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No need to worry about eating wheat

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Faith Kariuki Biongo | March 10th 2019

Wheat is one of the most nutritious grains available for human consumption. One serving of wheat, equivalent to 100 grammes, can provide the body with approximately 330 calories and 33 per cent of daily protein needs.

Despite the obvious benefits, wheat has been blamed for many health conditions including excessive weight gain, digestive health problems, type II diabetes, cancer and poor prognosis amongst cancer patients.

Cancer and gluten

Gluten, a protein in wheat that gives it the characteristic elasticity is blamed for all these troubles. Studies show that there is no connection between gluten and risk of most cancers. However, they show increased risk of intestinal cancer in people with celiac diseases and true gluten intolerance. For people with celiac disease and true gluten intolerance, gluten must be completely avoided because they can cause devastating health effects.

Processing then and now

Today, during processing, the bran (fibre and B complex vitamins) and the germ (contains unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals) are removed to improve shelf life. More than half of the total nutrients and almost all the fibre is lost during processing. The flour is then bleached using chemicals like nitrogen dioxide to remove any pigmentation and give whiter, finer grain flour. In the past, flour whitening was done naturally by exposing the flour to oxygen for about two months.

In early days, food was made with whole wheat without removing the bran and the germ, the grain was soaked, sprouted, fermented and baked foods used slow rise yeast. This improved the amino acid content of the food, reduced anti nutrients and disabled enzyme inhibitors which reduced most of the digestive health issues people experience today after consuming wheat products.

May be reduce consumption?

There are people who suffer minor wheat intolerance which can cause digestive health issues like bloating, acidity and irritable bowel, constant headaches, fatigue and other health issues. Most of the time, such symptoms are alleviated when one reduces consumption of wheat-based products.

Most wheat based foods are prepared with a lot of sugar, fat and salt. Together with the way wheat flour is processed this could be the main reason you develop discomfort. Instead, choose products made from whole wheat grains and avoid those made from processed wheat.

Most people following a wheat-free diet do not have celiac disease or real gluten intolerance. They just do so because it is a trend. These conditions affect only 1 per cent of the population. This means such a person is needlessly avoiding a healthy food. 

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