Wheat is the staple food in many parts of the world, particularly in North America and the rest of the West. There are different varieties of wheat, but the most widely cultivated is common wheat, or soft wheat.
Characteristics of wheat:
- Rich in fiber;
- Source of iron;
- Rich in group B vitamins;
- Source of vitamin E;
- Source of antioxidants.
What is wheat?
Food identity card
- Type: Cereal;
- Family: Grasses;
- Origin: Near East;
- Season: July;
- Color: Pale yellow;
- Flavor: Sweet.
The edible portion of the wheat grain has three parts. Most of the grain, which is called endosperm, is composed mainly of starch. Its shell, bran, represents almost 15% of the weight of the grain; it is rich in nutrients and especially in fibers (mostly insoluble). As for the germ, it is the embryo of the grain; it represents less than 3% of the weight of the grain. Despite its very small size, the germ is the richest part in nutrients. Its lipid content makes it easily perishable.
Word from the nutritionist
Wheat is a cereal, so it is part of the starchy foods in our diet and should be eaten in moderation. One serving corresponds to approximately 120g of cooked wheat.
Per 100g of cooked wheat:
|Vitamin B1||0.05 mg|
|Vitamin B3||0.66 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.05 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.1 mg|
22 benefits of wheat: why eat it?
- Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging. Whole grains (including wheat), like fruits and vegetables, contribute significantly to the daily intake of antioxidants. Whole wheat or wheat bran products have superior antioxidant activity than processed or refined wheat products. The variety, location and growing conditions are factors that influence the antioxidant content of wheat.
- Phenolic compounds are antioxidants found in plants. They contribute among other things to their color. Phenolic compounds isolated from wheat cereals demonstrate strong antioxidant activity in vitro. They are found mainly in bran as well as in the germ of wheat. The endosperm also contains it, but in an amount of 15 to 18 times less than the bran and germ fraction. For example, in wheat flour, bran and germ contribute more than 80% of the total content of phenolic compounds. Phenolic acids and flavonoids are the main phenolic compounds in wheat.
- Alkylresorcinols are compounds found in the outer layer of wheat, rye, triticale and barley. Compared to other grains, wheat bran and whole wheat or wheat bran products contain a higher amount. Thus, people regularly consuming such products obtain a significant intake of alkylresorcinols. Conversely, refined wheat products contain very little. Alkylresorcinols have demonstrated antioxidant and anticarcinogenic potential, but these results come from studies carried out in vitro. Alkylresorcinols are well absorbed by the body, but little is known about their action in humans.
- Carotenoids are also compounds with antioxidant properties. Like phenolic compounds, carotenoids are found in greater quantities in the bran and germ fraction than in the endosperm of wheat. In general, the consumption of foods rich in carotenoids is linked to a lower risk of developing certain cancers. The main carotenoid in wheat is lutein, which gives it its color. It should be noted that the amount of carotenoids in wheat is much lower than that of many fruits and vegetables. In addition, the actual contribution of carotenoids to human health has still not been established.
- Dietary fiber, which is found only in plant products, is not digested by the body. Wheat and wheat products contain interesting, but variable, amounts of dietary fiber. For example, a 27 g (115 ml) serving of wheat bran is an excellent source of fiber, while 27 g (55 ml) of wheat germ is only a source. It should be noted that, for people aged 29 to 50, the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 38 g for men and 25 g for women. Wheat mainly contains insoluble fibers; these represent 75% of the dietary fiber content of the germ, and more than 90% in the case of bran. The main effect of insoluble fiber is to maintain proper bowel function. In general, a diet rich in fiber can also contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, the control of type 2 diabetes and would be associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. Finally, a high fiber intake would bring a greater feeling of satiety.
- Phytosterols are compounds of plants that have a structure similar to that of cholesterol. According to analyzes, the wheat germ is in second place, in terms of its phytosterol content, among around twenty foods. Indeed, a 30 ml (15 g) serving of wheat germ provides 62 mg of phytosterols. The consumption of a wheat germ muffin (containing 328 mg of phytosterols) has been reported to significantly decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the blood of subjects, compared to the consumption of a similar muffin, devoid of phytosterols. A meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials has shown that taking 2 g of phytosterols daily reduces LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels by 10%. This reduction could reach 20% as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is practically impossible to reach 2 g of phytosterols per day only through food. For the moment, Health Canada does not allow the marketing of foods enriched with phytosterols as authorities in the United States, Australia and certain European countries do. However, phytosterols found naturally in food, such as wheat, remain interesting for health.
- Bran and wheat germ are excellent sources of phosphorus. Whole wheat flour, bread and pasta (spaghetti) are sources of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.
