Bulgur wheat is a popular ingredient in many traditional Middle Eastern dishes – and for good reason.
This nutritious cereal grain is easy to prepare and has several potential health benefits.
This article explains everything you need to know about bulgur wheat, including its nutrients, benefits, and how to cook with it.
Bulgur is an edible grain made from dried, cracked wheat – most commonly durum wheat, but other types of wheat as well.
It is parboiled or partially cooked so that it can be cooked relatively quickly. When cooked, it has a consistency similar to that of couscous or quinoa.
Bulgur is considered whole grain, which means that all of the wheat kernel – including the germ, endosperm, and bran – is eaten.
Bulgur has its origins in the Mediterranean and can be traced back thousands of years. To this day, it is a staple ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.
Bulgur is an edible grain made from parboiled, cracked wheat. Its texture is similar to quinoa or couscous.
Bulgur is not only tasty and quick to prepare, but also very nutritious.
Because it is a minimally processed grain, it retains higher nutritional value than more refined wheat products.
Bulgur contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as a significant amount of fiber. In fact, a single serving provides over 30% of the daily reference intake (RDI) for that nutrient (1, 2).
Bulgur is a particularly good source of manganese, magnesium and iron and is also slightly lower in calories than comparable whole grain products such as brown rice or quinoa (2, 3, 4).
A 1 cup (182 grams) serving of cooked bulgur provides (2):
- Calories: 151
- Carbohydrates: 34 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Folate: 8% of the FDI
- Vitamin B6: 8% of the FDI
- Niacin: 9% of the RDI
- Manganese: 55% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
- Iron: 10% of the RDI
Bulgur wheat provides a variety of nutrients and is a particularly good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and fiber.
Regular consumption of high-fiber whole grain products like bulgur is linked to several health benefits, including disease prevention and improved digestion.
Promotes heart health
Getting enough fiber-rich foods – like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – can promote heart health.
One review found that people who consumed 3–7.5 servings (90–225 grams) of whole grains per day had a 20% reduction in lifelong heart disease risk (5).
Hence, consuming whole grains like bulgur could offer some heart protective benefits.
Supports healthy blood sugar control
Compared to refined grains, whole grains are associated with a reduced blood sugar response and lower insulin levels. Some research suggests that whole grains may also improve overall insulin sensitivity (6).
While fiber is often blamed for these effects, plant compounds in whole grain products can also play an important role (6).
Bulgur wheat is a rich source of fiber and phytonutrients that can help improve your blood sugar control (7).
Supports digestion and intestinal health
Regular consumption of whole grain products like bulgur can promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria (8).
These bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that aid intestinal health and proper digestive function (8).
In addition, getting enough fiber-rich foods like bulgur can also be effective in treating and preventing digestive problems like constipation (9).
Promotes weight loss
Although a variety of factors affect weight, numerous studies link higher fiber intake to weight loss and a decreased tendency to gain weight (10).
Overall, it is still unclear how fiber affects weight. In some people, eating fiber leads to increased satiety and thus reduced caloric intake, but it can also play a role in lowering the total amount of energy that is absorbed from food (10).
Consuming bulgur with other high fiber foods as part of a balanced diet can support a healthy weight.
Because bulgur is a high fiber whole grain, it can have beneficial effects on heart health, weight loss, blood sugar control, and digestive health.
Bulgur wheat is very easy to prepare.
It is available in fine, medium or coarse versions and takes 3–20 minutes to cook, depending on the type. The coarser the grain, the longer the cooking time.
The cooking process is similar to that of rice or couscous in that boiling water is used to soften the grain. For each part of bulgur, you usually need about two parts of water.
Bulgur has Mediterranean origins and remains a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine.
It is often used in salads – such as tabbouleh – or pilafs, along with herbs, vegetables, spices, and sometimes other grains.
It can be used as a base for porridge with oats or in soups, stews and chilli.
You can also use it in almost any recipe that calls for rice, couscous, or a similar cereal.
Bulgur is relatively easy to find and relatively inexpensive in any major grocery store. You can likely find it in the bulk materials section or on other types of whole grains. It can also be placed on the shelf with other Middle Eastern items.
Bulgur cooks quickly and is very versatile. It is great for salads, soups and pilafs and can also be used as a substitute for rice or couscous in almost any recipe.
While bulgur is healthy for many people, it may not be the best choice for everyone.
Because bulgur is a wheat product, anyone with a wheat or gluten allergy or intolerance should not eat it.
Some people with chronic bowel disease such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may not tolerate bulgur due to its insoluble fiber content. If you’re not sure, start with a small amount to see how your body reacts (11, 12).
