Wheat is one of the most commonly used cereals in the world.
Wheat belongs to the genus of grassy annual plants of the Triticum family of the “cereal” family and is grown in countless varieties around the globe.
The most common types of wheat are soft and hard wheat. Soft wheat varieties usually make white wheat flour for baking bread and other flour products. From hard varieties – durum, noodles, bulgur , couscous and other pasta.
Wheat is a very controversial product in terms of health effects, as it contains a protein called gluten or gluten, which can cause a harmful immune response in people prone to this allergic reaction.
However, for people who tolerate wheat well, this whole grain product can be a rich source of various antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
In the article we will consider in detail the following topics: nutritional value of wheat, health benefits and harms, possible side effects and allergic reactions when eating wheat.
Nutritional Information of Wheat
Wheat is mainly composed of carbohydrates, but also has a moderate amount of protein.
Below is information on all the major wheat nutrients contained in 100 grams. wheat flour
Calories : 340 kcal
Water : 11%
Protein : 13.2 gr.
Carbohydrates 72 gr.
Sugar : 0.4 gr.
Fiber : 10.7 g
Fat : 2.5 gr.
Saturated Fat: 0.43 gr.
Monounsaturated Fat : 0.28 gr.
Polyunsaturated fat : 1.17 gr.
Omega-3 fatty acids : 0.07 g.
Omega-6 fatty acids : 1.09 g.
Trans Fat : ~
Like all cereals, wheat mainly consists of carbohydrates.
Starch is the predominant type of carbohydrate in the plant world and makes up more than 90% of the total carbohydrate content in wheat.
The effect of starch on health mainly depends on its digestibility, which is determined by its effect on blood sugar. High digestibility can cause an unhealthy surge in blood sugar after eating and have a detrimental effect on health, especially in people with diabetes.
Therefore, like white rice and potatoes , both soft and hard varieties of wheat have a high glycemic index, which makes them unsuitable for patients with diabetes.
On the other hand, some processed wheat products, such as pasta, break down less efficiently and therefore do not raise blood sugar to the same extent.
Carbohydrates are the main nutritional component of wheat, which is generally considered unsuitable for people with diabetes due to its high glycemic index.
Whole wheat contains a large amount of fiber, but it is practically absent in refined wheat. The fiber content in wheat grain is 12% -15% of dry weight.
A large amount of fiber contains wheat bran. However, in the process of grinding them to produce wheat flour, fiber is removed from the composition.
The most common type of fiber in wheat bran is a type of hemicellulose called arabinoxylan (70%). The remaining 30% consists of cellulose and beta-glucan.
These fibers are insoluble. They pass through the digestive system in an almost unchanged state, which leads to an increase in the weight of feces. Some of them are also prebiotics and nourish the friendly bacteria in the gut.
Wheat also contains a small amount of soluble fiber (fructans), which can cause digestive upsets in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
However, for those who tolerate the use of wheat well, wheat bran can have a beneficial effect on intestinal health.
Whole grain wheat is a rich source of fiber, which has a positive effect on the health of the digestive system.
Proteins make up from 7% to 22% of dry weight of wheat. Gluten or gluten, a large group of proteins, makes up to 80% of the total protein content.
Gluten is responsible for the unique elasticity and stickiness of wheat dough, the properties that make it so useful in baking.
Gluten in wheat can have harmful effects on the health of people with gluten intolerance.
Wheat contains a decent amount of protein, which is mostly gluten free and can cause adverse effects for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Vitamins and Minerals
Whole wheat is a good source of several vitamins and minerals. As with most crops, the amount of minerals depends on the mineral content of the soil in which wheat is grown.
The following minerals can be distinguished in wheat:
Selenium : A trace element that has various essential functions in the body. The content of selenium in wheat depends on the soil and sometimes it is very small in wheat grown in some countries, such as China.
Manganese : found in large quantities in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Manganese can be poorly absorbed from whole wheat due to its phytic acid content.
Phosphorus : A mineral that plays an important role in the maintenance and development of body tissues.
Copper : an important trace mineral that is often undernourished with food. Copper deficiency can have an adverse effect on heart health.
Folate: one of the B vitamins also known as folic acid or vitamin B9. Its reception is especially important during the period of bearing a child.
