Wheat today is completely different from the wheat we ate back in the day.
First of all, it is processed differently. New techniques in grain processing in the late 19th century made it possible to create massive amounts of refined wheat for a low cost.
We are now able to separate the nutritious components of the grain (the bran and germ) away from the endosperm, where most of the starchy carbs are contained
This led to an obvious reduction in nutrient density and gave refined wheat the ability to spike blood sugar very fast.
But we also used to prepare our grains differently. They were soaked, sprouted, fermented and bread was baked using slow rise yeast.
Sprouting and fermenting grains leads to many beneficial effects. It increases the amino acid lysine, reduces anti-nutrients (like phytic acid and lectins), disables enzyme inhibitors and makes nutrients more accessible (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Today, the flour is bleached and the bread is baked with quick rise yeast. The grains certainly aren’t soaked, sprouted or fermented.
Based on these factors alone, it is clear that the bread and pasta we are eating today is very different from the traditionally prepared wheat we have been eating for thousands of years
The plants that wheat is made from are not all the same.
There are different breeds of wheat… just like there are many different breeds of dogs (a Chihuahua is very different from a German Shepherd, for example).
Back in the day, we used to consume ancient varieties like Emmer, Einkorn and Kamut.
However, almost all of the wheat eaten today is high-yield dwarf wheat, which was developed by cross-breeding and crude genetic manipulation around the year 1960.
Dwarf wheat has shorter stems and a much greater yield. Therefore it is much, much cheaper than the older varieties and more economically feasible.
The benefits of a high-yield crop are obvious, but we are now learning that there were some major downsides to this as well.
Specifically, modern wheat has some subtle but important differences in its nutrient and protein composition.