If you have acute gastrointestinal symptoms due to an infection or illness, it is best to wait for your symptoms to improve before introducing high-fiber foods like bulgur to avoid worsening your illness (11).
Finally, if you eat a lot of fiber and experience poor tolerance to high fiber foods, it may be helpful to cut these foods down and introduce them slowly and in smaller amounts until your tolerance improves.
Certain people, such as those allergic to wheat products, shouldn’t consume bulgur. Others may experience poor tolerance at first and should avoid this or simply reduce their consumption.
Bulgur is a whole grain made from cracked wheat. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
High-fiber foods like bulgur can reduce the risk of chronic illness, promote weight loss, and improve digestion and intestinal health.
It’s easy to cook and can be added to many dishes including salads, stews, and breads.
If you want to try bulgur wheat, make sure you consume it as part of a healthy, balanced diet to ensure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs.
What to eat, avoid, and more
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in every cell in the body. Consuming too much cholesterol in the diet increases cardiovascular problems. Avoiding certain foods reduces the risks.
Cholesterol performs important functions, including:
However, high blood cholesterol levels can cause health problems such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. To lower high cholesterol or maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it is important to make lifestyle changes and reduce dietary cholesterol levels.
This article reviews the causes of high cholesterol, foods to avoid, and some low-cholesterol foods and low-cholesterol lunches.
Cholesterol is bound to specific proteins while being transported throughout the body. The combination of wax substance and proteins is called lipoprotein.
There are different types of lipoproteins depending on what is attached, but the two main types of cholesterol are:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This is known as the “bad” cholesterol. It transports cholesterol from the liver to various parts of the body. LDL cholesterol can build up in veins and arteries, narrowing them and restricting blood flow. A high LDL level is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL): This is known as the “good” cholesterol. It transports cholesterol from the body back to the liver for processing and elimination. A high HDL level is considered cardioprotective.
Genetic factors can lead to high blood cholesterol levels. This means that some individuals produce excessive amounts of cholesterol – particularly LDL cholesterol – leading to high blood cholesterol levels. This is called genetic or familial hypercholesterolemia.
Certain lifestyle factors can affect cholesterol levels. For example, eating foods that contain high amounts of cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat has been shown to increase blood cholesterol levels.
These are found in the following foods:
- Processed carbohydrates: This includes white bread and white pasta.
- Saturated Fatty Acids: This includes red meat, whole dairy, and processed foods.
- trans fats: This includes fried and highly processed foods like cookies, crackers, and donuts.
Other lifestyle factors that can contribute to high cholesterol include smoking tobacco products and inactivity.
Some medical conditions can also cause high cholesterol, including:
Individuals who wish to lower their blood cholesterol levels can make some lifestyle changes to achieve this.
These strategies include:
- Exercise regularly
- Avoidance of Tobacco – Smoking is associated with unfavorable lipoprotein profiles
- Reducing consumption of foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats
- maintaining a moderate body mass index
- Eat enough fiber, especially soluble fiber
Increasing your consumption of soluble fiber can lower cholesterol levels. This is because soluble fiber turns into a gel and attaches to cholesterol in the small intestine. This gel helps push it through the digestive system for the body to dispose of through feces.
Foods that contain high amounts of soluble fiber include:
- Legumes, peas and beans
- most root vegetables
Individuals with a family history of high cholesterol should consult their doctor to determine if they are at risk of inheriting the condition. If so, they can work together to develop a strategy to minimize their risk.
Low cholesterol foods tend to be lower in fat. That means plant-based foods and low-fat proteins are excellent low-cholesterol options.
Processed foods can also sometimes contain cholesterol. People can check this by reading the nutritional label and paying attention to the serving size.
Examples of low-cholesterol food groups include:
- black beans
- kidney beans
- navy beans
- pinto beans
- broad beans
- Lentils – red, black and green
- Cantaloupe melon
- sweet potato
- the brussel sprouts
- cashew nuts
- macadamia nuts
- pine nuts
Whole grains, muesli and pasta
- Oats and oatmeal
- whole grain breads
- Wholemeal crackers
- Pasta, especially whole grain or lentil varieties
- cold cereals, especially whole grains or bran
- bran products
- Soy milk
Fatty fish and meat
- work work
- lean steak
Different food items
- Chia seeds
Reducing the consumption of cholesterol-containing foods can help lower blood cholesterol levels.
