The Case for Upcycled Spent Grain

what exactly is spent grain

What Exactly is Spent Grain?

You’ve heard us talk a lot about alternative flours, upcycling, and the fact that spent grain flour is a high protein, low carb, and high fiber flour that presents a healthy and eco friendly choice to replace many alternative flours. 

You may still be left wondering - what exactly IS spent grain?! How can something made from a grain be considered low carb? We get it - it sounds counterintuitive. In reality, since spent grain is actually made from the leftovers of the beer making process (more on that later), almost all of its carbohydrates are removed during this process, leaving a high protein and high fiber product behind, that can be used to make a super healthy alternative flour. Spent grain is all around awesome, being both environmentally friendly and incredibly good for you. Its fiber content alone is enough reason to add it to your diet, but it’s also incredibly high in protein. As an example, one serving of Barley Barley flour provides a whopping 89% of the recommended daily value of fiber (25 grams) and 36% of the recommended daily value of protein (18 grams). 

The Lowdown on this Low-Carb Flour

Spent grain has a pretty fascinating origin story, rooted in the flourishing beer industry. 

Did you know that the United States produces approximately 191 billion barrels of beer per year? That translates into over 10 billion six packs of beer. The beer industry in the United States is huge, and it’s continuing to grow, especially with the increased popularity of craft beer in the last few years. This popularity helps explain why barley is one of the world’s largest food crops, in league with rice, corn, potatoes and wheat. If you’re surprised by this fact and are thinking that you don’t recall barley being such a popular dish, you’d be right. Most of the world’s barley crop is actually used for making beer! 

The thing is, only a liquid product of the barley (known as sweet liquor, produced from malt) is used to make beer. The “spent grain” (i.e. the leftovers) are considered food waste, and are destined for a landfill. Since spent grain makes up eighty-five percent of brewing waste, that’s an awful lot of waste. To give you a visual, the amount of spent grain left over from the U.S. brewing process is enough to fill 4.5 million dump trucks! Either that, or it can be upcycled into spent grain flour. 

The food product left over from the making of a six pack of beer makes a pound of spent grain - and six million TONS of spent grain are produced in the U.S. brewing process each year. That’s an awful lot of spent grain flour! And the carbs? They’re extracted during the brewing process and wind up in your favorite beer, leaving very little behind in the spent grain. 

Low Carb AND Low Carb-on Footprint (see what we did there?)

All joking aside, in addition to spent grain being utilized for the production of a super healthy, high protein, low carb, and keto friendly alternative flour, it has a minimal environmental impact to boot. Since spent grain flour is prepared from food waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill, it not only upcycles and reuses a product and reduces waste, but since no raw materials are used (think coconuts or almonds that have to be grown to produce almond or coconut flour), it’s eco friendly and incredibly sustainable.

If you’ve been following our blog posts, you’ve likely been educated on the nasty environmental impacts of some alternative flours. Spent grain provides a way for you to enjoy a good-for-you flour alternative and rest easy knowing it’s good for the environment too. In addition to being low carb, it’s also incredibly high in protein and fiber, two essential nutrients that most of us don’t get enough of. Our Barely Barley spent grain flour is made up of over 30% fiber and 70% protein, and is versatile enough to be incorporated in almost any meal. 

You Probably Need More Fiber in Your Diet, and Spent Grain Can Help

We’ve talked quite a bit about the importance of adequate protein, and the various benefits of a high protein and low carb diet. One topic we haven’t really covered much is the importance of fiber! You may think that a low carb diet naturally has to be low in fiber too, since grains are such a touted source of fiber. While it’s true that some low carb diets can be deficient in fiber, that doesn’t need to be the case. One really great way to add fiber to your diet, even if (especially if!) you follow a low carb lifestyle, is to add spent grain flour to your diet. 

But first, let’s talk about why getting an adequate amount of fiber in your diet is so very necessary. This article from discusses some of the benefits of fiber, and we’ll give you the quick-read version of some of the most important fiber facts here. 

First and foremost, fiber has an incredibly positive impact on your digestive health, including acting as food for the “good” bacteria in your gut. This beneficial bacteria is responsible for improved gut health and in turn, lowered systemic inflammation in the body. Interestingly, studies have shown that you have to consistently eat a high fiber diet in order to reap these benefits. 

In addition to being necessary for the maintenance of healthy gut bacteria, fiber helps you eliminate toxins from your digestive tract, both by binding to unhealthy compounds, and...well, “flushing” them out (pun totally intended) in the form of regular bowel movements. The impact that fiber has on your digestive system can likely explain its other benefits, such as lowering your risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and helping you lose (and keep off) excess weight.   

Now that you know a little more about spent grain and why you should add it to your diet, we hope you’ll check out some of the upcycled spent grain products on our website, and do just that!

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