Wheat is the most commonly used and vitally important staple grain worldwide. It is used to make a variety of popular food products such as bread, pasta, cereals, bagels, cakes and muffins. wheat, in its natural unrefined state, contains an array of important nutrients that boost health and protect against disease.
Ibn al-Qayyim in his Prophetic Medicine said regarding wheat that "the best bread is made from fresh wheat (hinta)", and "the most nutritious type is bread made from semolina flour being the slowest to digest because of the small amount of bran."
Wheat is a grass that contains an edible kernel or "berry", and some of the products derived from whole wheat include bulgur, durum (used to make semolina and pasta), cracked wheat, wheat berries, wheat germ and wheat bran. To be classed as "whole wheat", the entire grain must be ground with all parts intact- the germ, the endosperm, and bran.
Wheat not only contains a significant amount of protein, it provides energy, B vitamins and minerals, but does not contain vitamins A, C or B12.
In comparison to processed wheat, whole wheat has significantly higher antioxidants, including phenolics and lectins. These have been found in human case studies to resist digestion and bind to cancer cell membranes, inhibiting tumor growth and causing apoptosis (programmed cell death).
wheatgerm is found inside the wheat grain, and is a tiny seed that is left behind when white flour is milled. This seed is rich in essential nutrients such as the antioxidant Vitamin E, which helps to detoxify the body by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Wheatgerm is also an excellent source of a range of B vitamins, needed by the body's cells to fight disease as well as to maintain healthy nerves. Like other whole wheat products, it is a very high fiber food, so it helps to ensure an efficient digestive system, and boosts energy levels without causing an energy spike and slump. Wholemeal bread and flour contain wheatgerm, but it is missing from white bread and standard baking products, which is why these provide a quick energy rush followed by a slump.
Eating whole grains is associated with longevity and lower risk of many types of disease in women.
A study of rheumatoid arthritis patients who were given a fermented wheat grain extract in addition to their conventional drug therapies found significant improvement compared to steroid use alone.
Analysis revealed an inverse relationship between whole grain consumption and colorectal, gastric, and endometrial cancers.
People who consume at least three servings a day of whole grain foods are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes that those who consume less. In a study of nearly 3,000 adults, whole grain consumption was associated with lower cholesterol levels and improved insulin sensitivity. Fasting insulin was ten percent lower when whole grains were consumed versus when refined grains were eaten.
According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who consumed the most whole grain foods had a lower body mass index (BMI).
Tips on Using Wheat
- Wheat is generally classified as being either spring or winter wheat. Within these two groups, the wheat can be further defined as being either hard or soft, depending upon the grain's texture. Hard wheat is usually high in protein whilst soft wheat has a lower protein content. Another variety of wheat is durum, which is used to make semolina flour for pasta.
- For maximum health benefits, choose whole wheat products whenever possible, rather than those that are refined and stripped of their natural goodness. These include whole wheat bread, flour and pasta.
- Wheat berries can be sprouted and used in salads.
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- Balint, G., Apathy, A., Gaal, M., et al. (2000, May-June). Effect of Avemar--a fermented wheat germ extract--on rheumatoid arthritis. Preliminary data. Clin Exp Rheumatol, 24(3), 325-328.
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- Jenkins DJA, Kendall CWC, Augustin LSA, et al. Effect of wheat bran on glycemic control and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetes. diabetes Care. 2002;25:1522-28.