- Wheat bran is an excellent source of magnesium, while wheat germ is a good source. Whole wheat flour, bread and pasta (spaghetti) are sources. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzyme reactions, muscle contraction, dental health and the proper functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Wheat bran is an excellent source of iron for men and a good source for women, with higher iron requirements for women. Wheat germ is a good source for men and a source for women. Whole wheat bread is a source of iron for men and women. Also, whole wheat flour and pasta (spaghetti) are sources for humans only. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in plant foods (such as wheat) is less absorbed by the body than the iron contained in animal foods. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when it is consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
- Wheat germ is an excellent source of zinc and wheat bran is a good source. Whole wheat flour, bread and pasta (spaghetti) are sources of zinc. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the production, storage and release of insulin.
- Wheat bran and germ, flour, bread and whole wheat pasta (spaghetti) are excellent sources of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.
- Wheat bran is an excellent source of copper and wheat germ is a good source. Whole wheat flour, bread and pasta (spaghetti) are sources of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.
- Bran and wheat germ, couscous, pasta (spaghetti) and whole wheat flour are excellent sources of selenium. Whole wheat bread is a good source. In the body, selenium is associated with one of the main antioxidant enzymes, thus preventing the formation of free radicals. It also helps to convert thyroid hormones to their active form.
- Wheat germ is an excellent source of vitamin B1. Wheat bran, flour, bread and whole wheat pasta (spaghetti) are sources of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we eat. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal digestion and growth.
- Wheat bran is an excellent source of vitamin B3 for women and a good source for men, as vitamin B3 requirements are higher in men. Wheat germ, couscous, flour and whole wheat bread are sources. Also called niacin, vitamin B3 participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also collaborates in the DNA formation process, allowing normal growth and development.
- Wheat bran and germ are excellent sources of vitamin B6, while whole wheat flour is a source. Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the manufacture of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to carry more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells.
- Wheat germ is an excellent source of vitamin E, mainly in the form of alpha-tocopherol. A major antioxidant, vitamin E protects the membrane that surrounds the body’s cells, especially those of red blood cells and white blood cells (cells of the immune system).
- Wheat germ is a good source of folate, while wheat bran is a source. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.
- Bran and wheat germ are sources of potassium. In the body, potassium is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Whole wheat bread, bran and wheat germ are sources of vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, vitamin B2 plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.
- Wheat bran and germ, couscous and whole wheat pasta (spaghetti) are sources of pantothenic acid. Also called vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows us to adequately use the energy that comes from the food we eat. It is also involved in several stages of the production of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses) and hemoglobin.
- Wheat germ is a source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for the production of proteins that participate in blood clotting (both in stimulating and inhibiting blood clotting). It also plays a role in bone formation. In addition to being found in food, vitamin K is manufactured by bacteria present in the intestine, hence the rarity of deficiencies in this vitamin.
Choosing the right wheat
Choose the form of wheat that suits you based on how you want to cook it.
The different forms
Wheat grain can be eaten in many forms: whole, cracked, puffed, flaked, semolina, bulgur, flour, etc. Different products made from wheat have different nutritional values, depending among other things on their degree of refinement.
To prevent it from going rancid, keep whole or whole wheat flour in the fridge or freezer, especially if it is ground on stone. You can also keep your wheat bread in the freezer. Whole grains can be stored like rice in a cool, dry place.
How to cook it? How to match it?
Over time, humans have shown great imagination in preparing wheat, which has long been difficult to work with. As the first wheats could only be stripped of their husks under the effect of heat and the heat changed the chemical structure of gluten to the point of making it lose its leavening properties, the bread was flat for millennia. And it continued to be so in several places of the globe long after the advent of leavened bread: these are the pancake, the pita and the chapati.
Semolina, couscous, bulgur
The grain of wheat, freed from bran and germ, then coarsely ground, is called semolina, from the Latin simila, “flower of flour”. It is used in particular to make couscous (semolina and flour paste which is wetted and rolled, sometimes by hand), which comes from North Africa. As for the bulghur (which we see written in several ways) from the Middle East, it is made of grains without bran, partially cooked before being coarsely ground.
- Eat the grains, which have not undergone any transformation and have preserved all their nutrients. They are cooked at the rate of one cup for three cups of water. Salt, bring to a boil, cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the grains are tender. You can eat them as is, sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil and a little lemon, or add them to soups, salads, casseroles.
- Cut a pita bread in half and, as in Israel, stuff the two halves of falafel, onion slices, pieces of pepper or fried eggplant slices and season with a spicy sauce made of hot peppers and coriander leaves; or, as in Greece and Turkey, make a sort of cone that will be filled with tomatoes, onion slices and yogurt.
