Food and nutrition professionals go on wheat safari

Posted August 13, 2014

Image: Wheat Safari 2014.
On August 6 - 7, 2014, twenty-six of the nation’s most influential food and nutrition professionals visited the Fargo area as part of the second Wheat Safari, hosted by the Wheat Foods Council (WFC).

Safari tour guests included prominent food and nutrition bloggers, academics from major universities across the country, newspaper editors and broadcast journalists. Kansas Wheat's Cindy Falk, nutrition educator, and Marsha Boswell, director of communications, traveled from Manhattan, Kan., to Fargo, N.D., to meet up with the group.

“It was a pleasure hosting this prominent group in North Dakota,” said WFC President Judi Adams. “They are important influencers of consumer opinion and take nutrition education of the American public very seriously. We as an industry have much to gain by working with them to ensure that consumers have the facts about wheat production, harvesting, milling and producing a table food.”

Photo: Wheat Safari 2014.
Program speakers included noted carbohydrate expert and nutrition educator Julie Miller Jones, Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emerita of nutrition in the Department of Family, Consumer and Nutritional Sciences at the St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. Dr. Jones addressed the group on nutrition issues, including how to help consumers identify whole grains in their grocery stores, and why gluten-free diets only make sense for those diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

“People are going on gluten-free diets without a real diagnosis of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and that concerns me, because the gluten-free diet is expensive and most important, can be too low in dietary fiber and whole grains, and high in calories and glycemic carbohydrates,” Jones said in her remarks. “It’s very hard to consume enough fiber on a gluten-free diet. Fiber is listed by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee as a nutrient of concern, because low intake of dietary fiber is associated with a number of chronic health issues. And there is evidence that diets that include grains such as wheat and adequate dietary fiber support healthy gut bacteria. Further, they are associated with improved markers of health. Diets that eliminate grains and gluten are not a proven way to lose weight; in fact, such diets may contribute to weight gain. The only proven weight loss occurs by eating fewer calories.”

Brett Carver, PhD, Wheat Genetics Chair in Agriculture, Oklahoma State University, covered agriculture-related issues, including wheat quality characteristics. “Food begins with the seed. My research specialty is developing new and improved seed of wheat that consumers will continue to eat and enjoy,” said Dr. Carver. “Spending time with these journalists and health professionals gave us a chance to meet on common ground and learn from each other. Consumers are often misinformed about wheat and wheat foods, and now these influencers are in a position to correct that.”

During their time in North Dakota, the group toured a farm in Portland, N.D., to learn first-hand about the harvesting of the wheat crop. They also visited the North Dakota Mill in Grand Forks, the Conte Luna Foods pasta plant in Grand Forks, and the Northern Crops Institute and Wheat Quality Labs at North Dakota State University.

The Wheat Foods Council is a nonprofit organization formed in 1972 to help increase public awareness of grains, complex carbohydrates, and fiber as essential components of a healthful diet. The Council is supported voluntarily by wheat producers, millers, bakers, and related industries. For more information, visit www.wheatfoods.org.