Wheat is a popular, ancient grain that has been consumed as staple food for many all over the world. The genus name for wheat, from which all wheat species are derived, is Triticum. It originated in southwestern Asia, but today it is grown in many countries. Generally, wheat cultivation is done at higher latitudes. Wheat is primarily used for baking bread products such as bread, pasta, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, noodles, just to mention a few common examples of wheat sources. It is made up of a fibre-rich outer layer (vitamins and minerals contents that are useful for digestion and various body functions); the bran( an excellent source of fibre); the germ (a source of protein, vitamins and minerals) and the endosperm (which aids in the supply of carbohydrates, mainly in the form of starch).
The health benefits of wheat depend on the way by which one consumes it. During the milling process, the bran and the germ are often removed to give a ‘whiter’ cereal. However, if you wish to get the maximum benefit out of wheat products, it is advisable to choose wheat products that are made from whole-wheat grains rather than the refined varieties.
“Whole” wheat grains are nutrient dense and pass on lots of vitamins and minerals into the body. It contains lots of dietary fibre, which is a toxin trapper. It provides essential fatty acids (omega 3); proteins ; vitamins like vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, folic acid; minerals like calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, selenium; antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals. Studies have shown that whole wheat grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.
Wheat often has a low glycaemic index (GI). This makes it possible to release carbohydrate into the blood which, combined with fibre, may help make one feel fuller for a long time – helping to control appetite. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a research has shown that, consumption of whole wheat rather than refined wheat is a good choice for obese patients especially women.
Studies have also shown that wheat, help balance cholesterol levels and protects the heart, prevents stroke and type 2 diabetes may be up to 30% as part of a low-fat diet and healthy lifestyle. Consequently, the risk of developing some forms of cancer of the digestive system like bowel cancer may be reduced with higher intake of these wholegrains. The insoluble fibre in wheat moves food along more quickly and easily, reducing the time that damaging substances are in contact with the gut wall. The soluble fibre however, provides a food source for ‘friendly’ gut bacteria, helping them to increase and produce substances which are thought to protect the gut wall, such as short-chain fatty acids.
Wheat is rich in catalytic elements such as calcium, magnesium manganese, potassium, mineral salts, arsenic, silicon, zinc, vitamin B and vitamin E. This is why issues like sterility problems, anemia, mineral deficiencies, gallstones, breast cancer, chronic inflammation, tuberculosis, pregnancy problems and breast feeding problems are all tackled by simply consuming wheat. The seeds are useful for treating gastrointestinal conditions, skin diseases and respiratory illnesses.
It is vital to replace refined wheat products with wholegrain varieties such as whole¬meal bread and brown rice. To purchase wholegrain products however, look out for the word ‘whole’ before the name of the cereal e.g. wholewheat pasta, whole oats and make sure they are high up/first in the ingredients list. Multigrain is not the same as wholegrain, it means that the product c o n t a i n s more than one different type of grain. Most of us eat too few whole grains to get the health benefits from the whole range of nutrients they contain as we tend to eat more refined cereals.