I noticed the advertisement in the sidebar at the right side of the Facebook page. The headline screamed over a photo of a bagel, that I must stop eating wheat right now. I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “now they’re demonizing something else.”
After clicking the ad, I saw a photo of a smiling model dressed in a doctor’s smock holding a clipboard. I was promised a glowing, healthy body if I went ahead and clicked yet another link. I had no desire to hear still another long lecture about yet another “amazing discovery” or health plan. I shook my head and closed the ad.
Certainly, a share of people suffer wheat gluten sensitivity or an allergy to wheat products. There might be isolated instances where wheat or some other food substance might be harmful to health. I don’t personally know of anybody who has become seriously ill nor died because of wheat ingestion.
To those of us who do not have medical issues regarding wheat products, the fear mongering turns us off. If we are to give up delicious bread, pasta, and breakfast cereal, where will we obtain our low cost nutrition? To give up these foods seems totally unreasonable, especially to the growing numbers of poor people in the country and the world. Regardless of income level, wheat is the main staple food in most countries on Earth.
Given wheat’s low cost, delicious flavor, and ability to satisfy my hunger, I do not intend to give up on wheat any time soon. Anyway, cakes, cookies, and other treats made from non-wheat alternatives aren’t very tasty.
Wheat is an integral part of civilization. Indeed, it was one of the main reasons that western civilization began. As hunting and gathering food became insufficient means of sustaining larger numbers of people, the discovery of agriculture enabled humanity to survive and thrive. The early grassy ancestors of barley, rye, and wheat were cultivated. References to wheat and its food products are found in ancient documents, religious writings, and literature. People have been eating their daily bread since before the dawn of history.
The US Department of Agriculture lists six classifications of wheat: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, hard white, soft white, and hard durum. The hard varieties are commonly used for all-purpose flours. Hard wheats contain plenty of gluten, so they’re best used in bread, rolls and bagels. We commonly find the soft varieties in pastries, cakes, flat-bread, crackers, and biscuits.
Besides the foods we normally associate with wheat, we find wheat used to brew beer and many alcoholic spirits. Some parts of wheat are blended with other plant materials to process biofuels for industry and transportation. Some nations use wheat to supplement animal feed requirements. Wheat has a much higher protein content than either maize (corn), or rice.
Obviously, wheat is a crucial part of everyone’s well-being and the global economy. Wheat crops thrive just about anywhere wheat culture has been transplanted. Wheat has been cultivated across Europe, Asia, parts of Australia, and Africa. In the America’s we find wheat in parts of South America, and it is a big part of the economy of the Great Plains of North America. In fact, wheat is why the Great Plains are sometimes called the “Breadbasket of the world”. Wheat is actually grown in 42 of the states in the US, Kansas is the top producer.
There are some varieties of wheat that are marketed as “ancient grains” or are “stealth wheat” in health food stores. Perhaps you’ve eaten foods containing Einkorn or Farro (Emmer). These particular “stealth wheat” grains may be assimilated differently into our bodies, many are higher in antioxidants than conventional wheats. Other wheats found in health food stores or healthy eating departments of supermarkets include bulgur wheat, couscous, and wheat berries.
According to information provided by the Nebraska Wheat Board, there are many positive health benefits to be found in regular hard and soft wheat varieties. The most common include healthier levels of blood pressure, reduced asthma risks, lowered risks of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Wheat can also be used in diets to reduce inflammatory disease risks and weight management diets.
When you hear or sing “America the Beautiful”, containing the phrases, “amber waves of grain” and “the fruited plain”, don’t you usually think of vast wheat fields?
Happy Wheat Day.