Nutritional facts and health effects of wheat

Nutritional Wheat Facts: Wheat is one of the world’s most commonly consumed cereal grains. Wheat is an important source of carbohydrates

Nutritional facts and health effects of wheatGlobally, it is the leading source of vegetal protein in human food which is relatively high compared to other major cereals. Wheat is a source of multiple nutrients and dietary fiber.

Wheat comes from a type of grass (Triticum) that is grown in countless varieties worldwide. Bread wheat, or common wheat, is the primary species. Several other closely related species include durum, spelt, emmer and einkorn wheat.

Certainly wheat is highly controversial because it contains a protein called gluten, which can trigger a harmful immune response in predisposed individuals. However, for people who tolerate it, whole-grain wheat can be a rich source of various antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Nutrition facts

Wheat is mainly composed of carbohydrates. But also has moderate amounts of protein. Here are the nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of whole-grain wheat flour:

  • Calories: 340
  • Water: 11%
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 72 grams
  • Sugar: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams

 Carbohydrates

Wheat is mainly composed of carbohydrates like all cereal grains. Starch is the predominant carbohydrates in the plant kingdom, accounting for over 90% of the total carbohydrates content in wheat. Hence the health effects of starch mainly depend on its digestibility, which determines its effect on blood sugar levels.

Hence high digestibility may cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar after a meal and have harmful effects on health. Like white rice and potato, both white and whole wheat rank high on the glycemic index (GI), making them unsuitable for people with diabetes.

Fiber

Whole wheat is high in fiber but refined wheat contains almost none. The fiber content of whole-grain wheat is 12–15% of the dry weight. As they are concentrated in the bran. Fibers are removed during the milling process and largely absent from refined flour.

The main fibre in wheat bran is arabinoxylan (70%), which is a type of hemicellulose. The remaining is the cellulose. Most fiber is insoluble, passing through your digestive system almost intact and adding bulk to stool.

Most noteworthy some fibers also feed your gut bacteria. Above all wheat contains small amounts of soluble fibers, or fructans, that may cause digestive symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Furthermore wheat bran may have beneficial effects on gut health.

Protein

Protein make up 7–22% of wheat’s dry weight. Gluten a large family of proteins, accounts for up to 80% of the total protein content. It’s responsible for the unique elasticity and stickiness of wheat dough, the properties that make it so useful in bread making. Gluten can have adverse health effects in people with gluten intolerance.

Vitamins and minerals

Whole wheat is a good source of several vitamins and minerals.The soil condition depict the amount of minerals.

  • Selenium

 This trace element has various essential functions in your body. The selenium content of wheat depends on the soil and is very low in some regions, including China.

  • Manganese

 This is found in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables in high amounts.  Manganese is poorly absorb from whole wheat due to its phytic acid content.

  • Phosphorus

This dietary mineral plays an essential role in the maintenance and growth of body tissues.

  • Copper

 An essential trace element, copper is often low in the Western diet. Deficiency may have adverse effects on heart health.

  • Folate

 Folate is also known as folic acid or vitamin B9. It’s particularly important during pregnancy.

Similarly white wheat is relatively poor in many vitamins and minerals compared to whole-grain. Because in the milling and refining process, these are lost.

 Other plant compounds

In the aleurone layer of wheat grain, antioxidants are present in high amount. Aleurone is a dietary supplement. Common plant compounds in wheat include:

  • Ferulic acid

 This polyphenol is the predominant antioxidant in wheat and other cereal grains.

  • Phytic acid

 Concentrated in the bran, phytic acid may impair your absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting grains can reduce its levels.

  • Alkylresorcinols

 Found in wheat bran, alkylresorcinols are a class of antioxidants that may have several health benefits.

  • Lignans

These are another family of antioxidants present in wheat bran. Certainly test-tube studies indicate that lignans may help prevent colon cancer.

  • Wheat germ agglutinin

 In wheat germ the protein is concentrated. This blamed for several adverse health effects. However, heat inactivates the lectins and thus neutralized in baked goods.

  • Lutein

Lutein is responsible for the color of yellow durum wheat. Therefore high lutein foods may improve eye health.

Health benefits of whole-grain wheat

While white wheat may not be particularly beneficial to health. Likewise whole-grain wheat may offer several positive effects especially when it replaces white flour.

Gut health

Insoluble fibers are rich in whole-grain wheat. Studies indicate that components of bran may function as prebiotics, feeding some of the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

However, most of the bran passes almost unchanged through your digestive system, adding bulk to stool. Wheat bran may also shorten the time it takes undigested material to travel through your digestive tract.

Prevention of colon cancer

Colon cancer is the most prevalent type of digestive system cancer. Observational studies link the consumption of whole grains including whole wheat to a reduced risk of colon cancer.

One observational study estimated that people on low-fiber diets could cut their risk of colon cancer by 40% by eating more fiber. Consequently, whole wheat is rich in fiber and boasts many antioxidants and phyto-nutrients that potentially reduce your risk of colon cancer.

Celiac disease

Harmful immune reaction to gluten cause this disease. Hence an estimated 0.5–1% of people in the United States and Europe have this condition. Celiac disease damages your small intestine, resulting in impaired absorption of nutrients.

Associated symptoms include weight loss, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, and fatigue. Gluten may contribute to brain disorders in people with celiac disease.

Einkorn, an ancient wheat variety, causes weaker reactions than other varieties but is still unsuitable for people with gluten intolerance. The best treatment for celiac disease is gluten-free diet. Furthermore wheat is the main dietary source of gluten and also found in rye, barley.

Other downsides and side effects

Although whole-grain wheat may have some health benefits, many people need to eat less of it or avoid it altogether.

Wheat sensitivity

The number of individuals who follow a gluten-free diet exceeds those who have celiac disease. Sometimes, people simply believe that wheat and gluten are inherently harmful to health. In other cases, wheat or gluten may cause actual symptoms. Similarly this condition called gluten sensitivityy.

Hence non-celiac wheat sensitivity is defined as an adverse reaction to wheat without any allergic reaction.  Abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, joint pain and bloating are some reported symptoms of sensitivity. However, sensitivity is caused by fructans(fibers).

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a common condition, characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. It is more common in people who experience anxiety.

Sensitivity to wheat is common among people with IBS.  IBS may be associated with inflammation in the digestive tract. If you have this condition, it may be best to limit wheat consumption.

Allergy

Food allergy is a common condition, triggered by a harmful immune response to certain proteins. Gluten in wheat is a primary allergen, affecting approximately 1% of children.

Airborne wheat dust cause allergy in adults. Baker’s asthma and nasal inflammation are typical allergic reactions to wheat dust.

Anti-nutrients

Whole-grain wheat contains phytic acid (phytate), which impairs the absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc from the same meal. Hence it has been referred to as an anti-nutrient.

Anti-nutrients may be a concern for those who base their diets on cereal grains and legumes. when grains are soaked and fermented its phytic acid content can be reduced considerably by up to 90%.

Tahreem Akhtar
Author: Tahreem Akhtar

I am plant breeder and geneticist.

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Tahreem Akhtar

I am plant breeder and geneticist.

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