Wheat is a grass widely cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain which is a worldwide staple food. The many species of wheat together make up the genus Triticum; the most widely grown is common wheat (T. aestivum).
The archaeological record suggests that wheat was first cultivated in the regions of the Fertile Crescent around 9600 BCE. Botanically, the wheat kernel is a type of fruit called a caryopsis.
Wheat is grown on more land area than any other food crop (220.4 million hectares, 2014). World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined. In 2016, world production of wheat was 749 million tonnes, making it the second most-produced cereal after maize. Since 1960, world production of wheat and other grain crops has tripled and is expected to grow further through the middle of the 21st century. Global demand for wheat is increasing due to the unique viscoelastic and adhesive properties of gluten proteins, which facilitate the production of processed foods, whose consumption is increasing as a result of the worldwide industrialization process and the westernization of the diet.
Wheat is an important source of carbohydrates. Globally, it is the leading source of vegetal protein in human food, having a protein content of about 13%, which is relatively high compared to other major cereals but relatively low in protein quality for supplying essential amino acids. When eaten as the whole grain, wheat is a source of multiple nutrients and dietary fiber.
In a small part of the general population, gluten – the major part of wheat protein – can trigger coeliac disease, noncoeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia, and dermatitis herpetiformis.
Raw wheat can be ground into flour or, using hard durum wheat only, can be ground into semolina; germinated and dried creating malt; crushed or cut into cracked wheat; parboiled (or steamed), dried, crushed and de-branned into bulgur also known as groats. If the raw wheat is broken into parts at the mill, as is usually done, the outer husk or bran can be used several ways. Wheat is a major ingredient in such foods as bread, porridge, crackers, biscuits, Muesli, pancakes, pies, pastries, cakes, cookies, muffins, rolls, doughnuts, gravy, beer, vodka, boza (a fermented beverage), and breakfast cereals.
In manufacturing wheat products, gluten is valuable to impart viscoelastic functional qualities in dough, enabling the preparation of diverse processed foods such as breads, noodles, and pasta that facilitate wheat consumption.
Wheat normally needs between 110 and 130 days between sowing and harvest, depending upon climate, seed type, and soil conditions (winter wheat lies dormant during a winter freeze). Optimal crop management requires that the farmer have a detailed understanding of each stage of development in the growing plants. In particular, spring fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and growth regulators are typically applied only at specific stages of plant development. For example, it is currently recommended that the second application of nitrogen is best done when the ear (not visible at this stage) is about 1 cm in size (Z31 on Zadoks scale). Knowledge of stages is also important to identify periods of higher risk from the climate. For example, pollen formation from the mother cell, and the stages between anthesis and maturity are susceptible to high temperatures, and this adverse effect is made worse by water stress. Farmers also benefit from knowing when the ‘flag leaf’ (last leaf) appears, as this leaf represents about 75% of photosynthesis reactions during the grain filling period, and so should be preserved from disease or insect attacks to ensure a good yield.
Several systems exist to identify crop stages, with the Feekes and Zadoks scales being the most widely used. Each scale is a standard system which describes successive stages reached by the crop during the agricultural season.
In 100 grams, wheat provides 327 calories and is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of multiple essential nutrients, such as protein, dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus and niacin (table). Several B vitamins and other dietary minerals are in significant content. Wheat is 13% water, 71% carbohydrates, and 1.5% fat. Its 13% protein content is mostly gluten (75-80% of the protein in wheat).
Wheat proteins have a low quality for human nutrition, according to the new protein quality method (DIAAS) promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization. Though they contain adequate amounts of the other essential amino acids, at least for adults, wheat proteins are deficient in the essential amino acid, lysine. Because the proteins present in the wheat endosperm (gluten proteins) are particularly poor in lysine, white flours are more deficient in lysine compared with whole grains. Significant efforts in plant breeding are being made to develop lysine-rich wheat varieties, without success as of 2017. Supplementation with proteins from other food sources (mainly legumes) is commonly used to compensate for this deficiency, since the limitation of a single essential amino acid causes the others to break down and become excreted, which is especially important during the period of growth.
- The different kinds of processed flour include:
1. All-purpose flour
2. Bread flour
3. Cake flour
4. Self-rising flour
5. Durum flour
29 Amazing Benefits
1. Controls Obesity
Wheat, a whole grain, has a natural ability to control weight, but this ability is more pronounced among women. Women who consumed whole grain products over long periods showed considerably more weight loss than others. Also, 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.
2. Increases Energy
Whole wheat with its vitamin B content helps provide the body with energy. Moreover, the whole grain contains complex carbohydrates, which keeps you feeling full longer and gives you energy over a longer period of time.
