This is the most important cereal crop in the world and ubiquitous in the food culture of North America and many other regions of the world.
Bread, pasta, bagels, crackers, cakes, and muffins just begin to describe the list of foods made with this grain.
In its' natural unrefined state, this super grain features a host of important nutrients.
Therefore, to receive benefit from the wholesomeness, it's important to choose products made from whole-flour rather than those that are refined and stripped of their natural goodness.
The Whole Truth
The health benefits of this super grain depend entirely on the form in which you eat it.
These benefits will be few if you select that which has been processed into 60% extraction, bleached white flour.
60% extraction, the standard for most of these grain-products in the United States, including breads, noodles and pastas, baked goods like rolls or biscuits and cookies, means that 40% of the original grain was removed and only 60% is left.
Unfortunately, the 40% that gets removed includes the bran and the germ of the super grain, its' most nutrient-rich parts.
In the process of making 60% extraction flour, over half of the vitamin-B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron and fiber are lost.
Since 1941, laws in the United States have required "enrichment" of processed wheat-flour with vitamins-B1, B2, B3 and iron in response to the problems created by the 60% extraction.
Since not nearly as much of these B-vitamins and iron are replaced as are removed from 60% extraction flour, "enriched" seems an odd word to describe this process.
If you select 100% whole-wheat products, however, the bran and the germ will remain in your meals and the health benefits will be impressive!
Our food ranking, qualified whole-wheat (in its original non-enriched form) as a very good source of dietary fiber and manganese and as a good source of magnesium.
Gets You Going
The bran is a popular bulk laxative.
A third of a cup per day is all that's needed.
Research studies support this popular practice.
A fiber-rich diet, primarily composed of whole-wheat breads, cereals high in bran and supplemental "millers bran" was shown to alleviate the symptoms of diverticular disease (pain, nausea, flatulence, distension, constipation, etc.) in 89 percent of patients enrolled in a study which examined the effects of fiber on bowel regularity.
Diverticular disease, a condition often marked by inflammation and lower abdominal pains in which chronic constipation and excessive straining results in a sac or pouch in the wall of the colon, is typically treated with dietary roughage such as cereal fiber (i.e., bran), fruit and vegetable fiber and plenty of fluids.
Promotes Women's Health & Gastrointestinal Health
The benefits of the bran portion doesn't stop here; it's also been shown to function as an anti-cancer agent.
This super grain is thought to accelerate the metabolism of estrogen that is a known promoter of breast cancer.
In one study, pre-menopausal women, ages twenty to fifty, who ate three to four high fiber muffins per day, decreased their blood estrogen levels by 17 percent after two months.
The women eating corn bran or oat bran did not show the same benefits.
Interestingly, whole grains such as this, also contain lignans, which are phytonutrients that act as weak hormone-like substances.
Lignans occupy the hormone receptors in the body, thus actively protecting the breast against high circulating levels of hormones such as estrogen.
By accelerating the metabolism of estrogen and occupying estrogen receptors in the body, the components appear to have a dual function in protecting women against one of the leading causes of cancer death.
The fact that only wheat-bran and not corn or oat-bran, is beneficial in preventing cancer-promoting changes in the colon, provides additional clues that this super grain contains something special that makes it a true cancer fighter.
Only the bran has been shown to reduce the concentration of bile acids and bacterial enzymes in the stool that are believed to promote colon cancer.
The protective dose for colon cancer may be more than 28 grams a day, since men who ate this amount had only one-third the rate of colon polyps (precancerous tumors) compared to those who ate only 17 grams/day.
The amount needed for protection from other cancers is still unknown, but based on the health benefits of this super food, it may be wise, if you're not sensitive to this grain or gluten, to include several servings of whole-grain foods such as bread, pasta and bran cereals every day in your diet.
Significant Cardiovascular Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
Eating a serving of whole grains, such as this one, at least 6 times each week is an especially good idea for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
A 3-year prospective study of 229 postmenopausal women with CVD, published in the American Heart Journal, shows that those eating at least 6 servings of whole grains each week experienced both:
Slowed progression of atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque that narrows the vessels through which blood flows, and less progression in stenosis, the narrowing of the diameter of arterial passageways.
A "Germ" that Promotes Health
The bran is not the only star when it comes to the health benefits of this super grain; wheat-germ definitely deserves its "health food" reputation.
The germ is the vitamin and mineral rich embryo of the kernel that is removed during the refining of grains to white flour.
Packed with important B-vitamins, such as folate, thiamin, and vitamin-B6, and the minerals zinc, magnesium and manganese, wheat-germ is a top-notch food that can be easily incorporated into casseroles, muffins and pancakes or sprinkled over cereal or yogurt.
The germ also has a high oil content and subsequently a high amount of vitamin-E, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the oil in the wheat-germ from quickly becoming rancid.
