Let Them Eat Bulgar

When God told Joseph, “Wheat is for man,” He wasn’t talking about Wonder Bread or pasta or boxed cake mixes  or even chocolate chip cookies. Sorry, it’s true, I’m pretty sure about this. He said wheat, not white flour. Not that white powder without even the germ in it. And there is a difference.  Whole wheat is one of the healthiest foods available, but when you sand of the outer coating,remove the bran, and take out the germ with its essential oil you don’t have much left–60% of the kernel has been removed, including half or more of the original amounts of B1, B2, B3, vitamin E,  folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron and fiber. No wonder people are looking for gluten free–white flour is almost wheat free!
So what’s so good about whole wheat?  Let’s start with the important stats.  Women who eat whole grains, including whole wheat weigh less statistically than their more refined sisters. Remember, it’s not carbohydrates we want to avoid, it’s refined carbs. But how to add whole wheat to your daily diet? Eating whole wheat flour can be a hard adjustment, requires some modification of the recipes you’ve been using, tastes different than what you’re used to. So I suggest you begin your adventure in whole wheat by adding bulgar to your mornings.
I began eating bulgar for breakfast when we lived on the Navajo reservation more than thirty-five years ago. I would put a cup of whole wheat in the crock pot, add 3 cups of water and leave it overnight. In the morning the wheat had swollen up into round ball bearings. I served it with milk and honey. And I discovered that I really liked it. I didn’t start cooking wheat as a health food. I started because it was convenient. I lived a long way for a supermarket. Corn flakes were expensive at the trading post, and I had a can of wheat someone had given me. Voila. The benefits? I used to say I could eat whatever I wanted all day long. I never gained weight. My body regulated itself.                                And yes, I was never constipated. But there were even better side effects. Through eleven pregnancies I never suffered from morning sickness. I had easy pregnancies and easy deliveries. I was full of energy and I didn’t suffer from PMS or monthly migraines—until I abandoned bulgar for the all American diet many years later.

Why attribute my good fortune to whole wheat and not just excellent genes? Well, for one thing, when I did abandon bulgar I turned my life around. I gained weight and at one point was even diagnosed as pre-diabetic. And yes, the symptoms of PMS and depression raised their ugly head (or is it heads?).
What is it that makes whole wheat a wonder food, you wonder? Whole wheat is  one of the world’s healthiest foods containing all the necessary nutrients for weight and mood control. But no, it should not make up your entire diet and it should not be considered a panacea. It should just be an important component.
-For the potential pre-diabetic whole grains are high in cereal fiber and have a low glycemic index. They are absorbed slowly through the intestine allowing the body to respond without spiking insulin levels. But that is just the beginning.
-Whole wheat is a great source of magnesium. Low magnesium is one of the villains in PMS, the villain in leg cramps. Magnesium should be your best friend. It interacts with more than 300 enzymes in the body including enzymes involved in the use of glucose and insulin secretion. (diabetes anyone?)  And yes, there is a correlation  between low magnesium levels and type 2 diabetes.
-What about energy? Whole wheat is a source of betaine (a metabolite of choline) which helps control internal inflammation. Think arthritis, stiff painful joints, etc. Lower inflammation levels mean higher energy levels and perhaps lower tumor ratios. Certainly worth a try.
-Thel fiber in whole wheat speeds intestinal transit time, reduces bile acid secretions, increases insulin sensitivity, and lowers triglycerides (fatty acids). I was going to say, See, no constipation, but it is so much more than that!
-And what about cancer? Wheat bran accelerates the metabolism of estrogen. This means decreased blood estrogen levels, better regulated hormones, and lower risk of breast cancer. Wheat bran (but not corn or oat bran) has also been linked to a lower risk of colon cancers by reducing the concentration of bile acids and bacterial enzymes that promote colon cancer.
-The wheat germ that’s removed from refined flour is also a great source of phytochemicals–the antioxidants we hear so much about in chocolate for example. And wheat germ is rich in vitamin E which is important for immune system function, cancer prevention and blood glucose control. There it is again!
Whole wheat is low in fat, has no cholesterol and very little sodium. One cup of whole wheat flour has about 130 mg of potassium and 13 grams of protein. It contains calcium, magnesium and iron, and is a good source of vitamin B6.
There’s more. Much more, but for now, why not give it a try. Eat good, feel good, and best of all, bulgar tastes good!


About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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