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
- Bulgur (cracked wheat)
- 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?