August 9, 2023

Explaining the Qualities of Wheat

Photo of farm land full of wheat crops.

Given the connotation of the word wheat in today’s world, it may seem a strange choice as the primary source of protein for our product. Given people's hot and cold relationship with wheat today, you may be wondering why we chose it as the primary source of protein for our product. If you haven’t already, check out this article in which we explain why we did that! Then keep reading to understand why the truth regarding wheat is not so black and white.

First of all, what is wheat?

Wheat is a cereal plant whose seeds are used to make flour. As of 2022, it is the third most cultivated crop in the US—covering around 37 million acres of land—and the most widely produced cereal grain in the world with 780,000 kg produced in 2022. It is one of the three most common cereal plants along with rye and barley.

Every type of wheat grown and consumed today is a descendant of the oldest type of wheat that exists: eikorn. Eikorn is comprised of fourteen chromosomes. By comparison modern wheat varieties contain forty-two chromosomes. The number of chromosomes in wheat determines what variety it is, and thus how it is classified.

History/Origins of Wheat

Humans were first hunters—hunting and killing animals for food. Eventually we became gatherers as wheat became more available to us. We would gather seeds and process them in order to make a consumable product. This practice was the beginning of what we call agriculture today— “the breeding of crops [and] the cultivation of soil for the growing of crops”.

The more humans manipulated seeds, the more we understood how they worked and how they thrived. We become experts at selecting the best plants to cultivate. Wheat thus became one of the most popular because of how easy it was to separate the seed from its hull.

According to this article titled The Natural History of Wheat: “The wheat industry divides the thousands of varieties available today into six wheat classes: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, durum, hard white, and soft white wheat. Each wheat class has qualities that millers and food processors seek for specific products.” Hard varieties of wheat contain more gluten, and are thus more suitable to make products such as breads and pastas, while soft wheat is best for more delicate goods like cakes, cookies, pastries, and crackers. The versatility of wheat is an example of how this crop is essential to both modern day food production and cooking!

Other qualities of wheat are that it is highly adaptable to different climates and  produces a high yield—qualities which we acquired through both natural and human selection. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, wheat contains one very interesting family of proteins: gluten.

The Big G Word: Gluten

Wheat, or more specifically gluten, certainly has a reputation. The term gluten refers to the proteins contained in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. They are the foundation that keeps the molecules of foods together. In other words, these alternatives retain the food's original shape, much like the way proteins in our bodies provide structure to our muscles and joints. This quality enables the creation of exceptional food items, including staples like bread and pasta.

The success of wheat lies precisely in the fact that it has gluten….

The Nutritional Aspect of Wheat

Wheat is a complex carb, meaning it takes longer for your body to digest, providing more steady and long lasting energy. This is in part thanks to the presence of fibers and proteins, which balance out the amount of sugar your body absorbs.

Wheat is also a rather complete type of food. It is high in fiber and protein, and some varieties even contain a little bit of fat, which makes wheat based products great for creating a balanced meal or snack.

In Conclusion

Between the mountain of information that exists online recounting the negative characteristics of wheat, to the apparent rise of gluten intolerances and the ubiquity of gluten-free foods, it is understandable that the term raises concern. But the wheat crop offers a plethora of benefits that make it a multifaceted asset in food production. We hope that you learned something today!

Please note, we are not talking about people who have diagnosed illnesses that make them allergic or intolerant to gluten, like celiac disease or a gluten gluten allergy. Please consult your doctor if you think you may be intolerant or allergic.


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