Wheat is the most common cereal available all over the world and is in higher demand in recent years due to its abundant health benefits. It originated in Southwestern Asia, but today it is grown in countless countries. Commonly, wheat cultivation is done at higher latitudes and it is primarily used for baking products.
Wheat is believed to be one of the most wholesome food items, and it ensures a diet rich in nutrients. It considerably lowers the hazards of heart diseases, owing to its comparatively low-fat content. It also regulates the blood glucose levels in diabetics.
Wheat is an immense energy source through all parts of the grain kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. The nutrients in it are retained even after processing it into flour. However, if you wish to get the maximum benefit out of wheat products, it’s advisable to choose products that are made from whole-wheat flour rather than the refined varieties.
Types of Wheat
The health benefits of wheat greatly depend on the form in which you consume it.
While whole wheat is extremely nutritious, the benefits are reduced if you eat bleached white flour, which is obtained by processing after only 60% extraction from the grain.
In the United States, most wheat products undergo 60% extraction; you see this in noodles, bread, and pasta, as well as in baked goods like rolls, biscuits, and cookies.
In these foods, 40% of the original wheat grain is removed, and you get only the remaining 60%. Usually, the 40% that is removed – the outer brown layer – contains the highly nutritious bran and the germ of the wheat grain. In the process of making 60% abstraction flour, more than half of the vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, folic acid, copper, zinc, iron, and fiber are lost.
If you buy 100% whole wheat products, you are assured of all the nutrients of the bran and the germ, as well as the endosperm. Low-carb diets and an increase in the whole wheat cereal market are prevalent around the world, especially in the Mediterranean.
Just like in whole wheat, wheat germ is a rich source of nutrients. Wheat germ has an abundance of vitamins and minerals, and is particularly rich in vitamin E. Wheat germ is known to be the main source of the vitamin B complex in dietary structures throughout the world and includes vitamins like thiamin, folic acid, vitamin B6, and minerals like manganese, magnesium, and zinc. The wheat germ oil improves strength and increases lifespan.
Nutritional Value of Wheat
Wheat is rich in catalytic elements, mineral salts, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, chlorine, arsenic, silicon, manganese, zinc, iodide, copper, vitamin B, and vitamin E. This wealth of nutrients is why it is often used as a cultural base or foundation of nourishment. Issues like anemia, mineral deficiencies, gallstones, breast cancer, chronic inflammation, obesity, asthenia, tuberculosis, pregnancy and breastfeeding problems are quickly improved by consuming whole wheat. It is also recommended to treat sterility. Since germinated wheat comprises 2 or 3 times more vitamin B than the common kind; the seeds are used for treating gastrointestinal conditions, skin diseases, respiratory illnesses, and cardiovascular ailments. It is also known to balance cholesterol levels and protect the heart.
Health Benefits of Wheat
This cereal is a rich source of various nutrients and provides many benefits. Let us look at its benefits in detail:
Wheat has a natural ability to control weight, but this ability is more pronounced among women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown through research that whole wheat, rather than its refined form, is a good choice for obese patients. Women who consumed whole wheat products over long periods showed considerably more weight loss than others.
Saturated and trans fats increase the chances of cardiovascular diseases, while omega-3 fats decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Whole grains like wheat are immensely effective in patients with metabolic disorders. Common types of metabolic syndromes include visceral obesity, also known as the “pear-shaped” body, high triglycerides, low levels of protective HDL cholesterol, and a high blood pressure. It protects against all of these conditions. Research has shown that foods made from refined grains not only tend to increase weight but also increase the hazards of insulin resistance. Doctors recommend eating whole wheat bread and other fiber-rich foods. The majority of fiber works to help the digestive process in the body and improve the overall metabolism. Having a whole wheat diet is probably the most effective, quick, and enjoyable way to reduce metabolic syndrome, and also to stay slim and healthy throughout life.
Prevents Type 2 Diabetes
Wheat is rich in magnesium, which is a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes. These enzymes are involved in the body’s functional use of insulin and glucose secretion. The FDA permits foods that contain whole grain by at least 51% weight and are also low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which means a lower risk of coronary ailments and certain types of cancer. Moreover, regular consumption of whole grain wheat promotes healthy blood sugar control. People who suffer from diabetes are able to keep their sugar levels under control by replacing rice with wheat in their diet.
Reduces Chronic Inflammation
The betaine content of wheat is what aids in the prevention of chronic inflammation. Betaine is also found in beets and spinach. Inflammation is a key constituent in most types of rheumatic pains and also some rheumatic diseases. Thus, it is a good idea to eat a healthy amount of whole wheat food products that will actively reduce inflammation. Consumption of betaine affects a number of aspects of our body that assures a lower risk of chronic inflammation and other ailments like osteoporosis, heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, and type-2 diabetes.
In various surveys by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, it has been proven that bread and cereals made from whole wheat help women avoid gallstones. Since whole wheat is rich in insoluble fiber, it assures a quick and smooth intestinal transit time and lowers the secretion of bile acids. Excessive bile acids are a major cause of gallstone formation. Moreover, a high intake of wheat increases insulin sensitivity and thereby lowers triglycerides or fat in the blood. Besides, you also get insoluble fiber from the edible skin of fruits and certain vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and squash, berries, apples, and pears. Beans also provide both, insoluble and soluble fiber.