Vitamin-E functions in a similar manner as a fat-soluble antioxidant in the human body where it helps protect fat-containing substances including cell membranes, brain cells and fatty molecules such as cholesterol from damage by free radicals.
Fats and cholesterol are very susceptible to free radical damage, a process that occurs when they;re exposed to oxygen.
When damaged, fats and cholesterol form toxic derivatives that, if left unchecked, can damage the structures of which they are a part and in the case of cholesterol, contribute to the formation of atherosclerosis, a form of coronary artery disease.
Vitamin-E, when present in sufficient quantities, readily blocks these toxic derivatives.
Vitamin-E not only protects fats, cholesterol and all cell membranes from damage, it's also important for immune system function, cancer prevention and blood glucose control in both healthy and diabetic individuals.
Sourdough Bread ~ a Better Source of Minerals
Choose sourdough for the best nutrition among commercially baked breads, suggests a study published in the journal Nutrition.
This animal study compared mineral absorption from different breads: reconstituted whole-wheat flour (white flour plus bran, a typical formulation), yeast bread and sourdough bread.
Of all three breads, not only was the content of phytate, which prevents absorption of calcium, lower in sourdough, but the absorption of iron, zinc, and copper was enhanced.
Another study, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology showed that sourdough bread fermented with the help of selected Lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time was fairly well tolerated by a group of 17 persons previously diagnosed with celiac disease.
Although the purpose of this study was to help develop a prototype product that might be tolerated by persons with wheat sensitivity, the results of this study seem promising for future attempts to prepare this grain in a natural way that may improve its tolerability.
An Ancient Grain
Thought to have originated in southwestern Asia, it's been consumed as a food for more than 12,000 years.
As it was looked upon as the "Staff of Life", it played an important role of religious significance and was part of the sacred rituals of many cultures.
Greek, Roman, Sumerian and Finnish mythology had gods and goddesses of this super grain.
This exceptionally nutritious super grain is still considered to be sacred in some areas of China.
This grain is not native to the Western Hemisphere and was only introduced here in the late 15th century when Columbus came to the New World.
While it was grown in the United States during the early colonial years, it wasn't until the late 19th century that cultivation flourished, owing to the importation of an especially hardy strain known as Turkey red-wheat, which was brought over by Russian immigrants who settled in Kansas.
As rice has been the dietary staple of Asia, this grain has served this role for many of other regions of the world.
It's estimated that approximately one-third of the world's people depend upon this super grain for their nourishment.
Today, the largest commercial producers include the Russian Federation, the United States, China, India, France and Canada.
How to Select & Store
Wheat-flour, berries and bulgur are generally available pre-packaged as well as in bulk containers.
Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure their maximal freshness.
Whether purchasing these products in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there's no evidence of moisture present.
Look for the germ that is packaged in sealed containers (especially those that are vacuum packaged) as they'll be more protected from potential oxidation and rancidity.
The berries should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place.
The optimal way to store these super grain products such as flour, bulgur, bran and germ is in an airtight container in the refrigerator as the cooler temperature will help to prevent them from becoming rancid.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Use whole-wheat bread when you make sandwiches.
The flakes look similar to rolled oats and can be prepared as a hot breakfast cereal.
Use sprouted wheat-berries in vegetable and grain salads.
Make individual pizzas using whole-wheat pita breads as the crust.
Whole-wheat pasta has become very popular and is available in many different types (e.g., spaghetti, spirals, penne, etc.) to suit your recipe needs.
The following is a great recipe that's sure to please.
Wheat Berry Salad
Whole wheat berries are a tasty addition to any salad.
The berries are unprocessed, whole kernels that have a nutty flavor and chewy texture.
They're great in soups and salads or topped with stir-fried vegetables.
Makes 4 Servings
Prep: 15 min.
Cook: 3 hr.
Total: 3 hr. 15 min.
1/2 c. wheat berries
2 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
10 asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
juice of 2 limes
2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 can (15 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained
1 can (2.5 oz.) sliced black olives, drained
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 english (seedless)cucumber, chopped
1. Soak the wheat berries in the water overnight.
Bring the berries, water, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.
Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, or until tender.
Drain any remaining liquid.
2. Place the asparagus in a bowl with a splash of water and cover with vented plastic wrap.
Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes.
Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
3. Whisk together the lime juice, mustard, pepper, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.
Add the artichokes, olives, tomato, cucumber, wheat berries, and asparagus, tossing to coat well.
Chill at least 2 hours before serving.
Fat 1.6 g.
Saturated Fat 0.2 g.
Cholesterol 0 mg.
Sodium 783.6 mg.
Carbohydrates 31.2 g.
Total Sugars 2.6 g.
Dietary Fiber 7.5 g.
Protein 7.1 g.Tweet
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