- Make Indian chapatis by mixing flour (ordinary wheat, spelled or Egyptian wheat) and water. Salt and cook in the pan in butter. Enjoy with a spicy sauce or stuff with chopped spinach.
- Make wheat tortillas like in the southern United States and northern Mexico, mixing wheat flour, water and a little salt. Cook dry in a pan and serve hot with a chili con carne or sin carne.
- Prepare a pancake batter with flour, eggs and milk. Put in the fridge for at least an hour, then cook in the pan with a little butter. Eat salted – with asparagus, fromage blanc, ham – or sweet, garnished with tender pears or pineapple marinated in maraschino, hazelnut butter with fine champagne, very thinly sliced apples and previously sautéed in butter; you can flavor the pancake batter with orange blossom water or with one or other of the many commercial aromatic alcohols: kummel, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Frangelico.
- Prepare a spelled or Egyptian wheat couscous and serve it Moroccan style with vegetables, exactly seven, since this number brings good luck. Or serve it sweet, with milk, spices and dried fruit.
- Cook a cup of bulgur for 20 minutes with a little salt in three cups of water. Cool, add three cups of plain yogurt, beat and serve this shepherd’s soup with a few mint leaves, onion slices and pita wedges.
- Prepare the wheat flakes as you would for oats.
- Reconnect with the cream of wheat, made of semolina cooked in water, and served with milk (cow, soy or almond) and honey or maple syrup.
Do pasta and bread make you gain weight?
The main problem with these two foods is that you tend to eat too much, especially when they are made with white flour, which is less satiating than whole wheat products. A portion of cooked pasta is 125 ml, while a portion of bread is a slice. A spaghetti dish can include two to three portions, but not much more, while a half baguette is more than two portions! Also pay attention to the calories of the sauces, spreads and cheeses that accompany them.
Some tips to know for cooking and preparing pasta:
- it is not necessary to put oil in the cooking water; on the other hand it is recommended to salt;
- cook the pasta al dente, that is to say so that they are soft on the outside, but crunchy in the center;
- it is preferable not to rinse the pasta at the end of cooking, in order to preserve the starch which allows the sauce to adhere well. Rinse them only if you want to use them cold.
Note: preferably choose pasta made entirely from durum wheat, as it is more interesting from a culinary point of view than that made from a mixture of durum wheat and soft wheat. The information “durum wheat semolina” should appear on the product label.
We have in turn attributed the invention of pasta secca or macaroni, a term which originally designated a dough made from durum wheat and water, to the Etruscans, Greeks, Romans and Chinese. But it would seem that it was the Arabs who, the first time, would have made this paste, around the 11th or 12th century, and would have made it known to the Sicilians. Today, pasta is made either of durum wheat semolina, or a mixture of durum wheat flour and soft wheat.
- Pasta can be enjoyed simply seasoned with a drizzle of olive oil, herbs, garlic or parmesan – or all of these ingredients at once.
- Try Japanese-style whole wheat pasta, like udon or somen, whose texture and flavor differ from that of classic Italian pasta. They are eaten hot with sautéed vegetables and soy sauce, or cold, garnished with thin strips of seaweed and chopped green onion.
Other wheat products
Seitan: Seitan, which means “protein” in Japanese, is gluten mechanically separated from flour, then kneaded with water to make a dough. “Food of the Buddha” for the Chinese, it has been cooked in this country for at least 700 years. It is also eaten in Korea and Japan, and is very popular with vegetarians in Western countries for whom it is an excellent source of protein. You can buy it ready-made in oriental grocery stores or health food stores, or make it yourself by mixing whole wheat flour and water until you get a dough that can knead. We knead for about 20 minutes, then wash the dough in running lukewarm water for about 20 minutes until the water becomes clear.
Minchin: There is also an interesting condiment on the market, minchin, made of gluten which has been subjected for two weeks to fermentation by various micro-organisms, then salted and aged a few weeks before cutting it into strips.
Bran: Removed from the grain when the flour is milled, the bran is dried and then packaged and offered in grocery stores or health food stores. It can be added to various culinary preparations to increase their fiber content.
