Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Bulgur Wheat Bad For You?

Also Known As: bulgur, burghul, cracked wheat



Short answer

Bulgur wheat is a nutritious whole grain offering fiber, proteins, vitamins, and minerals beneficial for health including heart, digestive and blood sugar control. However, it's unsuitable for those with gluten sensitivities like celiac disease. When consumed in moderation and as part of a varied diet, bulgur is a healthful food choice for most people.



Recommended Alternative

Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur wheat is a whole grain that offers a variety of nutrients vital to maintaining a healthy diet. Its composition includes complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals. To understand its potential health benefits and risks, let's explore its nutritional makeup in more detail.

1. Macronutrients

  • Carbohydrates: Bulgur wheat is primarily composed of complex carbohydrates, which provide a sustained release of energy as opposed to the quick spikes caused by simple sugars. A 1-cup serving of cooked bulgur contains about 34 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Protein: With approximately 6 grams of protein per cup, bulgur offers a plant-based protein source, crucial for muscle repair and growth.
  • Fat: Low in fat, with less than 1 gram per cup, bulgur wheat can easily fit into a low-fat diet.
  • Fiber: One of bulgur's most significant attributes is its high fiber content, boasting nearly 8 grams per cup, which aids in digestion and can contribute to a feeling of fullness, potentially assisting in weight management.

2. Vitamins and Minerals

Bulgur wheat is an excellent source of a number of essential micronutrients which play crucial roles in various bodily functions:

Vitamin/Mineral Function
Magnesium Supports muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.
Iron Essential for the formation of red blood cells and transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
Manganese Involved in metabolism, bone formation, and the reduction of oxidative stress.
Folate (Vitamin B9) Key for cell division and the synthesis of DNA, crucial during pregnancy for fetal development.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) Helps convert food into energy and is needed for the health of the skin, nerves, and digestive system.
Vitamin B6 Important for immune function, brain health, and the formation of hemoglobin.

These are just a few of the many vitamins and minerals found in bulgur. The high nutrient density makes it an excellent addition to a balanced diet, particularly for those looking for nutrient-rich carbohydrate sources.

3. Antioxidants and Phytonutrients

Bulgur also contains bioactive compounds, including lignans and phytic acid, which have antioxidant properties. These compounds help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Regular intake of foods rich in antioxidants is linked to a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.

4. Glycemic Index

With a glycemic index typically ranging from 46 to 53, bulgur wheat is considered a low-glycemic food. This means it has a more moderate impact on blood sugar levels, making it a suitable carbohydrate source for individuals with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, when portion sizes are controlled.

In summary, the nutritional profile of bulgur wheat is impressive, containing a synergy of macronutrients, micronutrients, and phytochemicals that contribute to its healthful properties. However, individual considerations, such as gluten sensitivity, must be taken into account when including bulgur in a diet. It's also essential to consider the whole dietary pattern and not just individual foods in isolation for overall health benefits.

Gluten Content in Bulgur and Sensitivity Concerns

Bulgur wheat, often referred to simply as bulgur, is a whole grain made from cracked wheat. It is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine and is lauded for its quick cooking time, nutty flavor, and nutritional benefits, including high fiber content and a good dose of plant-based protein. However, for individuals with certain health conditions, the gluten content in bulgur can pose significant dietary concerns.

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It's known for giving dough its elasticity and baked goods their chewy texture. Unfortunately, gluten can also trigger adverse reactions in people with gluten-related disorders. The primary conditions associated with gluten sensitivity include:

  • Celiac Disease: An autoimmune disorder where ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
  • Wheat Allergy: An allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat, including gluten.
  • Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS): A condition in which individuals experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease upon consuming gluten, but without the autoimmune intestinal damage.

For individuals with celiac disease or a wheat allergy, consuming bulgur can cause a range of serious health issues, such as digestive distress, skin rashes, and even long-term intestinal damage in the case of celiac disease. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity also results in discomfort, though typically less severe and without lasting harm to the intestine. Unfortunately, because bulgur is derived from wheat, it contains gluten and is therefore not suitable for anyone with these conditions.

The severity of gluten sensitivity ranges significantly between individuals, and the only treatment for these conditions is a strict gluten-free diet. Here's a breakdown of bulgur's gluten content:

Grain Gluten Content
Bulgur Wheat Contains gluten

It's noteworthy to mention, peer-reviewed studies such as those published in the World Journal of Clinical Cases and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have provided clear evidence supporting the necessity for a gluten-free diet in managing celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. It's crucial for individuals with these conditions to avoid grains containing gluten, including bulgur, to maintain their well-being.

