Is Eating Wheat Bad for You?

Reviewed on 11/23/2020

Wheat grain
Consuming too much wheat can cause the intestines to work harder resulting in sluggish digestion causing digestive problems, such as water retention, bloating, and gas.

Wheat is not bad for most people.

Wheat is a good source of fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals. Eating both refined and unrefined whole wheat is not bad for health but whole wheat is healthier because all the nutrients are intact. Gluten-containing foods like wheat, rye, and barley are essential for good health. Gluten is a protein present in wheat, which has recently caused some people to avoid eating wheat and other grains. However, gluten is not harmful except for a small percent of the population with conditions like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), or gluten allergy and people who cannot tolerate gluten and must eradicate it from their diet to reduce abdominal pain and other symptoms associated with their condition.

The reason wheat-free or gluten-free diets have become popular is that people who cut down wheat or eliminate wheat from their diet end up avoiding excess calories in sweets, snacks, pizza, and other junk food foods. This is resulting in people feeling healthier as well as weight loss, and it is causing people to mistakenly assume that gluten-containing foods/wheat is bad for health. On the contrary, wheat has been found to have several health benefits, such as a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Wheat also fuels the body and essential for various body functions. Healthy preparations of wheat, without excess oil or sugar, is not bad for health. Several diets like the Mediterranean diet and the MyPlan diet recommended by the United States government recommend including wheat as an essential part of the diet.

Consuming too much wheat can cause the intestines to work harder resulting in sluggish digestion causing digestive problems, such as water retention, bloating, and gas. Hence, it is important to eat a balanced diet incorporating wheat in proportion.

A department of the United States government, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has created a helpful guide for adults and children to be as healthy as possible by ensuring a balanced diet called the MyPlate diet plan. “MyPlate” replaces the familiar “food pyramid,” which has been found to be obsolete. The MyPlate model shows the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy) in proportions, making it easier to understand the types of food and the quantity to include in each meal to have a healthy and balanced diet. The plate is divided into four unequal sections to represent different food groups.

The main food groups are:

  • Vegetables
  • Grains (wheat)
  • Protein
  • Fruit
  • Dairy

In the MyPlate diet plan, vegetables make up the largest portion on the plate, which is 40% of the plate, followed by grains, which is 30% of the plate. Fruits make up 10% of the plate and protein makes up 20%. Fruits and vegetables fill half the plate while proteins and grains fill the other half. A small amount of dairy in a glass (e.g. milk) or cup (e.g. yogurt) is incorporated into the diet.

What are the benefits of eating wheat?

Wheat has several health benefits, such as:

  • High in nutrients and fiber:
  • Whole wheat contains several important nutrients, such as:
    • Fiber which aids in digestion
    • Vitamins, such as Vitamin B, niacin, thiamine, and folate
    • Minerals, such as zinc, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium
    • Protein
    • Antioxidants, such as phytic acid, ferulic acid, and sulfur compounds
    • Plant compounds, which help in preventing several diseases, such as polyphenols, stanols, and sterols
       
  • Decreased risk of heart disease:

It has been found that 28 grams of whole grains daily can lower the risk of heart disease by 22%.

Eating whole grains every day has been found to lower the risk of stroke by 14%. than those eating the fewest.

  • Decreased risk of obesity:

Fiber-rich foods cause early satiety (feeling full), which prevents overeating. Hence, high-fiber diets are recommended for weight loss.

Fiber-rich grains help with weight control and prevent obesity, which are risk factors for diabetes. Magnesium, a mineral grain, helps the body metabolize carbs in the body.

  • Aids in digestion:

The fiber in grains can support healthy digestion by adding bulk to stools, prevents constipation, and helps eliminate bad gut bacteria.

Grains can help reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of complications occurring due to chronic inflammatory diseases.

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References
Tallmadge K. 7 'Bad' Foods You Should Be Eating. Live Science. July 02, 2013. https://www.livescience.com/37930-seven-bad-for-you-foods-that-arent.html

The Nutrition Source. Gluten: A Benefit or Harm to the Body? Harvard T. H. Chan. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/gluten/

Choose My Plate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov

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