Wheat Berries: The Real “Whole Wheat”

When grocery shopping for bread, a plethora of options is presented.  You can get…

100% Whole Wheat
Stone Ground Wheat
Whole Wheat
Cracked Wheat
Whole Grain
Multi Grain
60% Wheat

The marketing companies are full of wholesome sounding options…but most of us have caught on that it’s all a scheme to make the most money from the cheapest ingredients possible.

Chemicals in Commercial Wheat Products

The wheat products undergo chemical processing to make the pristine-looking white substance that most people envision when they think of “flour”. After the kernel is cracked open and ground, causing the nutritional benefits to be lost, it is chemically treated.

Even refined flour still has natural yellow pigments (such as carotene—a precursor of vitamin A). The millers discovered they could remove this color and make their flour even whiter by bleaching it. They started blowing chlorine gas into the flour after it was milled.Chlorine gas, a deadly poison if inhaled, not only bleaches the flour but also reacts with other molecules in the flour. Many potentially toxic chlorinated lipid compounds are formed from this chlorine gas, such as dichlorostearic acid. Chlorine also destroys major portions of Vitamin E as well as an important amino acid in the bread protein, methionine (which is classified as “essential” for human nutrition).

Other chemical oxidizers are added to bleach and “mature” the flour, such as nitrogen dioxide, bencoyl peroxide, potassium bromate, potassium iodate, and azocarbonamide. (Source)

During the processing, flour is “enriched” which means that the manufacturers replace the nutrients they’ve removed with synthetic alternatives which cannot be easily broken down and used by the human body.

After the nutritionless, synthetically-fortified flour is sent to a factory and turned into various boxed and bagged items, more chemicals are added to keep the texture soft (in some cases), keep the item from molding or spoiling, and to keep ingredients emulsified.

What was once a nutritional gold mine is now a chemist’s time  bomb that your body is expected to digest and turn into energy.

Flour Most Foul

Many people have taken matters into their own hands and headed over to the baking aisle to purchase flour and make the bread themselves. Is the flour on the shelves any better than the loaves of bread in the tidy cellophane packages? What if you get whole wheat flour? Organic flour? A less refined flour?

Unfortunately, not really – within 24 hours of being cracked open and ground, 60% of the beneficial nutrients in a kernel of wheat have vanished due to oxidization. Within 3 days, more than 80% of the nutrients are gone.  I know that in my own kitchen, I’ve had bags of flour that sat on a shelf in my pantry for months at a time.

Not only does flour lose its nutritional value, it begins going rancid very quickly – 3-6 months for whole wheat flour and approximately a year for processed white flour.  Rancidity occurs when the oils begin to oxidize.  Not only do foods made from rancid products taste less appealing, the rancidity is actually quite dangerous.

Lipid specialist and University of Massachusetts professor Eric Decker [says there are two problems with rancid products,]  “One is that they lose their vitamins, but they also can develop potentially toxic compounds” that have been linked to advanced aging, neurological disorders, heart disease and cancer.“They’re carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory and very toxic,” says integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil. “They are also widespread in the food chain.” (Source)

The only way to truly reap the many nutritional benefits from a whole grain is to actually keep that grain whole until just before preparing and eating it.

Intro to Wheat Berries

Wheat berries are actually not berries at all – they are kernels of wheat.  I buy hard red wheat berries and they remind me of brown rice in appearance.

The wheat  berry can be ground into flour, cooked as a hot breakfast cereal, soaked and sprouted, or cooked and used in place of rice in many different recipes like pilafs or salads. Not only do wheat berries contain substantial fiber, they are also a great source of manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, lignans, and phytochemicals.
Wheat berries are the ultimate space-saving “concentrated food”.  One cup of wheat berries turns into 1-1/2 cups of flour and 2-1/2 cups of cooked wheat berries.

Why Your Wheat Should Be Organic

When choosing which wheat berries to purchase for your long term supply, its well worth the additional money to opt for an organic source.  Before the wheat seeds are planted, they are doused with pesticides and fungicides.  These toxins are reapplied while the wheat is growing and they are also saturated with synthetic hormones to speed the growth of the plant.  The PAN Pesticide Database identified more than 50 different pesticides soaking the California wheat crop of 2009.
The website “What’s on My Food?” shares  Pesticide Residues Found by the USDA Pesticide Data Program.  These pesticides include proven neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, bee toxins, reproductive and developmental toxins, and carcinogens.