For those who are sensitive to gluten or diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, there are several nutritious alternatives to bulgur, such as:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Amaranth

Each of these alternatives provides a similar texture and can be used in recipes as a substitute for bulgur, allowing individuals to enjoy comparable dishes without the health risks associated with gluten. Consulting with a registered dietitian or a healthcare provider can also assist in safely navigating dietary restrictions due to gluten sensitivity.

In summary, bulgur wheat is a source of gluten and can be harmful to individuals with celiac disease, wheat allergies, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The avoidance of bulgur and other gluten-containing grains is imperative for these individuals to prevent adverse health effects.

The Glycemic Index of Bulgur Wheat

The glycemic index (GI) is a rating system for foods that contain carbohydrates. It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own. A detailed look at the glycemic index of bulgur wheat can offer insights into how this grain may impact blood sugar levels and overall health.

Bulgur wheat is a whole grain made from cracked wheat. It is often praised for its nutritional benefits, including its high fiber content. Foods high in fiber tend to have a lower glycemic index because fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.

Here's a brief overview of where bulgur stands on the GI scale:

  • Bulgur wheat typically has a glycemic index of around 46-53.
  • This places bulgur in the low-GI food category (<55 GI).
  • Compared to other grains, bulgur wheat has a moderately lower GI.

This lower GI is beneficial in managing blood sugar levels. When incorporating bulgur into a diet, the gentle impact on blood sugar can be especially important for individuals with insulin resistance, diabetes, or those seeking to manage weight. The low GI of bulgur wheat indicates that it releases glucose steadily into the bloodstream, providing a sustained energy release rather than a quick spike.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition confirms that the consumption of low-GI foods like bulgur wheat can help to control appetite and delay hunger cues, which could potentially aid in weight management. Its low GI also makes it a favorable choice for diabetic meal plans, as supported by research in the Diabetes Care journal, which suggests that low-GI diets may improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

It's important to note that the cooking method can influence the glycemic index of any food. Overcooking bulgur wheat can increase its GI since it breaks down the grain's structure and fiber content, making it easier to digest and quicker to release glucose into the bloodstream.

While considering bulgur wheat's place on the glycemic index, it's essential to remember that a balanced diet is about more than just individual food's GI. Full meals are rarely composed of just one food with a singular GI value. Combining bulgur wheat with proteins, healthy fats, and other low-GI carbohydrates can further help in managing blood sugar levels after a meal.

Potential Benefits: Fiber, Minerals, and Vitamins in Bulgur

Bulgur wheat, an ancient whole grain, has been a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine for generations. It is not only cherished for its nutty flavor and versatile nature but also for its impressive nutritional profile. Let's break down the potential benefits derived from its fiber, mineral, and vitamin content.

High Dietary Fiber Content: One of the standout features of bulgur wheat is its high fiber content. Dietary fiber is associated with numerous health benefits, including:

  • Improved Digestive Health: Fiber aids in bowel regularity and helps prevent constipation. Bulgur's insoluble fiber helps bulk up the stool and move waste through the digestive tract.
  • Weight Management: Fiber-rich foods like bulgur can increase satiety, which may help in managing weight by reducing the overall intake of calories.
  • Blood Sugar Control: The soluble fiber in bulgur can slow down sugar absorption, which helps in regulating blood sugar levels.
  • Heart Health: High fiber intake has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Consuming whole grains like bulgur may contribute to lower cholesterol levels.

Rich in Minerals: Bulgur is an excellent source of various essential minerals important for health:

Mineral Function
Magnesium Key for muscle and nerve function, supports the immune system, and maintains heartbeat regularity.
Iron Crucial for oxygen transport in the bloodstream and muscle function, as well as energy production.
Phosphorus Contributes to bone health and energy production.
Manganese Plays a role in bone formation, blood clotting, and reducing inflammation.
Zinc Vital for immune function, DNA synthesis, and wound healing.

Vitamin Content: Bulgur provides a substantive array of B-vitamins that are pivotal for various bodily functions, including:

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3): Assists in converting food to energy and maintaining healthy skin.
  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1): Important for energy metabolism and nerve function.
  • Folate (Vitamin B9): Essential for cell division and is particularly important for pregnant women as it can help prevent congenital disabilities.

