You may have been surprised to learn that the world’s population consumes about 300 million tons of wheat annually. The United States alone consumes almost 5 percent of all wheat produced worldwide! This makes it one of the most popular and widely consumed grains in our daily diets. But did you know there are over 100 varieties of this grain? And we only use a fraction of them for food?!
What many people don’t realize is how versatile wheat really is. It has an array of nutritional benefits as well as being used by millions around the globe every day. Here are 5 ways to get more out of your bowl of wheat…
1) Can be used to make flour
Flour is made from ground-up wheat berries, which contain protein and other nutrients like fiber. Flours are categorized according to their color — white (or “all purpose”), wholemeal or rye. Wholemeal means they’re milled so finely that they become darker than white flour. You’ll often find these flours labeled as either self-rising or plain because they typically include extra ingredients such as salt, baking soda, yeast, oil, etc., depending on the recipe.
2) Can be used to make biscuits
Biscuits are small round flat breads usually baked in muffin pans. They are very common throughout Europe but also found in numerous countries across Asia, Africa, and North America. Biscuit dough can be mixed together using just two main ingredients – flour and water. Many recipes call for adding herbs and spices to give each batch its own unique flavor. There are endless variations when making biscuit dough. Try sprinkling some cheese powder into the mixture before rolling it out – delicious!
3) Can be used to make noodles
Noodles are long strands of cooked rice, buckwheat or another cereal product rolled thin then cut into pieces. Noodle dishes are commonly filled with meat, vegetables, seafood, eggs, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, corn, potatoes, onions, peas, beans, lentils, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, etc. These pastas can range anywhere from simple egg drop soup noodles to spaghetti and linguine. If you’ve never had Asian style ramen noodles, I highly recommend trying them at least once. They taste great and are healthy too!
4) Can be used to make cakes
Cakes are desserts composed primarily of fat, sugar, leavening agents, and flavoring added to various types of batters. Cakes come in sweet, savory, rich, light, and even alcoholic flavors. Each cake type contains certain essential components including milk solids, vegetable oils, fats, sugars, proteins, vitamins, minerals, acids, enzymes, gums, starches, etc. All of these elements combine to create a fluffy, moist dessert.
5) Can be used to make pasta
Pasta comes in hundreds of shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and tastes. Pasta is basically tiny little bits of tasty goodness wrapped up in crispy layers of carbohydrate. Pasta can take on several forms ranging from macaroni & cheese, penne rigate, fettuccini alfredo, lasagna, ravioli, tortellini, linguine, farfalle, amatriciana sauce, gnocci, vermicelli, rotini, etc. Basically anything goes when creating new twists on old favorites. Nowadays, you can whip up fresh batches of homemade pasta whenever you feel inspired. Make sure to wash thoroughly after cooking to avoid cross contamination.
A Word of Advice
A few years ago, my family discovered gluten free products while visiting Australia. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that everything was gluten free and tasted wonderful! When travelling abroad, always check if any of the local delicacies require gluten. A lot of restaurants and bakeries will not list whether or not something is gluten free online, so calling ahead can help ensure no cross contamination occurs. Also, many packaged items sold here in Canada do not carry labels indicating whether they contain gluten. So keep this in mind if you want to eat pizza, cookies, or ice cream while traveling in foreign countries.
Another thing to consider is how much wheat you consume per day. Eating three slices of wheat toast for breakfast might seem fine, until you see those same 3 slices later on in the afternoon. Gluten sensitivity affects approximately 1% of Americans, although symptoms vary greatly between sufferers. Some experience bloating, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas, headaches, depression, fatigue, irritability, muscle cramps, insomnia, numbness, tinnitus, dizziness, memory loss, weight gain, extreme tiredness, rashes, mouth sores, skin conditions, sinus congestion, dry eyes, joint pain, swelling, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, tight chest, cough, asthma attacks, respiratory problems, etc.
If you think you suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance, consult with your doctor first. For general information regarding gluten free diet options please visit http://www.celiaccentral.org/glutenfree/.
But Wheat is Wonderful
Wheat isn’t limited to just bread, cookies, noodles, and cakes. In fact, there are countless uses for this amazing plant. Did you know that wheatgrass juice can actually cleanse your body better than drinking tap water? Or that wheat sprouts are good for your health? What about wheat berry extract’s ability to fight cancer cells? How about wheat bran’s ability to absorb toxins? Yes, there are plenty of reasons why you should incorporate wheat into your lifestyle. Get creative and start experimenting today!