Benefits of whole wheat? It’s a superfood? This may sound strange seeing how wheat is really talked down these days. How in the world could it possibly be good for you? My family and I lived without wheat (and other grains containing gluten) for several years and I can honestly say that after our experience, I firmly believe that whole wheat should be the new superfood! Since I started eating wheat again, I’ve never felt better.
Now it is true that there are some who should not eat wheat and other grains containing gluten because of health conditions like celiac disease. However, the unfortunate truth is that many are assuming that this rare diet restriction should be incorporated into everyone’s lifestyle.
If we take a closer look, however, it’s easy to see that this is not necessary. According to UW Health (the integrated health system of the University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Many are beginning to associate the gluten-free diet with weight loss rather than the medical condition for which it is prescribed. There is no scientific evidence to show that eliminating gluten promotes weight loss.”
One of the most valuable things I learned from Dr. William Sears health coaching course was “Show me the science.” When we are literally trusting our lives with certain health claims, it’s important to look for that science.
Now, to be clear, if the “grains” that are being eliminated from the diet when switching to a grain free diet are highly refined muffins, bagels, doughnuts, white bread or “whole wheat” bread that has simply been dyed a brown color, then yes, you are going to feel better! Those products should never be consumed in the first place.
Whole, pure, organic grains, on the other hand, can have amazing benefits like better weight maintenance, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes by 21-30%, reduced risk of stroke by 30-36% and reduced risk of inflammatory disease. (source)
Here are just 5 benefits of wheat and why I believe that whole wheat should be a superfood:
This may be surprising to list as a benefit seeing how phytic acid is one of the main culprits used to promote a gluten-free diet. Upon deeper examination of the science, however, we see that phytic acid is powerfully beneficial! According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, phytic acid can reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar, lower insulin, protect against diabetes and protect against Parkinson’s. (source)
In Dr. John Douillard’s article Dr. John’s Wheat Belly Rebuttal, he explains how generally those who eat a diet that includes phytic acid have a 41% better absorption of iron and have greater bone density. This is particularly interesting because those who speak out against phytic acid claim that phytic acid robs us of these things.
Dr. Michael Greger as part of his video series on the role of phytates in cancer prevention and treatment, goes so far as to explain how phytic acid may even prevent colon cancer which is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. (source)
With heart disease being the #1 cause of death in the U.S., our heart health should be a top priority!
The American Heart Association reports that “Insoluble fiber has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and slower progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals.” They go on to explain that wheat and most other grains are primarily composed of insoluble fiber.
Eating whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of both high blood pressure and heart attacks. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2004 that men who included three servings of whole grains in their daily diet had a lower risk of coronary heart disease. (source)
Some Doctors prescribe a diet high in wheat for women with conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. Whole wheat can improve the cardiovascular system in postmenopausal women. (source)
Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
Did you know whole wheat can help prevent type 2 diabetes and promote healthy blood sugar control? This is interesting because one of the claims against wheat is that it spikes sugar levels and turns into sugar in the system. Upon further examination, it becomes apparent that there is plenty of evidence in favor of wheat and it’s ability to aid healthy blood sugar levels.
How does it work? Well, the magnesium content in whole wheat assists our bodies use of insulin and glucose secretion. This is because magnesium acts as a co-factor for over 300 enzymes! (source)
There is also ample evidence that whole grains promote healthy blood sugar control. (source)
The high fiber content may be behind this. Fiber moves through our digestive systems slower than most foods causing us to feel full longer. This helps blood sugar levels stay steady longer.
With diabetes being another leading cause of death in the U.S., incorporating whole grains into our diets is certainly worth consideration.
As the second leading cause of death in the U.S., cancer is a heartbreaking struggle. Anything that can be done to prevent it is surely worth looking into.
Both colon and breast cancer can be prevented by the regular consumption of whole wheat. Wheat bran is thought to accelerate the metabolism of estrogen which is know to promote breast cancer. The results of one study showed that women who ate 3-4 fibrous muffins made with wheat bran daily had decreased blood estrogen levels by 17%. The women who ate corn bran or oat bran did not have the same results. This suggests that there is something particularly beneficial in wheat specifically. (source)
In addition to this, The World’s Healthiest Foods points out that “Only the bran from wheat has been shown to reduce the concentration of bile acids and bacterial enzymes in the stool that are believed to promote colon cancer.”
The research of whole wheat being anti-cancerous is backed up by the studies of Dr. John Douillard and Dr. Michael Greger.
Weight Control (Especially for Women)
This has to do with the high fiber content. Fiber aids the digestive tract by keeping things clear as well as helping us stay satisfied longer. When eating foods high in fiber we also become full sooner and don’t feel the need to overeat or snack as often. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who eat whole grains tend to weigh less and are not as likely to gain weight. This certainly has been my experience as well! (source)
There are so many amazing benefits of whole wheat and I haven’t even gone into the reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, inflammation, autism, depression, anxiety, etc. I’m really only scratching the surface on why whole wheat is a superfood.
There are many benefits of wheat and incorporating it into your diet can be one of the healthiest desicions you can make. I’ve only covered 5 benefits of wheat here but there are many more and the research is fascinating.
What benefits of whole wheat have you noticed or learned about? Tell me about it in the comments!
“surprisingly large” amounts of healthful antioxidants called polyphenols.