It's important to note that the presence of gluten in bulgur wheat makes it unsuitable for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. However, for the general population, bulgur wheat's profile of fiber, minerals, and vitamins contributes to a balanced diet and can offer a range of health benefits.

Studies have frequently highlighted the role of whole grains like bulgur in a healthful diet. A comprehensive review published in the Journal of Nutrition noted that higher consumption of whole grains correlates with a lower risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

In conclusion, bulgur wheat is a nutritionally dense whole grain with various health benefits primarily attributed to its high fiber content and rich blend of minerals and vitamins. Its inclusion in a balanced diet can help support overall health and well-being.

Incorporating Bulgur into a Balanced Diet

The question of whether bulgur wheat is bad for you often arises when considering its integration into a balanced diet. The whole grain is not inherently bad and can, in fact, be a healthful addition to most meal plans. Let's explore how bulgur fits within the context of a balanced diet.

Nutritional Profile: Bulgur has a rich nutritional profile consisting of dietary fiber, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. A single cup of cooked bulgur approximately contains:

  • 151 calories
  • 0.44 grams of fat
  • 8.2 grams of dietary fiber
  • 5.6 grams of protein
  • Potassium, magnesium, and iron

This nutrition density supports a balanced diet by contributing to satiety, digestive health, and energy metabolism.

Ideal Portions: As with any food, moderation is key in ensuring bulgur's benefits outweigh potential disadvantages. A standard serving size for grains, including bulgur, is about 1/2 cup cooked. This portion size integrates well into meals without contributing to excessive calorie intake.

Versatility in Meals: Bulgur's light, nutty flavor and quick preparation make it a versatile grain that can replace less nutrient-dense carbohydrates. It can serve as a base for pilafs, be added to soups, used in salads like tabbouleh, or even incorporated into baked goods for added texture and nutrition.

Balance with Other Foods: Pairing bulgur with a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats ensures a well-rounded meal. For instance, a bulgur salad with leafy greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled chicken, and a olive oil dressing can become a nutrient-packed lunch option.

Studies, such as those published in the Journal of Nutrition, suggest that whole grains like bulgur can significantly contribute to chronic disease prevention when they are part of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low in processed foods.

Individual Dietary Considerations: While bulgur can fit into many balanced diets, it's important to consider individual health conditions. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, bulgur, which contains gluten, would not be a suitable option. Similarly, individuals managing carbohydrate intake for conditions such as diabetes should monitor their portions of bulgur and consult with a registered dietician for personalized advice.

Ultimately, incorporating bulgur into a balanced diet is about recognizing its nutritional offerings and ensuring it complements a diverse and nutrient-rich meal plan. By measuring appropriate portions and combining it with other healthful foods, bulgur can be part of a dietary pattern that supports overall health and wellness.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, several gluten-free grains can substitute for bulgur, including quinoa, buckwheat, and brown rice, offering similar textures and health benefits without the gluten, making them safe choices for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Yes, bulgur wheat can be an excellent food choice for weight loss due to its high fiber content, which promotes satiety and may help reduce overall calorie intake. Its complex carbohydrates also provide a steady supply of energy, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar that can lead to cravings.

The high dietary fiber in bulgur helps lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by binding to bile acids in the digestive system, which are then excreted. This process allows your body to use cholesterol to replace bile acids, thereby lowering the overall cholesterol concentration in the blood.

While bulgur is lower in carbohydrates compared to some other grains, it is not considered low-carb. Those following a strict low-carb diet may need to limit their intake of bulgur. It's essential to calculate it as part of your daily carbohydrate allowance.

Ask a question about Bulgur Wheat and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible long-term side effects

  • digestive distress
  • skin rashes
  • intestinal damage
  • discomfort for gluten-sensitive individuals

Ingredients to be aware of


  • sustained energy release
  • muscle repair and growth
  • aids digestion
  • satiety and weight management
  • blood glucose control
  • blood pressure regulation
  • antioxidant properties
  • low-glycemic index
  • immune function support
  • brain health
  • cardiovascular disease risk reduction

Healthier alternatives

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Bob's Red Mill Red Bulgur

  • High in fiber
  • Whole grain nutrition
  • Convenient 24-ounce pack
  • Non-GMO
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-06-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-06-2024

Random Page

Check These Out!