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What is Sustagrain?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sustagrain is a patented form of barley developed for the company ConAgra at the University of Montana. It is called a Functional Food, which is defined as a food that has been tested and has demonstrated health benefits to the consumer. In addition to being a "functional food," foods like sustagrain are still palatable to the consumer, making them attractive products for the health conscious.

Sustagrain differs from traditional barley because of its high fiber content. It is composed of approximately 30% dietary fiber. It is also high in beta-glucan, which reduces the amount of sugars in the body. When people eat high glucose foods, they can be subject to a rapid increase in body sugars that can be dangerous for those with diabetes. Finding carbohydrates like sustagrain that are high in beta-glucan, as opposed to traditional wheat which is relatively low in beta-glucan, can help a diabetic regulate their intake of dietary sugars.

ConAgra is working to educate those who work with diabetics, like dietitians, on the benefits of sustagrain, since it appeals to the palate as well as being a healthy alternative to more traditional flours. It is also appealing for those who suffer from Celiac disease, a condition that makes people ill when they ingest wheat gluten. Sustagrain may end up being a good substitute for those with Celiac Disease because of its relatively low gluten content.

Sustagrain is currently unavailable to consumers, but is offered to companies as a food substitute for flours. Executives at ConAgra do not release information regarding the companies that currently use sustagrain. Yet they are excited about the development of this product as a replacement that can increase the health value of foods. It may be used for nearly anything, from smoothies or rice pilaf, to boost the nutritional value of a food product.

Some who are health conscious worry about a food that is created as the result of laboratory science. Such people point to other grains like amaranth and quinoa as better substitutes for wheat than sustagrain. Yet the applications of sustagrain are much greater than those of amaranth or quinoa, so use in products is more varied than with these more traditional grains. Initial studies on the product do not suggest that ingesting sustagrain is in any way dangerous, and point instead to it being of great value as a substitution food.

ConAgra has had great success with a similar product, ultragrain, which is whole-wheat flour with the taste and lightness of white flour. Success of sustagrain will depend upon consumer satisfaction with its substitution in a variety of products.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By CapitalM — On Jan 07, 2016

@anon356029: You only eat "real food, the way God made it"? Do you eat tomatoes? Corn? Apples? Cauliflower? Are you aware that all of these are "GMO"s? And I don't mean just some types - any variety that you have ever eaten in your life. Learn about what you're saying before you say it. Alternatively, have fun spending the rest of your life eating tree bark, the way "god" made it.

By anon960727 — On Jul 12, 2014

I found Sustagrain listed as ingredient of Sunrise Energy Bars which I bought and liked. I noticed my energy was better for the next three to four hours (something I’m sensitive to because I suffer from a medical condition that causes fatigue). So I appreciated feeling better, and understanding why that might be from this description page.

However, I also noticed abdominal nerve sensitivity and/or pain from four to eight hours afterward and wonder if there’s a connection. This page also strikes me as carefully talking around the terms “genetically modified organism” or “GMO”.

By anon934761 — On Feb 21, 2014

I purchased sunrise energy bars, because thought they are healthy but my stomach has been killing me ever since. I am throwing them away.

By anon356029 — On Nov 21, 2013

So, this is a genetically engineered product? I bought the sunrise energy bars with sustigrain barley flour from Cosco. I won't be buying that anymore. I only eat real food, the way God made it.

By anon324821 — On Mar 12, 2013

I think what the health conscious people are wondering is if this is a GMO - a genetically modified organism. That is what I would like to know, because if it isn't made by the Earth (or hybridized by the Earth), then you can bet it is a poisonous GMO.

Since it (GMO) was not mentioned (in the health conscious sentence), it probably is genetically modified. So, for the health conscious (aware) people, you should come right out and say so. Say it is or it isn't. Be truthful, be open.

By anon22441 — On Dec 03, 2008

King Arthur used to carry steel-cut sustagrain barley, but doesn't anymore. Anywhere else to purchase steel cut or whole sustagrain barley? I prefer it to the higher processed flakes or flour.

By anon20010 — On Oct 23, 2008

Actually Sustagrain is available to consumers, it can be purchased through King Arthur's website. You can purchase both the flour and the flaked version of Sustagrain in 2 lb bags.

By anon7383 — On Jan 25, 2008

Sustagrain Barley is currently available to consumers through the King Arthur Flour catalog.

Flakes: 2# bag $6.50 Makes insanely good porridge

Flour: 2# Bag also $6.50 use with whole wheat flour to lower gluten for many baked goods.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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