Soon you may get fancy eating breads of different colors maybe blue, purple or black. These colourful breads are much healthier than the ‘normal’ yellowish-brown wheat.
Agricultural biotechnologists’ team led by Monika Garg at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute or NABI located in Mohali have not just developed these coloured wheat varieties, but they have also transferred the technology to different companies. Few firms with whom this Department of Biotechnology lab has signed accords are already cultivating them.
Garg who has been working on these varieties since a decade said, “We have not released them for individual growers as they may find it hard to sell them, at least for the time being”.
Ordinary wheat variety that is grown all over the world is amber or white in colour. The unconventional ones obtain the colour from various natural antioxidants abundantly present in fruits like blackberries, blueberries and jamun.
It is important to mention that the regular wheat varieties contain a very small quantity of anthocyanins but the coloured ones are loaded with them. For example, black wheat has 28 times more anthocyanins than the conventional ones.
Health benefits of coloured wheat
Garg said the coloured varieties offer many health benefits. Black wheat, for example helps in preventing fat deposition, improves insulin tolerance, controls glucose levels and lower blood cholesterol, as said by mouse studies at NABI. In addition to anthocyanins, the varieties have relatively high levels of proteins & vital micronutrients like zinc. The antioxidants may also help protect against ageing, obesity & diabetes. The varieties have been developed with the use of classic biotechnology tools that are usually used by plant breeders. Through constant breeding programmes over the years, scientists of NABI have introduced several generations of coloured wheat lines.
When the scientists found that it has adjusted well with the local climatic conditions and has produced adequate yield levels, they transferred the technology to few companies. Garg told that the institute has inked MoUs with 10 companies from various States like Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra etc.
She added that “We want to make bakery products as well as atta from these unconventional varieties of wheat popular among customers, so that the benefits of antioxidants could reach the population through their favourite cereal”.