Health Benefits of Whole Wheat
If we look at the daily consumption of cereal grains, whole wheat is probably the most consumed cereal grain all around the world. The reason being its ample availability and widespread cultivation that takes place majorly in countries like China, India, Russia, and the United States. It is the most grown crop in the world, and historical evidence tells that one of the oldest to exist as well. For thousands of years, mankind has used wheat as a staple food, and even today, there are entire countries where wheat is part of their everyday meals, especially in the Asian region where wheat flour is the most commonly used type of flour for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Whole wheat refers to the grain of wheat that comes with the fibrous husk, bran, and endosperm once the crop is harvested from the field. It contains the entire grain of wheat that usually loses its nutrients during the processing of the crop. As compared to regular wheat, whole wheat is more husky, brown and retains its nutrients, which is why it is considered as the healthier alternative to wheat. To explicate further, the current article looks into the nutrition profile of whole wheat, health benefits associated with this whole cereal grain, different ways in which whole wheat is used all over the world, and potential side effects that are associated with the use or excessive use of whole-grain wheat.
Whole wheat is a carb-rich grain with moderate amounts of other macro and micronutrients that are part of its composition. The table below is a breakdown of the nutritional facts for 100 grams of whole wheat milled into flour.
3.5 oz or 100 g
Manganese, Selenium, Copper, Phosphorus,
In addition to the above-mentioned nutritional values, whole wheat is also rich in antioxidants that are usually found in the bran of the whole grain. For example, Ferulic acid is a dominant antioxidant present in wheat, as well as other cereal grains. Some other antioxidants found in whole wheat with proven health benefits are Alkylresorcinols, lignans, and lutein. These antioxidants are distinctive to unrefined whole wheat and are associated with a number of health benefits.
The generous content of minerals, fiber, protein, and vitamin B9 allows whole wheat to engage in certain bodily functions that are essential to a healthy system. It is due to the health benefits it provides that whole wheat is a staple food in numerous parts of the world. Let’s proceed with the proven health benefits of whole wheat in the next section.
Health Benefits of Whole Wheat
- Rich in Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
A great source of several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, whole wheat offers a bundle of health benefits to various functions that take place in the body. Selenium, for example, is a powerful antioxidant that is responsible for boosting the immune system, protection against heart disease and certain cancers, an important agent for reducing asthma symptoms as well as important for good thyroid health. Some other essential minerals whose importance cannot be undermined include copper (essential for good heart health), phosphorus (plays a key role in the maintenance of body tissues and supports their growth), and folic acid or Vitamin B9 (essential for red blood cell production, tissue growth, cell function, and DNA synthesis).
- Keeps You Full for Longer
When we eat something, we usually expect that the food that goes inside our body would keep the body satisfied for at least a few hours till it is time for the next meal. A sign of a healthy meal is that it keeps you satiated for a longer period of time, and that is exactly what the whole does once it is consumed. Whole wheat keeps the body satiated for a significant period of time, its fiber content gives you a feeling of fullness, and that makes it an ideal meal choice, especially for heavy meals.
Fiber is an essential component of whole wheat as it is in other whole grains. The fiber in whole wheat is concentrated mostly in its bran, which acts as a prebiotic, helping with the gut health. The bacteria in the gut are dependent on prebiotics, and whole wheat bran does exactly what the digestive system needs. It reduces the risk of constipation as it goes unchanged during the process of digestion, making it a beneficial component for gut health.
- Reduces Risk of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is the most common type of cancer that affects the digestive system. Various observational studies have shown that a diet rich in fiber may reduce the risk of colon cancer to a significant percentage. Hence, the use of whole grains and, in this case, whole wheat is likely to prevent the risk of colon cancer not only due to its considerable fiber content but also with the help of antioxidants and phytonutrients that it contains.
Different Ways Whole Wheat Is Used
Whole wheat, like many of its fellow whole grains, is used in plenty of ways and utilized all over the world. The most common and favorite way of using whole wheat is by milling it into a fine flour that we know as whole wheat flour. The whole wheat flour is then used for a number of foods and dishes. It is used to make whole wheat bread, a favorite of all fitness enthusiasts. Whole wheat is also used to make whole wheat pasta, whole wheat porridge, whole wheat chapati, whole wheat pizza, so on and so forth.
Potential Side Effects
Although whole wheat boasts several health benefits, it is also associated with certain adverse effects. Some of the potential side effects of whole wheat include:
- May Cause or Worsen Celiac Disease
Whole wheat contains gluten, a compound that some people are allergic to and find hard to digest. A reaction to gluten intake results in celiac disease, which leads to damage of the small intestine. Since whole wheat contains gluten, it is likely to cause celiac disease in people who are sensitive to gluten. It is, therefore, advised that people with gluten sensitivity may switch to other whole-grain gluten-free options.
A health condition known as IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) marked by symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, irregular bowel habits, and constipation, is quite common among the masses. It has been observed that people with IBS usually demonstrate sensitivity to whole wheat; therefore, in case of the occurrence of any such symptoms, one must limit their wheat consumption or avoid for a certain time period.
- Is Not Suitable for People with Diabetes
The content of carbohydrates in whole wheat is quite high, which can affect the blood sugar levels by causing an unhealthy spike in them. Also, the glycemic index (GI) of whole wheat is higher than a lot of other cereal grains, making it unsuitable for people with diabetes. Even if diabetics do wish to consume whole wheat, they need to consult their health care providers on the safe side so that they are made by advised regarding the recommended dosage and frequency of intake.
Recommended Daily Intake
According to the dietary guidelines, an average individual is advised to eat 5-6 portions of carbohydrates, and the preferred source of carbs are whole grains. This means, if you take 5-6 servings of carbs through whole grains, you need to look at the amount that makes one serving. For example, a small CD-sized whole wheat tortilla makes one portion of carbs, which means you can have 5-6 tortillas of the same size. However, we know that every food contains a certain amount of carbs; therefore, before we decide to go heavy on our whole wheat intake, let us decrease the number of servings as the remaining carbs are consumed through various other sources. In short, 3-5 servings of whole wheat bread or whole wheat chapati (small size) would suffice for a day.
Whole wheat is a nutritious, healthier alternative to regular wheat. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help the body combat numerous health conditions and prevent the risk of others. However, there are certain health risks involved with whole wheat that people with wheat sensitivity usually experience.
It is important to remind here that the nutrients we just discussed within the article are found in the bran, germ, and endosperm of the whole wheat grain. Once the grain goes through the milling and refining process, it is stripped of the majority of the minerals, vitamins, and essential nutrients that are present in whole wheat. Therefore, experts are of the opinion that wheat must be used in its whole form to gather the best of nutrients because otherwise, it is just a source of energy in the form of carbs without any health benefits attached to it.