the water at least every twelve hours, otherwise it seems to ferment, and fermented brown rice was not tasty the first time when I left the water unchanged for a few days.

  • Jesse

    Fermenting or ”souring” rice would be done using 2 tablespoons of liquid whey, a biproduct yogurt. Its called lactofermentation. You could also use plain whole yogurt

  • Ren

    Great article, Katie!

    I’ve had excellent results germinating the rice in plain, brewed green tea instead of water, by the way. As well as improving the flavor, the tea inhibits bacterial growth so that you only need to change it once during the 18-hour soak.

    I put the sprouting jar on top of a seedling heating pad to keep it the near the optimal temperature of 90 degrees.

    Here’s a pic.. http://bit.ly/Al9arm

    Warmest regards,

    Ren

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  • Bob

    I was wondering what paper or website your table came from. I would like to read more about the numbers!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Bob,
    The source is here (at the bottom of the post): Chart from The Influence of Soaking and Germination on the Phytase Activity and Phytic Acid Content of Grains and Seeds Potentially
    Useful for Complementary Feeding by I. EGLI, L. DAVIDSSON, M.A. JUILLERAT, D. BARCLAY, R.F. HURRELL
    :) Katie

  • Megan P

    A couple of things:

    I have had the best luck with sprouting short grain brown rice personally. Here in Colorado.

    About the texture: porridge, and rice flour are fine but I have had trouble getting a nice texture after germinating it, in my rice dishes. It is all mushy. The family does not like that. Anyone else have better luck here? I don’t over sprout either. Nothing like the picture! I just barely get a little tiny indication that the grain might be changing.

    I like the benefits that germinating produce in terms of increasing the mineral content. That is huge. Does rapid fermenting increase the mineral content? Because I don’t think it does, darnit.

    In the directions for rapid fermentation, I am a little confused. At one point it sounds like you say we are using fresh batches of rice for the “three times”. But that doesn’t make sense. Then the first two times you make rice, it is not yet at the 96%. And then further down, it sounds like you might be repeating the process with the SAME batch of rice. Soaking it a total of three times. This would make more sense. Please, can you clarify for me. And if you are using a fresh batch each time, then please explain how this makes sense, if you can.

    One last thing. I think I read somewhere, in cases like soaking oats which don’t like to give up their phytic acid so well, you can add just a tad of buckwheat flour to the soak. Because buckwheat contains lots of phytase. I wonder if this would work for the rice. What do you think?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Megan,
    I have to admit I haven’t tried short grain brown rice, so it’s possible that it acts very differently than the long grain I have. I didn’t even know there WERE different kinds until recently! ;)

    I use the accelerated fermentation method from the next post on a regular basis. The goal there is to break down the phytates which bind minerals, so ideally, yes, it should increase mineral content, but I don’t know exactly how it compares to sprouting, which also decreases the carbs and may increase certain vitamins.

    When I use accelerated fermentation, a cup of long-grain rice soaks up 1/2 c. water. When I drain it and cook, I use 1.5 cups water instead of the usual 2 cups. Decreasing your water by 1/4-1/2 cup is a worthy experiment, and the next commenter is right, the lowest possible temp and DO NOT PEEK at your rice is really important too.

    To clear up accelerated fermentation: You’re right, the first two batches of rice are not fully fermented. You just have to deal with that reality – you won’t die from it! ;) So you soak rice, drain and reserve water, cook the rice. Soak some more, drain and reserve water, cook the rice. Soak a third batch, and then you’re rolling with the system. So the technique isn’t any different the 1st 3 batches, it’s just not fully active yet. It’s kind of like building a sourdough starter – you’re kind of creating a “culture” or starter” for your rice, from the rice. Once you have it going, you’ll see bubbles in the rice water after the soak process.

    re: buckwheat – sure, that’s a maybe, but the flour might make your rice even more “porridge-y.” There’s some question about how whole grains (vs. ground flours) soak anyway, and I like both the science behind the accelerated fermentation method and the simplicity of it. It hardly takes any extra time at all.

    Hope that cleared some things up!
    :) katie

  • Jesse

    Soaking with an acidic started begins a fermentation that breaks down the digestive disrupters. sprouting is also aceptable but takes much longer. Is the germinated rice is too soggy then use less water to cook it. Remember the rice is very hydrated after sprouting. Also cook at lower temp. I think less water and lower temp will solve the soggy rice problem. If not just soak it. Yes any grain/legume can be and should be soaked with an acidic starter to increase digestion.

    Megan P Reply:

    The rice is pasty. I will try what you said and see what happens. Thank you!

