by Bree West
As one of the most important grains in use, wheat provides more nourishment for people throughout the world than any other food—it’s a diet staple for more than one third of the world's population. Wheat is used in a variety of products, but its primary use is in flour for bread and other baked goods due to its high content of gluten, which gives wheat flour elasticity and strength that allows the bread to rise well. After the bread dough is kneaded, the gluten 'traps' the carbon dioxide that is produced from the yeast, which causes the bread to rise.
Wheat has been an important grain of consumption for millennia. It is thought to have originated in southwestern Asia, and was first cultivated in Egypt where it became an important part of the development of their civilization. Wheat was introduced to the western hemisphere in the fifteenth century when Columbus came to the New World, but it wasn't until the late nineteenth century that wheat cultivation really began to boom. Today, wheat is responsible for the largest cropland area of any food, with about twenty-two percent of all available cropland in the world devoted to growing wheat. The largest producers today are Russia, the United States, China, and India.
One-hundred percent whole wheat—meaning that it's been minimally processed, if at all, and still contains the germ and bran portions—is the most nutritious. For one, it’s a great food for decreasing the risk of colon cancer. This is due to a high amount of fiber, which adds bulk to and softens the stool, helping to decrease transit time of the stool in the colon. When stool is hard and difficult to pass, it sits in the colon longer than it should, which causes toxicity and bacteria and other such problems that can lead to colon cancer. Eating foods that are high in fiber, such as whole wheat, helps to keep elimination regular, thereby decreasing the risk of colon cancer.
Furthermore, high levels of estrogen have been shown to cause changes in cells that can lead to breast cancer. Fiber binds to estrogen in the intestines, allowing less estrogen to flow through the bloodstream and helping to maintain a healthy level in the body, as a result decreasing the risk of breast cancer, one of the highest occurring cancers in women today.
We are all exposed to a large amount of free radicals every day, from environmental pollutants and unhealthy foods to stress, and even aerobic exercise. The body itself produces free radicals as a normal part of daily living. Oxygen molecules that have lost an electron scavenge around the body searching for an electron to fill the void. In doing so, they damage any cell they come into contact with, including cholesterol in the bloodstream, making it sticky and more likely to cling to the walls of the arteries, the first step toward heart disease. However vitamin E, which is found in great amounts in whole wheat products, not only acts as an antioxidant helping to neutralize the damaging free radicals, but also helps the liver to produce less cholesterol. This makes whole wheat a great food for a healthy heart.
Originally, wheat and wheat products were made with raw material that was very nutritious. Today, this is not typically the case. Most wheat products on the market today are genetically modified and heavily processed. Products such as wheat breads, pastas, and cookies use wheat flour that has been through a process where about sixty percent of the wheat grain is removed, including the most nutritious portions of the wheat, the germ and bran. Therefore, more than half of the B vitamins, folic acid, zinc, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and iron are taken out of the food. Many wheat products today are fortified with some nutrients, but they are not coming from a quality source and the full spectrum of nutrients that are lost are not put back into the food. However, unrefined wheat and wheat products are a great source of fiber, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and E, manganese, folate, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, and protein.
Wheat can be found as packaged products or in bulk sections. If buying wheat in bulk, make sure the bins are properly covered, with no sign of moisture. Forms of whole wheat include wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat berries, whole-wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, cracked wheat, and unbleached whole wheat flour. Wheat berries should be kept in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. The best way to store other wheat products is in airtight containers in the fridge, where the cool temperature will prevent the oils in the wheat from going bad. Wheat products can also be kept in the freezer where they can stay fresh for months.
Essene Bread (Raw Sprouted Bread)
- 1 cup kamut berries ( sprouted-you can use soft wheat berries if you wish)
- 1 cup spelt berries ( sprouted-you can use oat groats or rye berries if you wish)
- 1 teaspoon rock sea salt ( you can also use kelp flakes or Bragss Liquid Aminos)
- 1/4 cup flax seed ( soak 15 minutes)