Some examples of low cholesterol lunch ideas include:
- vegetarian or turkey sandwich or wrap
- Broth-based vegetable soup or lentil soup
- Salads with low-fat or olive oil-based dressings
- Salmon with rice and roasted broccoli
- Tofu or Ground Turkey Chili
- Pasta salad with roasted vegetables and chicken
- Overnight oats with fruits and nuts
- Chicken or tofu and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice
- Mediterranean quinoa with feta, cucumber, red onions and olives
Read on for a diet plan to lower cholesterol.
Research has also examined the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean food pyramid lists the consumption of foods in various amounts and frequencies:
- Dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes every day
- Fruits, vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, whole grains, nuts with every main meal
- at least 2 servings of fish or seafood per week
- 2 servings of white meat and 2-4 servings of eggs weekly
- Limit red meat to no more than 2 servings per week and sweets to no more than 3 servings per week
The study showed that this type of diet protects against cardiovascular disease and lowers LDL cholesterol levels.
Read more for a Mediterranean meal plan here.
Cholesterol is an endogenous substance with many important functions. However, high blood cholesterol can be problematic as it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are many strategies that can help lower or maintain a person’s cholesterol levels, including diet.
By eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and reducing the consumption of foods that contain cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat, individuals can help control their cholesterol levels.
Which diet is the healthiest? One eating hack can boost more than your body
Scientists, nutritionists, and social media influencers have made their careers researching what—exactly—makes the best diet. In recent years, the Paleo diet, which attempts to replicate what our ancient ancestors were said to have eaten, has been pitted against the keto diet (essentially a version of the Atkins diet) and intermittent fasting (which insists there isn’t any diet is) fought for supremacy. But there’s one diet that almost all scientists agree is healthy for your body, your brain — and maybe even the planet.
Many nutritionists have long emphasized that a balanced diet consisting primarily of vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and fruits is ideal for a healthy adult body and has numerous health benefits.
In other words: a plant-based diet. As it turns out, this type of diet is not only good for human health — it can also save the planet from the climate crisis.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature, scientists show how people in higher-income countries could remove enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to keep the global temperature from rising above 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius by switching to a plant-based diet change.
Two degrees is the upper warming limit set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel to contain the worst effects of the climate crisis.
Specifically, researchers cite the EAT-Lancet diet as the healthiest diet for you and the planet. Here’s what you need to know.
What is the EAT Lancet Diet?
An infographic summarizing the plant-based diet recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission. The diet is high in vegetables and low in meat.
The world population is expected to grow to 10 billion people over the course of the 21st century. Feeding this growing population in a way that is sustainable for the planet will be a challenge.
The EAT-LANCET Commission brought together leading scientists to determine the best “Planetary Health” diet – a diet to promote human health and protect the sustainability of the environment in line with the UN’s climate goals. (You can read the full report here.)
People in higher-income countries make up just 17 percent of the world’s population, but if they switch to a plant-based diet, we could eliminate the equivalent of “about 14 years of current global agricultural emissions,” the researchers say.
According to the Commission, the two main components a meal that follows the guidelines of the Planetary Health Diet:
- Half a plate of vegetables and fruit.
- Half a plate with a mix of “whole grains, plant-based protein sources, unsaturated vegetable oils, and (optionally) modest amounts of animal-based protein sources.”
The number of calories, on the other hand, would depend on the needs of the person.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of what a person can eat on an average day as part of the planetary health diet:
- Whole grains (rice, wheat, corn, etc.): 232 grams or 811 calories
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava): 39 calories
- Fruit: 200 grams or 78 calories
- Dairy: 250 grams or 153 calories
- Protein: Can vary from 14 to 50 grams (30 to 291 calories) depending on whether it is animal protein (ie beef, lamb, poultry, fish, eggs) or plant protein (legumes and nuts).
- Added Fats: Unsaturated Oils (40 grams or 354 calories) or Saturated Oils (11.8 grams or 96 calories)
- Added Sugar: 31 grams or 120 calories
The commission’s scientists conclude that a plant-based diet is a “win-win” for the earth and humanity, stating: “A diet high in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods brings both improved health and environmental benefits.”
Why is the planetary health diet good for the earth?
If people in high-income countries switch to a plant-based diet and we convert farmland to natural vegetation, we can make a big contribution to curbing global warming, researchers find.Getty
Food systems in rich countries contribute a lot to the climate crisis. As the researchers report in the latest Nature study, the global food system emits 13.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, or about 26 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Animal production, along with land use, “constitutes the majority of these emissions.”
Per capita meat consumption in richer countries is six times higher than in lower-income countries. Greenhouse gas emissions from meat consumption are also significantly higher: animal-based products account for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from food systems in richer countries, but only 22 percent in lower-middle-income countries.
