What is all this ado about whole wheat being dangerous and in fact bad? I thought whole wheat classifies as whole grain/fibre which is good for gut health? So why am I hearing rumours and postulations about whole wheat having been blacklisted as ‘dangerous’ food? In fact the other day someone posted a loooong article on a whatsapp group portal warning people to steer clear of whole wheat which the writer said ‘is killing people in their millions’. Wow! Really? Any particular statistical data to back that up or did someone just cook that up? Is it not becoming exacerbating that there appears to be a global conspiracy to oust everything that humans have called and used for food!! Arrrrrgh!!
So much out there for and against whole wheat and whole grains but then I chose to find out for myself and here are my findings:
A Whole Grain is defined as the cereal grain that contains the germ, endosperm and bran. In other words any cereal grain that still has its original (natural) make up of germ, endosperm and bran qualifies as a whole grain. Whereas refined grains are made up of cereal grains that have been mechanically processed. The processing modifies the nature of the grain such that the bran and germ are removed and only the endosperm is retained. Processed or refined grains are classified as lower quality grains as against ‘whole grains’ because they are of lower nutritional value. I’ll tell you why.
The three components of whole grains have different nutritional values. The Bran contains fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and 50-80% of the minerals in grains like iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium. The Germ contains healthy fats, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants like vitamin E whilst the Endosperm is made up and contains more of carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.
So when you choose processed grains you are leaving out antioxidants, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and 50-80% of the minerals in grains like iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, healthy fats, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants like vitamin E. Processed grains only offer carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals. No wonder whole grains are always a better and higher quality choice of grain consumption. Phytochemicals help fight disease and can protect the body from diseases like cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes and cancer.
Here are some of the refined grains that find their ways into our daily food intake: White flour products like White bread, White sandwich rolls and buns, Cornbread, couscous, White Flour Tortillas, Noodles, Spaghetti, Macaroni, Crackers, White rice.
And here are some whole grain foods: Oats, Oat bread, Oat cereal, Oat meal, Rolled Oats, Popcorn, Brown rice, Barley, Muesli, Millet, Quinoa, Rye, Sorghum, Wild Rice, Whole Wheat products like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat couscous, whole wheat cereals.
We can clearly now declare that refined wheat or any refined grain are lower in nutritional value as they do not contain most of the vital nutrients the body needs to stay healthy and some of them actually contain added sugar and other chemical additives that could be dangerous to health. Question now is, if whole wheat and whole wheat products fall within the whole grain range why are some people advocating that wheat whether whole or refined is bad for health?
Here’s the thing: Unrefined or whole wheat as a grain is very nutritious but wheat either refined or whole contains and is quite high in ‘gluten’ which is a binding (elastic) substance. Gluten is a mixture of 2 proteins ‘gliadin’ and ‘glutenin’ and which may cause digestive problems as they are difficult for some people’s stomach to break down and can cause inflammation. Some people’s digestive systems cannot tolerate gluten especially people who have known Gastro Intestinal problems like Celiac Disease.
There is also a lot of information on studies done to prove that a high consumption of gluten can create digestive disorders in people who never had them. My take on this is, rather than classify any food as not good for you, find out how your body reacts to different foods by keeping a food diary; try to take note of the particular food that appears to always cause you discomfort each time you eat it, try to avoid that particular food and find a replacement for it which your body tolerates.
Our bodies respond differently and individually to food and environmental conditions. If you suspect that any particular food may be causing you discomfort in any way no matter how small, seek professional help before this develops into a more serious health problem; it is better safe than sorry.
Wheat allergy is the immune system responding negatively to the protein in wheat. Here are some of the symptoms associated with wheat and or gluten allergy: Gastro Intestinal Disturbances, Infections, Fatigue, Bloating, Asthma, Eczema, Acne, Migraine, Joint pains and many more. If you feel that you might be allergic to wheat then find other alternatives and seek help from a professional.
There is a lot being done presently by Food Regulatory bodies in the developed world (and some developing countries) to ensure sincerity, openness and accuracy in food labelling so as to assist consumers in making informed choices when purchasing. So another tip is: ‘check the pack’; read the nutritional information before buying.
Till I come your way again, I do hope and pray the manufacturers of your chosen ‘whole grain(s)’ have put the right information on the pack that we pick. Ciao!
Funke Fasanya, an authority on healthy living writes from the United Kingdom.