  • Marcy

    I read somewhere that for best GBR to use medium or short grain brown rice and I have had best results with those.
    I am currently sprouting some RED rice from India. It doesn’t seem to be as productive. Any one worked with the red variety? Also, I am curious if anyone knows the change in complex carbs of the GBR from ungerminated.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Marcy,
    I think I always use long grain rice, but it’s time to branch out, for sure!

    I looked long and hard for info on nutritional differences between sprouted and unsprouted grains, and let me tell you, it’s not easy to find. I really don’t know other than to say that the carbs are definitely less – I imagine it depends a lot on how long you might “sprout” the grains, i.e. how much of the starch the new baby plant has consumed. Tricky! :) Katie

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  • Jonathan Partridge

    I read the sprouted brown rice contains Vitamin B12. Does anyone have any views on this?

  • Jonathan Partridge

    I also read that sprouted brown rice has much more calcium. Does anyone think that sprouted grains can provide sufficient calcium to replace milk products?

  • Jesse Artus

    Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin. However it is provided by foods derived from animals. Shrimp is a good source. I have not heard of B12 any plant food containing B12. The other B vitamins yes.
    When you sprout seeds the minerals (calcium) bond to the proteins and are easily absorbed this way. sprouting does not increase minerals but makes them more easily digested thus providing more calcium to your body by better assimilation into your blood.

  • Jonathan Partridge

    I have tried two methods of sprouting rice. Neither seems to have worked so far. I tried putting some in my yoghurt maker to keep warm for 20hrs then leaving to sprout for a day. The other was simply leaving a batch soaking at room temperature. None of the rice grains appear to have even started sprouting and when I chew on a couple they are still quite crunchy as opposed to succulent and swelled.

    Maybe I didn’t soak them for long enough?

    My other thought, which may have been covered already, is that the organic grains I bought from Sainsbury’s have been heat treated so they don’t go off. I know that oat groats are normally heat treated and have to be bought specially from a dedicated supplier. (I am also trying to sprout these.)
    Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Jonathan,
    I’m woefully late getting back to you!

    How long did you wait after draining for the rice to sprout? Did you keep them wet at least every 12 hours? It’s been a while since I sprouted rice (I prefer the accelerated fermentation soak – http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/04/01/phytic-acid-in-rice-reduced-96-with-accelerated-fermentation/), I seem to remember it taking a few days to get going.

    If I were you, I’d try again, and just make sure you keep rinsing them and wait at least 3 days. I don’t think they have to be particularly warm, but I doubt they minded being cozy in the yogurt maker. You can always call the company to ask if they’re heat treated if you can’t get it to work at all!
    :) Katie

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  • Rivkah

    Sorry but all this research has my head spinning! Pretty new to me. Can this be explained in layman’s terms? What did you find was the best way to eat rice? I don’t really get the difference between germinated and sprouted rice. Is it essentially catching the rice in between dormant and sprouting? Any info on eating it raw? Maybe I will have to reread when I am a bit fresher! I did not see rice on the Hippocrates chart so found that interesting also. Thanks!!

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Rivkah,
    So sorry for my delay – life gets the better of me sometimes! You’re right basically on germinated being between dormant and sprouting. It’s really just “soaked.” Raw would not be good for your belly. :)

    Sprouted rice is a little more involved and changes the taste whereas soaking rice is pretty simple and you only have to reduce the water you add for cooking a bit (since it’s soaked some up already). I would just try the method in that other post where you commented, and I’m about to answer you! :) Katie

  • saraleh

    Rivkah, if this is all new to you, here’s some ‘advice’. Don’t do anything til you’ve done a bunch of reading. Additional excellent sites to check are: Stephan Guyenet, Mark’s Daily Apple, Chris Kresser, Paul Jaminett. These people give the science behind how and why and what. Do loads of reading, criss crossing until you’ve built up an entire arsenal of knowledge. Secondly, don’t stick with any specific theory until you’ve spent at least 2-3 weeks listing every food item you eat and how it makes you feel. Sound like work? Not really. I kept a small notebook and pen in the kitchen and wrote down everything, plus time plus quantity. Logging your reactions will help you sift information and find what’s best for you. Thirdly, don’t adopt any theory wholesale. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all eating method. When it comes to brown rice, for instance, no matter what I do to it, I’m going to react, even if it’s top quality organic. White? Now that’s a different story. My system loves white… I know the science of why but won’t bore you with it, which wd be overload. But I wouldn’t have known without lots of reading, and tracking everything I ate, first. Since I have to do stuff that pays bills, I could read only in spare time. And I have a family. So it may not surprise you to hear it took me some 6 months to do enough cross referencing and reading to begin to feel confident with how to go about making the optimal changes for my digestive system. Take it easy and your head won’t spin :) Good luck.

    Helen @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Saraleh,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! So true that listening to your body will definitely find the food that works for YOU, regardless of the research!

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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