Assures a Healthy Lifestyle
Wheat is the most popular and easily available bulk laxative. Three cups of wheat consumption per day is enough for an individual to live a long, healthy, and disease-free life. When you maintain a fiber-rich diet comprising wheat bread and cereals that are high in bran, you can be confident that problems such as flatulence, nausea, constipation, and distension will be alleviated in no time. Diverticulitis often occurs due to inflammation and lower intestinal aches. This can also lead to chronic constipation and unnecessary straining, which can result in a sac or a pouch in the wall of the colon. Such cases can be easily dealt with naturally by keeping up with a fiber-rich diet and including whole grain wheat on a regular basis.
Promotes Women’s Health
Benefits of wheat bran are bountiful, and promoting overall women’s health is yet another important role of this cereal variety. Wheat acts as an anti-carcinogenic agent, particularly in women. Wheat bran enhances the metabolic rate of estrogen, which often leads to breast cancer if left at an excessive level. In one survey of pre-menopausal women in the age group of twenty to fifty, they ate three to four high-fiber muffins per day made from wheat, and they showed reduced blood estrogen levels by 17% in only 2 months. The other group of women eating corn bran did not show this result.
Wheat contains lignans, which are phytonutrients that act like hormones. The lignans often occupy the hormone receptors in our body, thereby alleviating certain risk factors for breast cancer. This effectively checks the high circulating levels of estrogen. Wheat increases the metabolic rate of estrogen production and protects women against this key factor of cancer. Wheat bran considerably reduces bile acid secretion and bacterial enzymes in the stool, thereby cutting down chances of colon cancer. If you include bread, pasta, and bran cereals in your daily diet, these ailments will be avoided.
Prevents Breast Cancer
Research at the UK Women’s Cohort Study found that a fiber-rich diet is extremely important for women to keep breast cancer at bay. Foods like wheat and fruits provide significant safeguards for pre-menopausal women against breast cancer. Studies say that around 30 grams of wheat consumed daily is enough for women to reduce the risks of breast cancer. Reports prove that pre-menopausal women who consumed wheat had a 41% reduced risk of breast cancer in comparison to others who ate other forms of fiber.
Prevents Childhood Asthma
The American Lung Association says that around 20 million Americans experience some form of asthma. Studies have stated that whole grains and fish in the diet can lower the chances of childhood asthma to a great extent. The International Study on Allergy and Asthma in Childhood proved through numerous studies that a wheat-based diet has the capacity to lower chances of developing asthma by almost 50%. During the survey, wheat diet was increased considerably and the mothers were given special diets high in fish and whole grains; this showed almost 66% reduction in the possibility of becoming asthmatic.
Bronchial hyperresponsiveness is the key factor that encourages asthma. This condition is characterized by the narrowing of the airways and increased sensitivity. In many surveys, it has been seen that children who eat wheat and fish in high amounts do not suffer from such ailments. The magnesium and vitamin E in it also contribute to reducing the problem of asthma. However, in some cases, wheat consumption may be harmful to asthma patients, since wheat also happens to be a food allergen closely linked to asthma. Consult a doctor who can give you a complete examination and diagnosis of possible allergies you may have.
Protects Against Coronary Diseases
Plant lignans, a type of phytonutrient, is abundant in whole wheat. These lignans are converted by responsive flora in the human intestines into mammalian lignans. One of these lignans is called enterolactone, which protects against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers, as well as heart diseases. Wheat is not the only source of lignans; nuts, seeds, and berries are also rich sources of plant lignans, as well as various vegetables, fruits, and beverages like coffee, tea, and wine. A Danish journal published in a recent article that women eating whole grains were found to have considerably higher blood levels of this defensive lignan.
Relieves Postmenopausal Symptoms
Whole wheat is supposed to be a primary element in the diet of a post-menopausal woman so as to avoid any kind of cardiovascular problems. Daily intake of this whole grain cereal is the best way to avoid such ailments. Doctors prescribe a high wheat intake diet for women who are dealing with conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other signs of cardiovascular syndromes. A survey has concluded that this kind of diet slows down the progression of atherosclerosis, which is the building of plaque in the arteries and blood vessels, as well as fighting the occurrence of heart attack and stroke.
Prevents Heart Attack
In the United States, heart failure is the prime cause of hospitalization and death of elderly people. The pharmaceutical drugs have been successful in certain cases, but natural remedies work much faster and with less of an impact on the rest of the body’s systems. Hospitals use ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers, but the long-term effects are not yet clear. Whole grain products and dietary fiber have been shown to considerably reduce blood pressure levels, thereby checking the possibility of a heart attack. Of course, confounding factors like age, alcohol consumption, smoking, exercise and proper nutrition are equally important. Ample vitamins, vegetables, and fruits are extremely important in such cases as well. The start of your day can be both healthy and tasty with a daily bowl of whole grain cereal. There are various forms in which you can serve wheat like bread, puddings, and a variety of baked goods.
Word of Caution: There are some limitations to wheat consumption as well. If you are susceptible to allergic reactions, whole wheat consumption can enhance your allergies, such as hives, itching, skin rash, and eczema. Thus, it is advised to check with your physician to be sure that you are not allergic. Whole wheat contains oxalates, which are the naturally-occurring substances in animals, plants, and human beings. However, too much oxalate in bodily fluids can lead to crystallization, thereby causing health problems like gallstones, kidney stones, and gout.
How to Cook Wheat?
You can consume wheat in a host of ways, some of the easiest and tasty ones being in the form of sandwiches and bread. Wheat flakes in breakfast are undoubtedly a delicious and appetizing choice for your morning meal, and you can also use sprouted wheat berries in vegetables and various kinds of grain salads. Opt for whole wheat pita bread for your pizza crust, and if you are a pasta lover, make sure that it is whole wheat pasta. You can find it in different forms like spaghetti, spirals, and penne. In India, it is consumed in the form of bread called roti or chapatti.