One concern that you don’t need to have: at this point there is

 no GMO wheat being grown anywhere in the world.  This being said, most of the wheat on the market is from hybrids (they are not considered to be genetically altered) that are nutritionally inferior to the wheat our ancestors ate.  If you have the option, the very best wheat to grow or buy is organic Einkorn wheat

Making Bread from Fresh Ground Flour

Whenever I make bread from wheat berries I’m reminded of an epiphany in the story of Robinson Crusoe.

I foresaw that, in time, it would please God to supply me with bread…It might be truly said, that now I worked for my bread. I believe few people have thought much upon the strange multitude of little things necessary in the providing, producing, curing, dressing, making, and finishing this one article of bread.

from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

The idea of grinding my own flour was rather overwhelming. I was astonished to discover how simple it is with an electric mill.  While I do have a manual grinder (Wondermill Deluxe Jr) as a back-up, the dry container of my Vitamix food processor does the job quickly and effectively.  Including the process of sifting and regrinding the small amount of flour that isn’t fine enough, making my own flour adds less than 5 minutes to the bread making process for me.  There are numerous electric mills on the market that add to the convenience without heating up your flour while grinding it.

…..

Wheat berries are an ideal addition to your long-term food storage.  They will remain fresh and delicious for up to 20 years if stored properly.  When I priced it out in bulk, the difference between conventionally grown wheat berries and organic wheat berries was $5 for a 50 pound bag – that is so nominal I can’t imagine opting for the poison-soaked choice.

About the author:

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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

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5 Comments  to  Wheat Berries: The Real “Whole Wheat”

  1. Debby says:

    I’m curious … is the einkorn wheat safe for people who are gluten sensitive (but non-celiac?).
    I recently learned that (a) the wheat seeds in the US are treated with MErCURY and it is thus illegal to export wheat seeds from US, anywhere else, because they are considered poisonous, and (b) that what “we” in the world know, today, as wheat, hasn’t been genetically altered, per se, but it WAS altered using IONIZING radiation back in the 50s and 60s as a way to produce a variety of wheat that was shorter, more resilient to pests, drought, etc., and that once they had successfully identified a random mutation as a result of irradiating the seeds, that this is the “hybrid” we now eat, and that this is related to the extremely high incidence of gluten sensitivity experienced by almost a third of US and European residents in the modern era. So I am curious if the einkorn wheat seed is something that would be safe for those that react to other contemporary forms of wheat???

    • Daisy says:

      I don’t know if that wheat would be safe for people with a gluten intolerance or not – it still contains gluten, which is why you can make a yeast bread that rises from it. Whether or not that gluten is the same that people react to, I simply don’t know, and I don’t want to give bad advice.

      Anecdotally, my daughter is highly allergic to eggs. However, her reaction to a farm fresh free range egg from a chicken fed naturally is incredibly mild and occasionally non-existent. A grocery store egg from one of those factory farms means at best, a lot of medication, and at worst an epi pen and a trip to the hospital. This to me, signifies there is something very very different about those eggs.

      I would not be surprised to learn that it’s the same with heirloom wheat.

  2. beth says:

    yes, daisy i think you’d be right assuming the same would apply to heirloom wheat varieties as with the difference you saw with free range eggs. I think many people with food allegies would find this to be true, if brave enough to explore. I know spomeone who cannot eat conventional meat or animal product of any kind, but being vegan was making him very sick as well. he found he could tolerate and truly enjoy organic pastured meats and dairy, and is healthier than he’d been in years! (i can’t help but feeling a warm sting of pride being an organic farmer hearing stories like this!)

    So—it is my understanding that the rise of gluten sensitivity comes from the years of hybridization. the protiens have been changed so much that the body has a hard time recognizing and digesting. If you are not entirely gluten intolerant,farro, einkorn and spelt are going to be much better for you, even if you have no wheat sensitivities.
    (undiagnosed gluten intolerence has been linked to all sorts of ailments of inflamation, and poor digestion. No reason i think to rule out one of those staple foods of human history though!) These older relatives of wheat, as well as some heritage strains have simpler protien chains than the newer hybridized varieties, thereby, more digestable. it still has gluten though.

  3. Jack says:

    Is it safe to ground wheat berries and then mix them into a cold cereal?

  4. Camille Dille says:

    I wish I could take the time to research this more thoroughly because Wikipedia’s Enriched Flour page makes it sound like Enriched Flour is just as healthy as Whole Wheat. And not surprisingly, some of the references are from government sites.

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