The wheat plant is a good example of how modern society has fragmented the way we view food.
30 years ago no one gave wheat a second thought.
I mean hey…..it was wheat!
What more was there to say?
But of course that’s changed now. Different wheat products have proliferated, and a variety of popular diets now have very conflicting opinions about the usefulness of wheat.
Is Wheat Good For You?
Gluten-free folks and followers of the paleo diet shy away from it, while vegans and followers of the macrobiotic diet tend to embrace high quality wheat as a diet staple.
What do I think?
High quality wheat is still quite nutritious and ought to be eaten without hesitation. The only exception being if you are intolerant to gluten, which is about 1-2% of the population.
So let’s go over the different parts of the wheat plant and their different health benefits.
Perhaps the most popular of all wheat products, wheatgrass is just that…..grass. It’s made by soaking wheat seeds and then harvesting the leaves that sprout from it.
The wheatgrass shots you drink in juice bars are usually the juiced products of the wheat leaves, and not exactly the grass itself.
The health claims attributed to wheatgrass are fairly wide and not commonly agreed upon. It is a good source of chlorophyll and vitamins C and E, and does seem to have a strong ability to detoxify the body of metal alkaloids.
However, contrary to popular claims it does not contain vitamin B12. That only comes from bacteria.
Another important fact is that wheatgrass contains no gluten. No cereal grasses do.
Here’s a good video on how to grow your own wheatgrass:
The term “sprout” is a generic term that refers to a state the plant or seed is in when it’s about to germinate.
A sprouted state can usually occur if you soak something in water for 6-12 hours. Little leaves will start to pop out of the seeds, meaning it’s beginning to germinate, and the seeds are then “sprouted”
Is there anything especially good about sprouted wheat?
Seeds and nuts that have been sprouted have less phytic acid, which is a substance that reduces the absorption of other important nutrients like zinc and iron. Sprouting also tends to increase the concentration of the wheatplant’s nutrients.
Sprouted wheat is also easier to digest because some of the proteins in the wheatplant have been cleaved. Lots of people with sensitive digestion like to eat sprouted wheat.
Wheat sprout is not gluten-free but many people who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity find that they can eat sprouted wheat because of its enhanced digestive abilities.
Unsprouted wheat is still good for you, just not quite as nutrient dense.
If you’re curious, here’s a good video on how to sprout your own foods:
The word “bran” is the hard outer layer that encapsulates the seeds of the wheat plant.
Like other sorts of bran, wheat bran tends to have the following health benefits:
- good source of fiber
- promotes healthy digestion
- has mild detoxifying properties
- reasonably rich in essential fatty acids
- often rich in protein
One of the reasons “good” carbs like buckwheat, millet, and whole wheat become “bad” carbs is that during the refining process the bran is removed from the plants.
That weird tasting stuff they’ve been selling in stores for years, wheat germ is the part of the seed that actually grows into a new flower.
When you sprout seeds and have tiny little leaves coming out of it, that’s because the germ inside the seed has begun to grow out of the seed.
It’s not hard to imagine that such a part of the plant would have a variety of health benefits. They do, and include:
- good source of vitamin E
- good source of folic acid
- decent amount of essential fatty acids
Like bran, the germ is removed when wheat is processed into flour. Wheat germ can go rancid after a while, so removing it allows flour to have a longer shelf-life.
Overall, it’s important to understand that all these terms are fairly generic.
Oats, rice, etc all have a grass, bran, germ part to them, and they can all be sprouted too.
In their natural state, everything mentioned is quite good for you, and if you’re curious about making your own food, they can all be made in your kitchen without too much work or money.
If you’re curious about reading more, here’s a good resource on the different types of wheat and how you can make them on your own.