“Hence, dietary changes in high-income countries could have the potential to significantly reduce agricultural emissions around the world,” the researchers write.
If people in higher-income countries transition to the plant-based diets outlined here and return farmland of animal origin to natural vegetation, researchers say we can reduce annual agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from those countries by 61.5 percent and save up to 98.3 gigatons carbon dioxide in the soil.
Besides saving the planet, EAT-Lancet is also crucially good for human health, which can help people in wealthier countries adapt to a plant-based diet.
Why is the planetary health diet good for humans?
Eating a plant-based diet has numerous benefits, from reducing obesity to improving heart health. Getty
The food best suited to cooling down a warming planet is also extraordinarily good for human health.
“Healthy plant-based eating should be recommended as an environmentally responsible dietary option for improved cardiovascular health,” researchers write in a separate 2018 report.
Numerous studies shed light on how plant-based eating can improve or reduce the risk of a variety of health conditions, including:
“Improving plant-based diet quality over a 12-year period was associated with a reduced risk of total and [cardiovascular disease] mortality, while increased consumption of an unhealthy plant-based diet is associated with a higher risk of total and [cardiovascular disease] mortality,” researchers write in another 2019 study.
Animal proteins provide essential nutrients like iron and zinc. So if you choose to eat a plant-based diet, it’s important to get enough plant-based protein from other sources to make up for the loss.
Iron-rich foods include legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grain breads – all of which are included on the ideal plate, according to EAT-Lancet guidelines.
For this reason, following a diet with specific guidelines for consumption — like the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet — can ensure you’re still getting essential nutrients and protein despite following a plant-based diet.
The reverse analysis – Whether you’re trying to convince a friend to cut down on his meat intake or working to include more leafy greens in your own diet, it’s helpful to remember the connections between the planet and our own bodies.
After all, skipping a cheeseburger because of global warming might seem like an abstraction, but when you consider that your heart health is at stake, you’re more likely to choose a healthier, plant-based option that also has tremendous benefits for the planet.
Fiber offers many health benefits
Conversations and advice about nutritional components seem to be in the news all the time. Low carb here, high protein there. But one thing that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should is fiber.
When you learn about all the benefits of getting enough fiber, you’re wondering why we’re not talking about it more. According to the National Institutes of Health, fiber is found in the plants you eat, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is sometimes referred to as bulk or roughage.
Some people probably don’t talk much about fiber because we primarily associate it with normalizing bowel movements and relieving constipation. However, there are many other health benefits of fiber as well. Some studies suggest that a high-fiber diet may also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
There are two forms of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Both are good for us for different reasons. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that binds to fats. This helps lower blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL or bad cholesterol. Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of glucose, which may help people with diabetes. Insoluble fiber is also helpful as it bulks up the stool and helps it move through the body more efficiently.
In general, whole fruits, legumes, and vegetables are good sources of both types of fiber. Take an apple for example; The skin consists of insoluble fiber and the fleshy part contains soluble fiber.
The latest USDA dietary guidelines recommend women eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams per day. Our American average is only about 10 to 15 grams per day. In practice, you could get 27 grams of fiber by eating ½ cup chopped vegetables (4g fiber), 1 medium whole fruit with peel (4g fiber), 2 slices of 100% whole wheat bread (6g fiber), ½ cup eat black beans (8 g fiber) and ¾ oatmeal (5 g fiber).
Dan Remley, our OSU Extension Food, Nutrition and Wellness field specialist, has developed a great resource called Fiber Fills You Up, Fills your Wallet and Fuels Your Health. In it, Remley says, “High-fiber meals are lower in calories, affordable, and can help your family feel full after a meal.”
He has a few fiber tips to help you gradually add more fiber to your day:
- Eat oatmeal several times a week.
- For breakfast, choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. Choose grains with “whole grain,” “bran,” or “fiber” in the name. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
- Serve a meatless dinner once a week. Replace meat with beans.
- Eat two servings of vegetables per meal.
- Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables.
- Add oatmeal to cookies.
- Snack on nuts, dried fruits and popcorn.
- Choose chips or crackers with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.
On the other hand, there are some processed foods with added fiber sources. In some cases, this can be a helpful way to add more fiber to your diet. Be aware that these products are high in calories and may add more sugar or sodium than you think. Your best bet is to eat as many whole fruits and whole grains as possible rather than these formulated products.
Today I leave you with this quote from Desmond Tutu: “Do your little good where you are; It’s those little bits of good that overwhelm the world.”
Emily Marrison is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and can be reached at 740-622-2265.
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