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Some Facts About Wheat

Wheat is a grain, which belongs to the grass family. A grain is defined as a plant that produces a dry edible seed, which is called a kernel or berry. Wheat produces a seed that is commonly called a kernel. Corn, grain sorghum, rice, oats, and rye are other examples of grains.

It is estimated that wheat was cultivated some 9,000 years ago. Since then, wheat has been a staple crop around the world and today continues to be used as a nutritional food source and as a supply for many products.

Grain-based foods, like those produced with wheat, provide complex carbohydrates, which are the best fuel for our bodies, are low in fat, high in fiber, and provide vitamins, especially the 4 key B vitamins, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, and Folic Acid, as well as iron. Wheat provides us with a nutritious and delicious supply of breads, pasta, cereals, crackers, bagels, and many other food products that has wheat as an ingredient.

There are 6 different classes grown in the United States that bring order to the over 30,000 varieties of wheat: Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, Durum, Hard White, and Soft White. The class a variety fits into is determined by its hardness, the color of its kernels, and by planting time. Each class has its own uniform characteristics related to milling, baking, or other food uses. Farmers choose a class of wheat to grow based on the climate and other conditions present where they farm.

There are 50 kernels in one head of wheat. The kernel is the seed from which the wheat plant grows. It is also the part that humans and livestock eat. The kernel has 3 distinct parts: the bran, endosperm, and germ. These 3 parts are separated during the milling process to produce flour.

The endosperm makes up 83% of the kernel weight. It is the middle layer and contains mostly protein and carbohydrates with small amounts of B vitamins, iron, and soluble fiber.

The bran contributes 14 1⁄2% of the kernel weight. It can also be purchased separately. It is the outer layer and contains the largest amount of insoluble fiber, B vitamins, trace minerals, and a small amount of protein.

The germ is only 2 1⁄2% of the kernel weight. The germ is the embryo, or the sprouting section of the seed. The germ is the inner part of the kernel and is a rich source of trace minerals, unsaturated fats, B vitamins, antioxidants, and a minimal amount of high quality protein.


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