Gluten is the main protein in wheat and other grains. Ingestion can cause certain symptoms in people with celiac disease. Also known as gluten intolerance (or enteropathy), celiac disease affects about 4 in 1,000 people in North America. Consumption of gluten-containing products in these people damages the lining of the small intestine. This can cause intestinal symptoms and malabsorption of several nutrients. People with this condition may also experience other symptoms after consuming gluten: skin symptoms (hives, eczema), respiratory symptoms, fatigue, migraine and irritability. Treatment for celiac disease is to completely exclude gluten from the diet,
In addition, eliminating gluten from the diet of people with autism may be helpful in reducing their symptoms, but there is still insufficient scientific evidence to support this. Also, in some people with schizophrenia, removing gluten from the diet could decrease symptoms of the disease. But large-scale studies are still necessary to confirm such an association.
Wheat is on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) list of major allergens. Different from gluten intolerance, wheat allergy is an abnormal reaction of the immune system to wheat proteins. Wheat allergy symptoms are similar to those of other food allergies. They can be serious and go as far as anaphylactic shock. It is therefore important that people allergic to wheat carefully read the list of ingredients of food products in order to detect wheat and its derivatives, which can be presented under different names (for example semolina, bulgur, couscous, spelled, gluten, triticale , etc.). The possibility of cross-contamination must also be taken into account (when a safe food comes into contact with a food allergen), when buying food or eating meals outside. It is recommended that you consult an allergist to determine the cause of food reactions. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.
Some people may be advised to adopt a restricted diet of oxalates in order to prevent recurrences of kidney or urinary stones (also called urinary stones). Oxalates are compounds that are found naturally in several foods, including wheat and especially wheat bran. Of the foods that contain oxalates, only a few have shown the ability to increase urinary excretion of oxalate: wheat bran is one of them. To prevent recurrence of kidney stones, it is therefore best to avoid consuming wheat bran.
We do not know if the term “wheat” comes from the French blad or bled, borrowed from the Latin bladum which means “harvest, vine product”, or from the Gallic blato, “flour”. The term appears in the French language written in 1080. “Wheat” has long designated all grains interchangeably, just like corn, in English.
The term “wheat” appeared in the 14th century and comes from the Latin frumentum. This name is usually reserved for wheat species whose grains are stripped of their husk (husk) at maturity, as opposed to clothed grain species (spelled, wheat, starch). In France, it is also used to distinguish common wheat from buckwheat, commonly called buckwheat.
The old wheats, which have always been cultivated marginally in certain regions of the world, are once again enjoying a certain popularity, due in particular to the interest aroused by all that is considered to be product of the soil, and because we attribute them greater nutritional virtues.
Between the time when humans cultivate the first wheat and the time they get leavened bread and pasta from 15,000 to 20,000 years go by. The first wheats to serve as food for humans were wild meat, then cultivated food from the northern part of the fertile crescent of the Near East, in what is now Iran. They were gradually replaced by the starch mill, which appeared 10,000 years ago, which would eventually dethrone them 7,000 or 8,000 years later. Around the 4th millennium BC, spelled took its place thanks to a more developed genetic background and the migrations of the populations which brought it to the countries of the West, where it became the basic cereal.
All these wheats had a major drawback: they were “clothed”, that is to say it was difficult to remove the husk, which strongly adhered to the grain. When, through the interplay of starch and neighboring wild plants, the so-called “bare grain” species which are the ancestors of our modern wheat appear, they will be adopted everywhere. Today, common wheat (or common wheat), durum wheat and club wheat are the only ones to be cultivated intensively, supplying most of the flour and semolina which are used in the various culinary preparations. However, ancient wheats are finding a certain favor with the population today, so that the number and variety of products containing them (flour, semolina, pasta) are more and more numerous.
Ecology and environment
Growing wheat at home: If figuratively “eating wheat grass” means squandering, using, spending a productive good before it has returned, from a nutritional point of view, that’s all opposite. Do not hesitate to sow the grains of wheat, spelled, wheat, starch or Egyptian wheat in a tray filled with good soil. Make sure the grains are not intended for seed (they may have been treated), or use organically grown grains. Add the young shoots to fruit or vegetable salads.
The cultivation of so-called “alternative” cereals contributes to the biodiversity of a given region and makes it possible to counter certain problems linked to the main crops. Thus, both the grain and the starch, spelled and wheat from Egypt give crops superior to those of modern wheats when the growing conditions are unfavorable.
In addition, in the long term, these old varieties are more resistant to diseases and insects than the new cultivars. Indeed, the latter must be continuously improved, because if they present a high resistance at the time of their creation, it deteriorates after a few generations. The old varieties owe their survival to an exceptional resistance, accumulated over the millennia. Integrated into a crop rotation system, they also allow the soil to recover. And for consumers, they mean variety and nutritional richness. Egyptian wheat, for example, is said to be much richer in selenium (a first-line antioxidant) than modern wheats, and has a significantly higher protein level.