Wholesome Whole Wheat
By Fiona Breslin
The words “whole wheat” on a box of pasta or a bread bag seem like shorthand for “chewy, grainy texture inside.” They actually mean much more.
The whole-wheat label denotes foods made with the entire wheat grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. These three elements bring with them a veritable breadbasket of nutrients: sapiens, E and B vitamins, calcium, zinc, copper, protein, fiber, and cancer-fighting phenols. “White” or “refined” wheat products, by comparison, contain only the endosperm, a pure carbohydrate, which delivers none of the valuable nutrients that come with the bran and germ.
Whole-wheat products represent your escape route from the roller coaster of sugar highs and crashes. The body breaks down refined-wheat products quickly, creating those sudden blood-sugar spikes followed by deep lows. In contrast, whole-wheat products digest slowly, letting the body absorb the sugars gradually to provide long-lasting energy. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that diets rich in whole grains may also help with weight management. Being obese or overweight can raise recurrences in breast cancer survivors.
Switching white-flour foods -- including pasta, bread, couscous, crackers, and flour itself -- for whole-grain versions makes an instant impact. Just a cup of whole-wheat pasta contains 25 percent of the daily-recommended value of fiber and 15 percent of protein, plus doses of manganese, selenium, vitamins B6 and B12, iron, and thiamin. The refining process zaps all of those nutrients from white pasta.
Buying products that pack real whole-wheat goodness may require some sleuthing. Read the ingredients; whole wheat should be high on the list. Some breads marketed as whole wheat are actually made from refined flour mixed with a small amount of whole grain, plus molasses or high-fructose corn syrup to make them brown. Busted!
It’s quite simple to gradually include more whole-wheat foods in your diet; just start replacing white-flour products with whole wheat wherever you can. Watch out for refined-wheat foods that are chemically enriched with vitamins and minerals. These added nutrients are less soluble in the body than those naturally found in whole-wheat foods.
Whole grains such as wheat berries, also called Pharaoh’s Wheat, are rich in antioxidants and can be turned into wonderful summer salads with diced veggies or spinach. Mix whole-wheat couscous and bulgur with vegetables and fresh herbs for a quick side dish. For pasta dishes, enjoy whole-wheat penne or spaghettini with our Basic Quick Tomato Sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Try substituting whole-wheat pastry flour for all-purpose white flour when you bake. Make a sweet start with our super-easy Oatmeal and Date Cookies.