Human Health-Relevant Bioactive Functionalities of Ancient Emmer Wheat
The current global food security coupled public health challenges are associated with a lack of balanced nutrition in the daily diet that is linked to narrow choices of food crop diversity as sources of major nutrients. Further, the availability of these choices is impacted by increasing abiotic and biotic stresses on food crops under rapid climate change. In this context, emmer wheat is an ancient wheat which has high allelic variation which allows it to withstand different abiotic and biotic stresses, while at the same time having a better and balanced nutritional profile, in particular additional human health-relevant phytochemicals. The human health benefits and higher stress resilience of emmer wheat are mostly due to its superior profile of secondary metabolites such as phenolic bioactives and other essential micro-nutrients, especially when compared to many modern-day wheat varieties. These qualities make emmer a food crop choice that can help to address climate change-linked global food and nutritional security challenges, specifically to be part of food products in diets to counter diet- and lifestyle-linked non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The focus of this chapter is to discuss the origin and current cultivation of emmer wheat around the world and its agronomic and nutritional relevance to address climate change-linked food security and public health challenges. Furthermore, this chapter highlights its potential phenolic bioactive-linked antioxidant and anti-hyperglycemic properties relevant for dietary intervention against chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and different microbial biotransformation strategies to improve such health-relevant nutritional qualities for functional food design.