What Are Wheat Berries And What Are Their Health Benefits?
Wheat berries are that kind of food that comes into fashion every now and then, and for a while finds pride of place on menus and blog posts. Foodies recommend them, while restaurants push them. Then what happens is they either manage to stick around for a long time, or they quietly slink back into obscurity, waiting until the next generation discovers them once again. They’re a bit faddish like that, despite their numerous health benefits.
But they come from the wheat family, and of all the grains available in the U.S, none are consumed as much as wheat. Wheat berries, are unprocessed wheat kernels, which we eat in their most natural state; they are what is used to make all wheat products. Similar to barley, they are nutritious, crunchy, and offer as many health benefits as a whole grain.
There are numerous different types of wheat berry, and they all vary in colour, size and texture. We name them after their growing season, as well as their colour and even their gluten content. Grown in the spring or winter, some are soft, some are hard, some are red, and some are white. The ones you’ll find in health food stores are packed with protein, and tend to be really chewy. Basically, these are the best ones!
Wheat Berries Contain Lots Of Nutrients
As well as being rich in protein, wheat berries are also rich in numerous nutrients and vitamins:
- Vitamin E
- B vitamins
Protein content varies depending on what type of wheat berry you are eating, but all of them are high in carbs ands fibre, while their vitamin and mineral content is generally high. A quarter cup serving of red wheat berries contains around 6.5 grams of protein, 163 calories, a single gram of fat, 6 grams of fibre and 35 grams of carbs. Wheat berries also contain manganese, copper and phosphorus. Combined, all these nutrients help to strengthen your bones, muscles, nervous system, cognitive functioning, and immune system.
Wheat Berries Are Rich In Micronutrients
Wheat berries contain lots of micronutrients that have significant health benefits. The B vitamins provided by wheat berries help to maintain your nervous system, while maintaining a healthy metabolism. The magnesium and phosphorus content, meanwhile, helps to regulate blood pressure, as well as maintain strong bones. Phosphorus also plays an important role when it comes to DNA and RNA formation, and helps your body to transport energy, while magnesium has been found to play a part in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Copper helps to form connective tissue, and plays an important role in the healthy functioning of your nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems. Manganese is another essential micronutrient that strengthens bones, while carbs and proteins support your immune system.
You may have noticed that a quarter cup serving of wheat berries contains over 150 calories, though it has to be said that most of these calories derive from carbohydrates. Carbs have got a bad rap in some quarters, but the carbs in wheat berries are the good kind of carbs. Yay! Essentially, they’re totally unrefined and contain lots of fibre, which means that they can reduce your risk of blood sugar problems, while aiding healthy digestive functioning.
Further Health Benefits
Just like barley and most other whole grains, wheat berries are a great source of fibre.
Fibre plays an important role in your digestive health. It also helps to regulate your blood cholesterol levels, as well as your blood sugar levels. Moreover, dietary fibre can help to control your weight, and it promotes frequent bowel movements. For this reason, getting as much dietary fibre as you can each day is important to a healthier you, and wheat berries is one of the easiest, most convenient and cheapest sources of fibre available!
As the Harvard School of Public Health points out, eating wheat berries may also lower your risk of developing specific types of cancers.
How To Add Wheat Berries To Your Diet
If you sprout your wheat berries, you’ll be able to make them sweeter, enhancing their taste. You can also crack them and add to salads, or you can cook them as you would a grain and add them to a side dish. Lastly, you can also ground wheat berries into a flour and use them in the making of bread.
It’s common sense, but hard wheat berries will take longer to cook than soft varieties, and sometimes may even need to be left to soak in water overnight. If you want to add them to a salad, it’s highly recommended that you allow them to stand overnight in the fridge with the rest of your salad. In this way, the wheat berries are able to absorb the flavour from the other foods.
You can also mix them with rice to make a pilaff, or you can dump them in soups and stews, or you can even get your day off to the best start possible by eating them as part of a healthy breakfast cereal that is stuffed with nutrients. To make a cereal, you first need to cook the wheat berries, before draping with non-fat milk.
Remember, though, that a quarter cup of wheat berries contains over 150 calories; if you’re watching your weight, you will need to watch how much you eat of these babies. The good thing is that, as they cook, wheat berries expand, ensuring that a quarter of a cup actually turns into half a cup – more than enough!
Moreover, a quarter cup of wheat berries is rich in 5 grams of fibre, which means that you will feel full without having to reach for more.
Some recipes for you to research include:
- Winter berry salad with blood oranges, red onion vinaigrette and feta
- Winter wheat berry salad with figs and red onion
- Wheat berry and black bean chilli
- Wheat berry salad with walnuts, celery and dates