Cultivated wheat today bears no resemblance to wheat that grows naturally, such as the emmer, spelt, and einkorn wheat varieties. The modern dwarf wheat species are grown artificially by genetic modification methods so that it is a high yield cultivated crop. In other words, you now get more grains per acre. Are there any problems associated with using this genetically modified wheat?
Modern day wheat is not as nutritious as it used to be. An experiment started in 1843 in England, known as the Broadbalk Winter Wheat Experiment, continues to this day. It involves the rotation of different wheat species on adjacent plots of land. The researchers use different farming methods, different fertilizers so that they can study the yield and nutritional content. They also track the mineral content in the soil. They switch the crops and use different fertilizers on different plots, periodically. From the start of the experiment until the 1960’s, the mineral content remained constant. When the modern dwarf wheat variety was introduced into the experiment, some of the mineral content decreased. It was noted elsewhere that the spelt, emmer and einkorn wheat varieties had significantly more of an important mineral, selenium. Additionally, they found that there were increased levels of phytic acid in modern wheat, making the reduced amount minerals even more unavailable for human nutrition.
Wheat and a few other grains like barley and rye, contain gluten which bakers like because it makes springy dough and with the addition of yeast, causes bread to rise much better. Unfortunately, there are increasing numbers of people suffering from gluten intolerance and celiac disease with symptoms of abdominal pain, headaches, diarrhea and chronic fatigue. Some researchers blame a gluten protein that is commonly present in the new wheat varieties, which the older varieties like spelt don’t have as much of.
The way we make bread from wheat today is very different to how our ancestors used to make bread. Our ancestors used to stone grind the old varieties of wheat and then let it ferment with yeast cultures. They baked the result for their bread. Research has suggested that this fermentation process effectively predigested the gluten protein found in wheat. Nowadays, we use mass produced refined flour and commercial yeast that produces quick rising bread. It’s fair to say that ancient wheat varieties are healthier for you.
Cardiologist, Dr. William Davis has stated that the number one reason why Americans are gaining so much weight is because the modern variety of wheat that we use for bread products is addictive. He also says it increases blood sugar levels which may lead to diabetes related diseases and can excess belly fat. Unfortunately, advertisers will tell you that bread made from wheat is good for you and there are many bread products on the market today, particularly those associated with fast food takeaway places.
For those of us who can still digest gluten without harmful effects, wheat is still good to eat in moderation, as with everything in life. As long as you eat a balanced diet made up of the five food groups, and you don’t have any allergies to certain types of food, you should be eating healthily and nutritionally.