While bulgur wheat may not always be your first grain of choice, it is surprisingly nutritional and has a number of health benefits, including its ability to improve digestion, stimulate growth and development, stimulate circulation, aid with sleep, prevent chronic disease, and protect the immune system, among others.
What is Bulgur Wheat?
It is unlikely that you will come across bulgur wheat outside the cuisine or national borders of the Middle East, India or Europe, but this variety of dried cracked wheat has many culinary applications in those areas. It is actually a mixture of the groats (hulled kernels) from different types of wheat that are found in those regions. This ingredient is very popular in side dishes, and is able to cook very quickly, which makes it a convenient and versatile food. If you are a fan of those cuisines, then you have likely experienced bulgur as an ingredient in taboulleh. Bulgur wheat can be made in many forms, including pasta, breads, and warm or cold grain salads.
While there are many varieties of cereal in the world, many of them come from refined wheat, which is then used to produce refined carbohydrate foods. These are good for your health, but they don’t compare to the raw, nutrient-packed nature of bulgur wheat. This varietal offers a higher concentration and wider variety of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber than refined wheats, making it even more beneficial for human health. Some of the key components of bulgur wheat include high levels of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, niacin, copper, phosphorous, manganese, fiber and dietary protein. There are also very few calories and fats, which can make this a very important food for people on a diet. When combined in the body, all of these valuable ingredients add up to a serious boost for your body.
Health Benefits of Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur wheat has many important benefits. So let us look at them in detail.
High levels of dietary fiber help to stimulate digestive processes in the body and prevent certain conditions, such as constipation, bloating, cramping and indigestion. This fiber can also improve the nutrient uptake efficiency in your gut, and improve your cholesterol balance by eliminating excess omega-6 fatty acids and buildup in the arteries. Bulgur wheat is significantly higher in fiber than many other common cereals.
With more complex carbohydrates than simple refined wheat and simple sugars, bulgur wheat is able to improve blood sugar levels in the body. By optimizing the release of insulin, it can help to prevent the spikes and plunges of blood sugar that can be so dangerous for people suffering from diabetes.
Builds Strong Bones
The comprehensive profile of minerals that can be found in bulgur wheat makes it important for many different organ systems, but it is particularly good for improving bone strength. As we age, bone mineral density naturally declines, so we need ample amounts of phosphorous, manganese, iron and phosphorous to keep our bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis. Bulgur wheat delivers these minerals in high concentrations, making this cereal a major bone-booster!
Protects the Heart
Aside from the effects that fiber has on the buildup of cholesterol in the heart, bulgur wheat can help cardiovascular health in other ways too. There is a significant amount of potassium in bulgur wheat, and this is a known vasodilator, which means that it can reduce the strain on blood vessels and arteries and lower blood pressure. For people who are at high risk of cardiovascular issues, bulgur wheat is a wise dietary choice that can keep that hypertension in check.
The broad range of vitamins and minerals found in bulgur wheat can have a serious impact on our immune system. Zinc, in particular, has been linked to a stronger immune response in the body, and bulgur wheat happens to have significant levels of this mineral in every serving – nearly 20% of the suggested daily intake.
Iron is a key mineral in our diet, because it has such a major impact on our circulatory system. Iron deficiency is called anemia, and can result in weakness, disorientation, fatigue and stomach disorders. This is because iron is a necessary component in red blood cells, and when our circulation decreases, so too do our energy levels. A standard serving of bulgur wheat has about 15% of the daily requirements for this mineral.
The low-calorie, low-fat nature of this cereal grain makes it ideal for people who are on a diet. Not only will the high fiber content of bulgur wheat make you feel more full, thus preventing overeating and between-meal snacking, but the contribution to your fat and calorie content will be very low.
Prevents Chronic Diseases
Grains and cereals aren’t commonly associated with having high antioxidant potential, but bulgur wheat does boast an antioxidant profile of phytonutrients that can help to eliminate inflammation and reduce the mutation of healthy cells, which is a precursor to cancer. Free radicals in the body stimulate oxidative stress in the body, and thus inflammation, which can lead to a number of other health issues.
Possessing all of the essential amino acids that our bodies need for growth and development, bulgur wheat is an excellent source of protein, which our bodies need to grow new tissues, cells, blood vessels, etc. If you are recovering from an injury or illness, having a high intake of complete proteins is essential for a fast recovery.
The impressive levels of magnesium found in bulgur wheat make it a great sleep aid, due to the effect that magnesium can have on the production of certain relaxing neurotransmitters. When your body releases these neurotransmitters, it calms the nervous system and soothes the mind, helping to deliver restful and extended periods of sleep. Those suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders should try bulgur wheat in their diet for a few weeks and will likely see a noticeable change.