While the 2018 wheat harvest remains fresh in the minds of Kansans, it’s worth remembering civilization has been directly linked to the cultivation of grain. When primitive man first learned he could grow wheat during the summer, store it for winter food and use the leftover wheat to plant in the spring, he realized he could settle in one place.
Villages and towns followed as man no longer needed to follow game and forage for food. Anthropologists speculate that primitive man probably first chewed the raw wheat kernel before he learned to pound it into flour and mix it with water to make porridge.
Approximately 10,000 years B.C., man first started eating a crude form of flat bread baked with flour and water. Since that early beginning, wheat has become known as the staff of life. It has remained a staple in our diets in this country and around the world.
During this year when the Kansas wheat crop will be one of the smallest on record, it seems only fitting to take a closer look at this healthy food source.
For many, our day begins with a slice or two of bread made from wheat. Some people continue to eat wheat in snacks or some other form, throughout the day. Still, most Americans rarely eat more than four or five servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta foods each day. The daily recommended intake is six to 11 servings according to U.S. dietary guidelines.
Today’s well-informed consumer continues to understand the importance of increasing the consumption of whole grains. The convenience and nutrition of wheat makes it a natural for our fast-paced society. Wheat snacks come in an endless variety bound to please nearly every pallet.
Wheat consists mainly of complex carbohydrates that provide a source of time-released energy. The nutrition community recommends 45-65 percent of our daily calories come from carbohydrates.
Nutritionists also advise eating no more than 20-35 percent of our calories from fats and approximately 10-35 percent of our calories from protein.
Wheat foods provide fiber in our diets. Fiber is the carbohydrate in food that humans cannot digest. Fiber acts as a broom and sweeps out the digestive tract.
Eating fiber regularly helps with fewer incidences of colon cancer and some types of heart diseases. Sufficient amounts of fiber in our diet have been related to better control of diabetes and an overall healthy colon, according to nutritionists.
Research also suggests eating wheat bran might help prevent breast cancer.
Wheat foods are good sources of fiber as are fruits and vegetables. The American Dietetic Association recommends eating 20-35 grams of fiber daily. Americans usually consume only about 12 grams.
Kansans use hard red winter wheat in yeast breads and hard rolls. This state also produces the best flours in the world.
Look for ways to serve wheat products with every meal. This might not only improve your health and that of your family, but the economy of Kansas – the Wheat State.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.