Interestingly, the most nutritious and healthy parts of wheat grain – bran and germ – are removed during the grinding and refining process and are ultimately absent in white wheat flour.
That is why white wheat flour is low in vitamins and minerals compared to whole wheat. And since wheat products often account for the majority of people’s diets, flour is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals. Moreover, wheat flour fortification is mandatory in many countries.
In addition to the above nutrients, fortified wheat flour can be a good source of iron, thiamine, niacin, and vitamin B6. Calcium is also often added.
Whole wheat can be a worthy source of several vitamins and minerals, including selenium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, and folic acid. While wheat flour itself contains a small amount of nutrients and is enriched in the production process.
Other plant compounds
Most plant compounds in wheat are concentrated in bran and germ, which are not found in refined white wheat flour. For example, the highest levels of antioxidants are found in the aleurone layer in wheat bran. Wheat Aleuron is also sold as a dietary supplement.
Nevertheless, some useful plant compounds in wheat can be distinguished:
Ferulic acid : the predominant antioxidant polyphenol found in wheat and other crops.
Phytic acid : concentrated in bran, phytic acid can impair the absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc. Pre-soaking, germinating and fermenting wheat grains can improve the digestibility of minerals.
Alkylresorcinols : Found in wheat bran, alkylresorcinols are a class of antioxidants that can have a number of health benefits.
Lignans : Another family of antioxidants present in wheat bran. In vitro experiments show that lignans can help prevent colon cancer ( 1 ).
Wheat germ agglutinin : lectin (protein) concentrated in wheat germ can cause a number of adverse health effects. However, lectins are inactivated by high temperatures and are not active in cooked wheat products.
Lutein : an antioxidant carotenoid responsible for the color of yellow durum wheat. High lutein foods can improve eye health.
Wheat bran (present in whole wheat) may contain a number of healthy antioxidants, such as alkylresorcinols and lignans.
Health Benefits of Wheat
Ground white wheat flour has practically no beneficial properties. While eating whole wheat can have some decent benefits for the human body, with the exception of those who are allergic to gluten.
Whole grain wheat is rich in fibers, mostly insoluble, which are concentrated in large quantities in bran.
Studies show that the components of wheat bran can function as prebiotics that nourish the beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines ( 2 ).
Also, most bran remains almost unchanged, passing through the digestive system and increasing the weight of feces. Wheat bran can shorten the passage of hard-to-digest food through the intestines and vice versa increase the transit time of fast-digested food. Thus, creating a balance of intestinal function.
Fiber in whole wheat (or bran) may contribute to intestinal health.
Colon cancer prevention
Colon cancer is the most common type of cancer of the digestive system.
According to one observational study, people on a low-fiber diet can reduce their colon cancer risk by 40% if they eat more fiber ( 7 ). This finding is supported by randomized controlled trials ( 8 ), but not all studies have shown a significant protective effect ( 9 ).
One thing is clear: whole grain wheat is rich in fiber and contains a number of antioxidants and phytonutrients that can help prevent colon cancer.
Whole wheat or other fiber-rich whole grains can reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Wheat Health Harm
In many people, wheat protein gluten can cause a negative immune response – a condition known as celiac disease.
Gluten intolerance can also manifest as hypersensitivity to gluten, which is of a different nature and has an unknown cause.
Celiac disease is a chronic condition characterized by a harmful immune response to products containing gluten. It is estimated that up to 1% of all people have celiac disease ( 10 ).
Gluten, the main family of proteins in wheat, can be divided into glutenins and gliadins, which are present in varying amounts in all types of wheat. Gliadins are considered the main cause of celiac disease.
Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine, leading to impaired absorption of nutrients. Related symptoms may include weight loss, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, and fatigue.
It has also been suggested that gluten may contribute to impaired brain function, such as schizophrenia and epilepsy ( 11 ).
The Eincorn type of wheat causes weaker allergic reactions than other varieties, but is still not suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
The only known treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet.
Wheat is a staple food that contains a lot of gluten, but can also be found in barley, rye, and many processed foods.
Wheat protein called gluten can cause celiac disease in people predisposed to it. Celiac disease is characterized by damage to the walls of the small intestine and impaired absorption of nutrients.
