Wheat is known from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, but it remained a luxury food item for the rich until 1800. The wheat grain has a store of starch, the endosperm, the embryo also known as the wheat germ, and the bran, testa and aleurone layers which surround the whole grain.
To make white wheat flour, the wheat germ and the bran, testa and aleurone layers are removed, taking with them 98% of the available thiamine and 90% of the available niacin, pyridoxine and pantothenic acids. Flour is white because of the addition of bleaching agents and chemicals which age the flour. Un-bleached and much more nutritious whole-meal flours should be used. Whole meal bread is an excellent staple food.
Bread, pasta and pizza should be made with 'strong' wholemeal wheat flours which produce a much better quality dough than the 'soft' wheat flours used for making cakes and biscuits.
Pasta is made from durum wheat, ground into semolina and then made into a paste with water. The dough is made into a variety of shapes and then dried. The dry pasta will keep up to a year. Some pasta dough is made from wholemeal flour and these are a much more healthy option. Some pasta includes egg.
Oats contain a much softer fibre than wheat and the grain is more easily digested making it a very nutritious cereal. Oats make an excellent breakfast cereal, and can be added to many other starchy dishes. Oats can help to reduce high cholesterol levels.
Barley is hardier than wheat and has been used in the cooler regions of Europe and Asia since Neolithic times. Barley cakes can be made in a similar way to oat cakes. Rye will grow in much colder climates than the other grains but is prone to fungal infection. It makes a dark and heavy bread.
Maize was originally cultivated in the American continent and has the poorest nutritional balance of these cereals. This can be improved by boiling the grain in a 5 per cent lime solution before grinding to a flour - a process used in the making of tortillas. Corn flakes often have nutrients added in the manufacturing process. Polenta is a partly cooked maize meal. Cornflour is almost pure corn starch and has little other nutritional value, except for a wheat-free diet.
Bread purchased in a shop will have added calcium and many of the vitamins returned to it. It may also have preservatives to extend its shelf life. Fresh bread doesn't need a fat spread over it, keep any layer of butter as thin as possible.
Breakfast cereals do not always make a healthy start to the day. Many brands have too much salt and sugar, and the dry-heat method of processing can make some of the starch indigestible. A few brands also have a high fat content.
Home made mueslis based on oatflakes can provide a healthy mix of ingredients at an attractive price.
|Wheat whole||12.7%||75.6%||2.1%||1.3%||41 mg|