Prevents Metabolic Disorders
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. Intake of whole grain products protects against these conditions.
Also, research showed that a higher intake of whole grains (about three servings per day) was associated with lower BMI and central adiposity.
3. Prevents Type 2 Diabetes
Wheat is rich in magnesium 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. Moreover, regular consumption of whole grains 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.
4. Reduces Chronic Inflammation
The betaine content of wheat prevents chronic inflammation, a key constituent in rheumatic pains and diseases. Its anti-inflammatory property reduces the risk of other ailments like osteoporosis, heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, and type-2 diabetes.
5. Prevents 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. In various surveys by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, it has been proven that whole grain bread and cereals help prevent gallstones.
6. Improves Metabolism
The fiber in whole wheat products boosts the digestive process in the body and improve the overall metabolism. Doctors recommend eating whole grain bread and other fiber-rich foods. Research has shown that foods made from refined grains not only tend to increase weight but also increase the hazards of insulin resistance.
7. High in Fiber
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. This grain is the most popular and easily available bulk laxative.
Also, 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 grains on a regular basis.
8. Prevents Breast Cancer
Wheat acts as an anti-carcinogenic agent, particularly in women. Studies say that around 30 grams consumed daily are enough for women to reduce the risks of breast cancer.Reports prove that pre-menopausal women who consumed it had a 41% reduced risk of breast cancer in comparison to others who ate other forms of fiber. Furthermore, research at the UK Women’s Cohort Study found that a fiber-rich diet, with whole grains and fruits, is extremely important for women to keep breast cancer at bay.
9. Promotes Women’s Health
Whole wheat increases energy levels and vitality in women. The long-term Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study showed that the increased consumption of whole grain boosted their energy levels and prevented weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and kept their BMI levels low. The study also showed that women who ate more whole grains were likely to have a healthier diet and a higher intake of fruits and vegetables. Stone-ground whole grain products contain folate and vitamin B, which helps reduce pregnancy and breastfeeding problems.
10. Prevents Colon Cancer
Wheat bran considerably reduces bile acid secretion and bacterial enzymes in the stool, thereby cutting down chances of colon cancer. Furthermore, the grain 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 cancer.
11. Prevents Childhood Asthma
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%. Also, 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 whole grains and fish in high amounts do not suffer from such ailments, as these foods have a high amount of magnesium and vitamin E.
12. Relieves Postmenopausal Symptoms
Higher intake of unrefined wheat products can help increase the fiber and protein content in the diets in postmenopausal women. This helps in weight management, hormone balance, and relieves postmenopausal symptoms. The lignans content can help prevent postmenopausal cancer.
13. Liver Detox
Sprouted wheat berries are excellent sources of antioxidants and high fiber, which helps detoxify the liver. The liver is one of the largest internal organs in the body, and keeping the liver healthy helps remove toxins regularly from the body.
14. Prevents Heart Attacks
Whole wheat is rich in plant lignans called enterolactone, which protects against heart diseases. A Danish journal published a study that showed that women eating whole grains had considerably higher blood levels of this defensive lignan. Furthermore, whole grain wheat products, which are high in dietary fiber, considerably reduce blood pressure levels and lessen the possibility of a heart attack. A high intake of this grain lowers triglycerides or fat in the blood. This slows down the progression of atherosclerosis and stroke.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal also concluded that people who do not have gluten sensitivity should not avoid such products. Following a gluten-free diet, as a fad could lower the overall consumption of whole grains, which leads to an increased risk of heart disease.
15. Improves Gut Health
Wheat bran has a prebiotic effect on the human gut microbiota due to its high level of fiber. It helps feed the ‘good’ bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, which improves digestion and increase nutrient uptake in the body. Also, bulgur, a form of this grain, is a great source of resistant starch. It does not get digested in the small intestine, and thus becomes food for gut flora.
16. Skin Health
Selenium, vitamin E, and zinc in wheat help nourish the skin, fight acne, prevent sun damage, and help prevent skin cancer. Also, the high fiber content keeps the digestive system at its optimal best, which helps remove toxins regularly. This, in turn, helps keep the skin smooth and youthful.
17. Hair Care
Zinc in wheat helps promote healthy hair and protects the hair from damages caused by environmental factors.
18. Eye Health
Vitamin E, niacin, and zinc in whole wheat lower the risk of macular and cataract degeneration. Lutein in the unrefined grain helps improve eye health.
19. Prevents Alzheimer’s
Iron, folate, vitamins B and E, in wheat support serotonin production and increase energy levels. This helps prevent mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s, alleviate depression, enhance mood and increase overall wellness.
Note: However, in some cases, wheat consumption may be harmful to asthma patients, since it 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.