Hypersensitivity to Gluten
Gluten-free diet is followed by people, not only suffering from celiac disease. Sometimes the reason may be the prejudice that wheat is not healthy, but rather, on the contrary, is unhealthy. In other cases, in some people, wheat or another gluten-containing product may cause symptoms similar to those of celiac disease.
This condition was called hypersensitivity to gluten or sensitivity to noncellular wheat and is defined as an adverse reaction to wheat without any autoimmune or allergic reactions. Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, joint pain, bloating and eczema.
One study shows that in some people, symptoms of sensitivity to wheat products may be caused by non-gluten ( 12 ).
Symptoms of indigestion can be caused by a family of soluble fibers in wheat, the so-called fructans, which belong to the class of fiber known as FODMAP. It also includes legumes, onions , garlic , apples , cabbage, chocolate and other similar products.
Eating foods high in FODMAP fibers exacerbates irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that has symptoms similar to celiac disease.
Hypersensitivity to gluten and wheat is observed in 30% of people with irritable bowel syndrome.
Hypersensitivity to gluten is different from celiac disease, but the symptoms are similar.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disease characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, irregular stools, diarrhea and constipation. Most often, the disease occurs in people suffering from anxiety and increased stress.
Hypersensitivity to wheat is a common sign of irritable bowel syndrome. This is because wheat contains soluble FODMAP fibers called fructans. A diet that includes many foods that contain FODMAP fibers often strengthens the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Although these foods worsen symptoms, they are not considered the main cause of irritable bowel syndrome. Studies show that irritable bowel syndrome can be associated with a chronic inflammatory process in the digestive tract ( 13 ).
In one 6-week study in 20 men and women with irritable bowel syndrome, eating Khorasan wheat (Kamut) instead of regular wheat reduced inflammation and alleviated many symptoms of the disease ( 14 ). It is not clear what exactly the properties of Khorasan wheat allowed to obtain such a good effect, so this issue requires further study.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, limiting your intake of wheat can help you feel better.
Eating wheat can worsen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Other adverse effects and individual problems
Although whole wheat wheat can be good for health, many people need to limit their use or exclude it altogether.
Food allergies are a common disease caused by a negative immune response to certain types of proteins in foods.
Gluten in wheat is an allergen that occurs in approximately 1% of children. In adults, an allergy to wheat (or gluten) is most often found among those who are regularly exposed to wheat dust.
Asthma and inflammation of the nasal mucosa (rhinitis) are typical allergic reactions to wheat dust.
Some people are allergic to wheat and should therefore avoid eating this product.
Whole grain wheat contains phytic acid (phytate), a nutrient medium that reduces the absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc, from wheat itself.
For this reason, phytic acid is considered an antinutrient, i.e. an anti-nutritional component.
This usually does not cause problems in the case of a balanced diet, when minerals can be obtained from other sources. But when the diet is based on processed products of wheat and legumes – it can become a real threat to health.
The phytic acid content in wheat can be significantly reduced by soaking and fermenting the grains. For example, the phytate content in fermented bread is as much as 90% less, which is no longer critical.
Whole wheat contains phytic acid, an anti-nutritional medium that can impair intestinal absorption of iron and zinc.
Plain wheat or spelt wheat
Spelt is a wild variety of wheat that has been grown since ancient times. Its popularity has been declining over the past century, but has begun to return now.
Being a “close relative” of ordinary wheat, spelt has a similar nutrient profile.
Both species contain gluten. Although all varieties of wheat contain varying degrees of gluten and are not suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
The protein and fiber content is also similar.
But there is one thing that sets them apart. Spelt is a bit richer in some minerals, especially zinc.
Studies show that modern wheat may contain less minerals than many other primitive types of wheat. Lacking a high mineral content, the health benefits of eating wheat flour, rather than whole wheat, remain dubious.
Wild wheat, such as spelt, may have a higher mineral content than regular wheat. But this is unlikely to provide any serious benefits in terms of benefits or harm to human health.
- Wheat is one of the most common foods in the world. It is also one of the most controversial products.
- Many people are intolerant of gluten – the main protein in wheat, and should completely eliminate wheat from their diet.
- On the plus side, moderate consumption of fiber-rich whole wheat may be an excellent choice for those who tolerate wheat use well. This can improve digestion and help prevent colon cancer.