What Is Wheat?
Wheat-free, gluten-free, coeliac…there are a lot of terms to get to grips with when it comes to nutrition. But what exactly is wheat? Any why do so many people give up wheat?
In this handy guide, we sort the wheat from the chaff…
Wheat (official name: Triticum aestivum) is a cereal grain humans have eaten for over 100,000 years. It’s believed to have originated in southwest Asia, and soon spread around the world.
Wheat is a core ingredient in many foods including bread, noodles, pasta and cakes. And that’s because it’s high in gluten, which is ideal for baking bread since it allows the bread to rise, and makes it stronger and more elastic.
What does wheat contain?
Wheat is mostly made up of carbs, and is over 90% starch. Many wheat products have a high glycemic (GI) rating, so diabetics should steer clear.
That being said, wholemeal bread is packed with vitamins and minerals – including:
- B vitamins
Just bear in mind that refined, white wheat products usually lack these nutrients. That’s because the bran and germ (the most nutritious parts of the grain) are taken out during processing.
Why worry about wheat?
Many people can tolerate wheat, and eat it as part of a balance diet. But some people may have difficulties digesting it.
For instance, some people may have a wheat allergy. In this instance, your body will see wheat as an invader, triggering an immediate immune response. This can cause symptoms such as acne, migraines, infections, fatigue and digestive problems.
Other people may experience wheat intolerance or sensitivity. This is when the body has a hard time digesting wheat, sparking symptoms like bloating, wind, headaches and bad digestion.
Then there’s the trouble with gluten. Some people can’t tolerate gluten and may be diagnosed with coeliac disease. This happens when the immune system marks gluten as an allergen, prompting a severe reaction.
If you’re on a wheat-free diet, try to include alternatives such as quinoa, maize, buckwheat flour, or millet. A dietician
can help you include grains as part of a healthy diet – and advise on your wheat intake.
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