Bulgur makes a healthy and quick addition to any meal because it’s 100 percent whole wheat that’s specially prepared to decrease cooking time. It’s a good source of fiber, protein, iron and vitamin B-6. Eating whole-grain foods, including bulgur, may lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
To make bulgur, whole-wheat kernels are simmered and then baked, which reduces the amount of time they take to cook. The grains can be kept whole, but they’re often crushed or cracked. Don’t confuse cracked bulgur with cracked wheat, which takes longer to cook. One cup of cooked bulgur has 151 calories and 5.6 grams of protein. Men should consume 56 grams and women need 46 grams of protein daily, so this serving provides 10 percent of men’s and 12 percent of women’s recommended intake.
Carbohydrates and Fiber
If you eat just 1 cup of cooked bulgur, you’ll get 33.8 grams of carbohydrates. That’s 26 percent of the recommended intake of 130 grams daily. In addition to energy-providing carbohydrates, the same portion has 8 grams of fiber. Bulgur contains some soluble fiber, but about 90 percent of the wheat kernel consists of insoluble fiber. This is the type of fiber that keeps food moving through your digestive tract and prevents constipation. A 1-cup serving of bulgur gives men 21 percent and women 32 percent of their daily intake. If you’re not used to eating that much fiber in one serving, increase the amount gradually to avoid side effects such as gas, bloating and diarrhea.
The body retains most of its iron, but you still need to get enough in your diet to replace the amount normally lost. For women, that means getting 18 milligrams daily, but men only need 8 milligrams. Even though it’s best known for carrying oxygen in the blood stream, iron is actually a part of every cell in your body. It’s an essential component of enzymes and proteins, it helps form the collagen that supports your skin and muscles and it supports the immune system. Just 1 cup of cooked bulgur has 1.75 milligrams of iron, which is 22 percent of men’s and 10 percent of women’s recommended daily intake.
The B vitamins all work as coenzymes, which means they activate enzymes that have various roles, including metabolizing food into energy and producing hormones and neurotransmitters. The vitamins each have other specialized jobs to perform too. For example, vitamin B-6 and folate remove an amino acid called homocysteine from the blood stream. If you don’t have enough B-6 and folate, levels of homocysteine can build up, which is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. You’ll get 8 to 12 percent of the recommended daily intake of thiamin, niacin, folate and vitamin B-6 in a 1-cup serving of bulgur.
Toss uncooked bulgur into soup, stew or chili and simmer until it’s soft. Use it for cereal or a side dish, the same way you’d use brown rice and oats. Make a sweet salad with cooked bulgur, carrots, raisins, pineapples and a raspberry vinaigrette. Cook bulgur in low-salt chicken broth and add any combination of your favorite salad ingredients; some that pair well include beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, sweet peppers, spinach, walnuts and chicken.