Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wheat! How Do I Eat Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

Did you know that more food products contain wheat than any other grain? Wheat is everywhere! And it seems as if more and more items on the shelves are competing for our attention when it comes to wheat and the likes.
Everywhere we look, labels on packages claim that their contents contain "Whole Grains". So, why does it matter if we choose to eat whole-wheat or enriched wheat products? Isn’t it just all wheat? And if it's not, how do we know which one is?

Well, you know what we say: Knowledge is power! So here are some wheat basics that might help you make a more informed decision next time you are planning your shopping list:

Know your Wheat Kernel Anatomy!
The entire wheat kernel has over 40 nutrients, including the B vitamins, iron, zinc, and vitamin E. The endosperm is the part of the wheat kernel where the starch or carbohydrate comes from as well as some protein.
The germ is the part that sprouts. It is high in antioxidants, specifically vitamin E. It is full of protein and other nutrients, like B vitamins not found in the endosperm. The bran is the outer covering of the kernel. It is full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which is necessary for good digestion.

Read the Ingredients!
Enriched flour has been stripped of most of its nutrients during the milling process to remove the bran and germ and then “enriched” with some of the nutrients that were lost during milling. However, it is impossible to enrich the endosperm with all of the nutrients lost when the bran and germ were removed.

Understand How Wheat is Classified!
There are thousands of kinds of wheat in the world, but three main classifications: Hard, Soft, and Durum.
o Hard wheat is high in protein and gluten. Gluten is what gives flour elasticity so hard
wheat is preferred for bread making. It's also great for long-term storage!
o Soft wheat is lower in protein and gluten than hard wheat. It is best for baked goods, and is the wheat used to make pastry flour. It does not store as well as hard wheat.
o Durum wheat is the hardest wheat grown and is highest in gluten. This is the wheat
used to make semolina flour, which is used to make pasta.

Wheat is also classified according the time of year it is planted. Winter wheat, which is planted in late fall, sprouts and then lies dormant until spring when it grows until it is harvested in early summer. Because of this long growing season, Winter wheat is higher in minerals.

Storing Wheat
A little bit of wheat goes a long way. It stores well for years as whole kernels if kept dry at room
temperature or cooler. If cracked, crushed (flour, couscous) or rolled, it should be refrigerated
to protect the oils in the germ from going rancid.

Wheat Has Many Forms
And you can usually find all or most of them at your local grocery store! Try the bulk foods section! You can buy as little or as much as you'd like!

Wheat berries come from cooking the whole kernels of wheat. Cracked wheat is wheat that has been broken into small pieces. Rolled wheat is similar to rolled oats (oatmeal) Bulgur is a little like cracked wheat except the wheat berries are cooked first, then dried and cracked. Since bulgur was pre-cooked, it is a little like “instant” wheat. Whole-wheat couscous is a tiny whole-grain pasta. Make sure the box says whole-wheat or you are just getting plain ol’ pasta. Even though you could leave a box of regular couscous on the pantry shelf for a long time, it is best to store whole-wheat couscous in the fridge to keep it from going rancid.

Do you love bread? The picture you see here is a loaf made from an incredibly easy recipe. Looking to try something new with wheat? You'll also love this couscous recipe!

So, now that you know about wheat; Get out there and make something delicious! And then tell us about it! Go on! What are you wheating for?

1 comment :

  1. thanks for the little lesson about whole wheat!! that bread looks so yummy!! Hmmm now I know to start buying whole wheat and not just whole grain stuff! good information! Now I'll work on whipping up something whole grain!