Carbs in Wheat

Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, Calories, Fiber

Wheat Stalks
Wheat Stalks. Photo: Siede Preis/Getty Images

Wheat is one of the chief staple crops in the world, and is an important component of the diet in many parts of the world, particularly European and North American countries. On the other hand, there is a growing recognition that wheat can be problematic for a significant minority of the population. The latest figures estimate that a little less than one percent of the population has an allergy to wheat, but intolerances of various sorts, including celiac disease and gluten sensitivity probably make up at least another 7%, with some estimates being much higher.

Gluten is the common name for two proteins (gliadin and glutenin) found in wheat, rye, and barley.

A kernel of wheat contains a good deal of starch, which is made up of long strands of glucose. While eating whole grains in their truly whole state does slow down the conversion of this starch to glucose in the body, very little of the wheat grown and harvested is eaten that way. Most of it is "white" (refined), with most of the nutrients and fiber removed. Even when the grain is not refined it is usually ground into flour or otherwise processed, which makes the starch more readily available to be quickly converted into glucose. OTOH, whole wheat flour, cup for cup, does have less starch because the fiber, etc, has not been removed. Common foods made from wheat are baked goods (bread, crackers, cakes, bagels, etc.), pasta, couscous, and cereal.

There are quite a few types of wheat. Wheat such as duram, a hard wheat with a high protein content, is commonly used for bread, while softer types of wheat are used for cakes and other baked goods.

Spelt, kamut, and emmer, einkorn, triticale are also types of wheat (and contain gluten).

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Wheat

  • ½ cup wheat kernels (raw): 57 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 12 grams fiber (69 grams total carbohydrate), 43 grams protein, and 314 calories
  • ½ cup white flour: 46 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 2 grams fiber, 26 grams protein, and 228 calories
  • 1 tablespoon white flour: 6 grams effective (net) carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, and 28 calories
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour: 36 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 7 grams fiber, 30 grams protein, and 204 calories
  • ½ cup whole wheat spaghetti, cooked: 15 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 3 grams fiber, 13 grams protein, and 87 calories
  • ½ cup bulgur, cooked: 13 grams net carbohydrate plus 4 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, and 76 calories. 
  • 1 oz vital wheat gluten: 4 grams effective (net) carbohydrate, 21 grams protein, and 104 calories

Glycemic Index of Wheat and Wheat Products

Whole kernels of wheat: The averages in studies of whole kernels of wheat ranged between 30 to 48, with an average of 41.

Pasta (cooked al dente) has a glycemic index which is usually in the range of 42-52. When cooked longer (softer), the glycemic index rises to the high 50's/low 60's.

Breads and baked goods made with wheat have a wide range of glycemic index scores, depending upon the exact recipe. Generally, these range from the low 60's through the high 80's.

The exception is very coarse breads where pieces of the kernel are visible, and goods specially formulated to have a very high percentage of fiber. These are in the 50's.

Cereals made from wheat: generally in the 70's and 80's

More Information About the Glycemic Index

Glycemic Load of Wheat

  • ½ cup whole wheat kernals: 34
  • ½ cup white flour: 33
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour: 22
  • ½ cup whole wheat spaghetti: 8
  • ½ cup vital wheat gluten: 2

More Information About the Glycemic Load

Health Benefits of Wheat

Whole wheat is an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of selenium. It is a good source of protein and, and a fair source of fiber, thiamin, niacin, and magnesium.

Most of the studies showing a nutritional advantages of some kind for whole wheat or whole grains are in comparison to refined grains, not for the whole grains in and of themselves.

More Information About Wheat at Calorie Count.

More Carb Profiles:


Leroux, Marcus Foster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21.

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