In recent times, the rise of celiac disease,a medical condition arising out of allergy to gluten, the protein present in wheat, has given it some bad press, but there’s more to one of the biggest staples in the world. Wheat is one of the first cereals to have been domesticated, around 8500 BC. It travelled to Greece, Cyprus and India around 6500 BC and Egypt around 6000 BC, which is where it first transformed to bread.
Wheat is ground and made into flour, its durum variety ground to semolina, its germinated and dried variety into malt. Its outer husk bran is also consumed in various ways, as is the de-branned version, bulgar. Wheat, along with rice, is one of the most popular sources of carbohydrates, used in bread, roti, tortillas, pasta, cous cous, porridge, breakfast cereal, as also goodies such as cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, pancakes, and doughnuts.
While wheat in itself is a rich source of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, its nutrient content depends largely on the form that it takes—it’s most beneficial when used in its whole form. Which is why those slices of white bread and deliciously spongy cakes are not what we’ll recommend in this health column: Instead, we suggest a wholewheat spaghetti retaining all the fibres and nutrients your body can do with.
Low Glycaemic Index (GI)
100g of wholewheat contains 73g of carbohydrates (25% of the daily requirement). The carbohydrate content contains 12g of fibre and is low GI—basically, GI is a quick measure of how different types of carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels. High fibre and low GI foods make you less prone to diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. The high-fibre content prevents constipation, and protects against gall-bladder stones and various cancers.
Wheat is particularly low in fat. A 100g serving contains 2g of fat, none of it the saturated type.
It is rich in iron, which aids red blood cell production; potassium, which aids brain functioning; magnesium, which is good for a healthy heart; phosphorus, for teeth and bone formation; and zinc, for improved immunity.
Eat this way
Wholewheat spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, olives, peppers and capers
Bursting with flavour: Wholewheat spaghetti with tomatoes.
• 200g wholewheat spaghetti
• 50g fresh tomatoes
• 20g red pepper
• 20g yellow pepper
• 5g capers
• 2g olives (black/green)
• 2g garlic
• 10ml olive oil
• 10g Parmesan cheese
• 10-15 fresh basil leaves
• 30g salt
• Black pepper, freshly crushed
Take about 2 litres of water in a wide vessel of medium height. Add about 20g of salt. Bring it to a boil. Add the spaghetti . The right way to do it is to keep the spaghetti upright in the vessel, resting on the sides, and let it slide in. The packet of pasta will give the cooking time. It is usually 10-12 minutes. Boil the pasta till about 1 minute less than the cooking time. Drain and keep aside the water. Drizzle a little olive oil on the pasta to avoid the strands from sticking. Keep the water on simmer.
For the sauce: Blanch the tomatoes for 10 seconds. Peel and deseed them. Chop them in cubes. Cut the peppers into dices. Drain the capers. Slice the garlic or chop it finely. Heat the olive oil. Add garlic and sauté. Add the peppers and tomato and sauté till the tomatoes are cooked. Before adding the pasta to the sauce, refresh it by putting it into the water kept on simmer. The golden rule is “to take the pasta out of the water, not the water out of the pasta”. Toss the pasta into the sauce. Season with salt and freshly crushed black pepper and hand-torn basil leaves. Use a pair of tongs to place the pasta in a hollow, flat dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the pasta. Garnish with grated Parmesan, sliced olives and capers.
—Recipe courtesy Abhijeet Thakre, executive sous chef, Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi.