A lot of the “advancements” in modern wheat took place in the rush of the 1940s-1960s, when the food industry was booming in newfound commercialization. Advances in industrial production meant that food companies were clamoring for wheat, for prepackaged breads and cereals. And farmers obliged, by creating a hybrid wheat that shorter, to prevent the stalks from breaking, and without an outer husk, to make it easier to mill. Virgin Wheat contains only one grain per stem, but modern wheat has been bred to contain four per stem. They also bred wheat for higher gluten content, which makes baking easier.
But Modern Wheat Lost a Lot Along the Way
In the search for a bigger and better wheat crop, modern wheat lost a lot of the nutrients that the original Virgin Wheat carried. Virgin Wheat has 30% more antioxidants that modern wheat, twice the lutein, and significantly more magnesium, zinc, manganese, and iron. Virgin Wheat also has about 40% more protein than modern wheat. Consequently, a lot of commercial flours now add these vitamins and nutrients back into modern wheat after processing, to try and make up the deficiency.
Perhaps another unintended consequence of this “frankenwheat” is the rise of gluten intolerances in society. Modern wheat has been bred with extra chromosomes, and high gluten content has been considered a favorable trait. Many producers even add extra gluten to their flour. While Virgin Wheat does also contain gluten, neither of its two gluten-producing proteins, gliadin and glutenin, act in the same way as they do in conventional modern wheat. Modern wheat, in fact, contains entirely different sets of gliadins that are totally absent from Virgin Wheat. Additionally, the ratio of gliadins and glutenins in Virgin Wheat is much different than in conventional modern strains, which may be why gluten-sensitive people often report to have better reactions to Virgin Wheat.
The easiest difference to notice, however, is the taste. Virgin Wheat has a much nuttier, full-bodied flavor, compared to the pale blandness of conventional modern wheat. It makes sense. The nutrients in a plant are what carry the flavor, and if so many nutrients have been bred out of modern wheat, the flavor suffers as well.
When you look closely at what what has been done to one of our most popular food sources, it’s obvious a return to the original blueprint is a healthier option.