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Healthy Vegan Living | Processed Wheat: Good or Bad?

by Kenna Smoot on March 7, 2014

Wheat-Facts When it comes to a vegan diet, an easy way to get protein are through grains, they fill up even the pickiest of eaters and have been used for thousands of years in nearly every culture. It’s cheap, abundant and can grow in a multitude of conditions and countries. But is it healthy?

Wheat has been around for over 8,000 years and is a major grain consumed by humans. We produce more wheat than we do corn and rice. Some doctors tout the many health benefits of wheat and others tear them down saying it’s bad for you and a contributor to inflammatory diseases as well as many other health conditions. I’ll be honest, I had a tough time writing this post. Before researching it, I had no idea if it was good or bad. I only ever stick to whole grain wheat that is organic, but even then I wasn’t sure if it’s good or bad. Here are my findings and you can decide for yourself.

According to “The World’s Healthiest Foods” site, wheat is one of the healthiest foods we can eat. Women who eat whole grain wheat tend to weigh less according to a study by Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital study, which collected data on over 74,000 female nurses aged 38-63 years over a 12 year period, weight gain was inversely associated with the intake of high-fiber, whole-grain foods, such as whole wheat, but positively related to the intake of refined-grain foods, such as products made from refined wheat. Not only did women who consumed more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who ate less of these fiber-rich foods, but those consuming the most dietary fiber from whole grains were 49% less likely to gain weight compared to those eating foods made from refined grains.

Whole grains also reduce risk of metabolic syndrome.

Prevalence of the metabolic syndrome was 38% lower among those with the highest intake of fiber from whole grains. Conversely, study subjects whose diets had the highest glycemic index and glycemic load, both of which are typically low in whole foods and high in processed refined foods, were 141% more likely to have the metabolic syndrome compared to those whose diets had the lowest glycemic index and glycemic load. In other words, compared to those whose diets were primarily composed of whole high fiber foods: whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.

The researchers concluded, “Given that both a high cereal fiber content and lower glycemic index are attributes of wholegrain foods, recommendation to increase wholegrain intake may reduce the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome.” A way of eating that relies on the healthiest foods from all the food groups—the whole foods that contain the healthiest fats, carbohydrates and proteins—is the most effective, intelligent, and most enjoyable way to not only lower your risk of developing the metabolic syndrome, but to stay slim, vital and attractive throughout a long and healthy life. (source)

In addition to that, World’s Healthiest Foods also show evidence from various studies supporting that wheat reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, betaine that is found in whole wheat lessens chronic inflammation diseases, whole grains prevent gall stones, whole wheat helps keep you regular and promotes women’s gastrointestinal health as well as overall health, fiber from whole grains help reduce breast cancer risk, whole wheat also protects cardiovascular health and it helps protect children from childhood asthma symptoms. Please visit their site for the studies and science behind their claims.

However, nay-sayers say that they contribute to those diseases. However, in all of the articles I have read they have very little research and studies found behind these claims. I have a tough time getting behind statements, even if the source is a doctor, if there is little research behind it. Wheat has been around for a long time and has always been well known as a healthy food. I do feel that in some cases, it’s over processed and lacks it’s original true form. So try to avoid overly processed grains.

Whole grains are packed with nutrients including protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium).

Some foods to help get your whole grains include:

  • Whole oats/oatmeal
  • Popcorn (make sure it is organic and plain, no instant)
  • Brown rice
  • Whole rye
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Wild rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Triticale
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • 100% whole wheat flour

Guidelines on how to buy wheat:

Many breads have wheat in them, but it doesn’t meant that they are whole grain or healthy. Make sure you’re seeing words like “100% Whole Wheat” and wheat should be the #1 ingredient, make sure you can pronounce the other ingredients and the ingredients list should be short. Don’t fall for terms such as “wheat flour,” “unbleached wheat flour,” “multigrain,” “enriched,” or “stone-ground wheat flour.” These are just ways of saying refined white flour.

The term “whole grain” is used in lots of food ads, and on the front of food packages, from bread to crackers to cereals. But whole grain is NOT the same thing as whole wheat. When a label uses the words “whole grain,” this what it really means:

  • The product contains all three portions of the kernel (germ, bran and endosperm).
  • The product contains 51% whole grain ingredients (or more) by weight per serving.
  • The product contains 3 grams of fat (or less), 1 gram of saturated fat (or less), and 20 mg of cholesterol (or less) per serving.

To tell if your bread contains a majority of whole grains, look at the listing of ingredients. “Whole grain” should be a part of the first ingredient, such as: “whole wheat flour,” “whole grain rye flour,” or “whole grain pumpernickel flour.” You can also check for the whole grain seal on the package. (source)

What are your thoughts on wheat?

About Kenna Smoot

Meat Meets Vegan Blogger, Model, Mom & Startup Wife Kenna is a 10 year vegan veteran, mother to little vegan gentlemen, and wife of a successful startup entrepreneur. When she was 9 her grandfather moved into her family's home with stage 4 cancer and 6 months to live. After starting an organic diet he added 2 extra years to his life. Still, the pain from watching him suffer caused her to vow to do her part to protect her family from cancer. In her late teens she began researching nutrition and on her quest she found the benefits of a vegan diet; and has never looked back. She now has her own blog where she turns Pinterest's top recipes into vegan delights with instructions showing you how to do it. Check it out at www.meatmeetsvegan.com She is also a model in Los Angeles under the alias "Kenna Cade". Her modeling has landed her in Axe body spray commercials, featured in Mademoiselle magazine, the face of a Swedish beauty company, spokesmodel for countless skin care companies, luxury events and is now the image used for the heroine in a new comic book series coming out next year.

  • { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    Kami March 7, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Prefacing my comment with I eat whole grains including wheat and don’t know the answers; just curious. It seems that the facts you present are most likely studies that compare whole wheat consumers to refined wheat consumers. But what about whole wheat vs. no wheat consumption? Can you address the concern that so many people seem to be gluten intolerant today? Has the wheat changed over the years? Etc.

    Reply

    Kenna March 9, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Kami! Yes, wheat has changed over the years due to hyrids to help wheat grow in a range of conditions and isn’t in the same form it was years and years ago. However, most plants are like that and the original version of many fruit trees don’t exist anymore either. Food quality has diminished with man creating hybrids and depleting soil with pesticides, herbicides and agriculture waste. Even organic produce doesn’t compare to the truest form many years ago. So you are definitely correct in that. Having that been said, I still eat organic fruits and veggies and I still eat organic wheat.

    I think food intolerances come from a variety of different things. Vaccines are one, even the CDC released documents showing that vaccines are responsible for many allergies developing in humans because it over stimulates our immune systems and cause them to be hyper sensitive. Other things to consider are additives in things that contain wheat. Wheat is present in many processed foods and even organic breads have a ton of added ingredients. Mostly, MSG appears a ton in most breads and goes by 40 different names and sometimes doesn’t even have to be labeled. MSG causes negative reactions, poor digestion, it’s extremely inflammatory and causes bloating and brain fog. Several of my gluten intolerant friends have no reaction to homemade bread with wheat flour but they really struggle with store bought bread. Which would further my theory that it’s mostly additives and not necessarily wheat itself that’s causing negative reactions. When you look at why allergies start, it’s generally because of our body attacking something that it feels is a foreign invader. So we have to figure out why it seems foreign and what happened to cause it. Generally, additives are not natural and are chemicals so our body could be fighting that off, it could be herbicides and pesticides or the change when they started a new hybrid breed. But, like seasonal allergies and food intolerances it’s hard to see what could happen person to person, everyone’s bodies react differently. I tried to find studies where they did wheat in its purest form (organic wheat flour) vs. giving people wheat with additives and see how they varied. However, I couldn’t find any studies on just wheat and how people react to different versions. So I posted what I could find. It’s also hard because everyone’s bodies react so differently anyways that it is hard to know from one person to the next what will arise.

    Anyways, I appreciate your questions, I think they’re very good points!

    Reply

    Steph H March 10, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you for the article. More and more is being found out about wheat. The latest is that Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup could be a major culprit in the widespread rash of gluten sensitivities and more… Very interesting stuff…

    Reply

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