Bulgur Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Bulgur, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Bulgur, also known as ala, is a whole grain made by boiling wheat and then drying and cracking it into various sizes to turn it a quick-cooking grain (it's usually sold par-cooked, meaning partially pre-cooked). A staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions, bulgur is a common ingredient in tabbouleh and falafel, offering a powerful nutrition punch and an earthy, nutty flavor. Rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein, bulgur is a great option for people following vegetarian and vegan eating plans—or anyone wanting to add more healthy whole grains to their diet.

Bulgur Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (182g) of bulgur cooked with no added salt or fat.

  • Calories: 151
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33.8g
  • Fiber: 8.2g
  • Sugars: 0.2g
  • Protein: 5.6g

Carbs

One cup of cooked bulgur provides 33.8 grams of carbohydrate. The glycemic index of cooked bulgur is 46, which is considered low. Although bulgur is not a low carbohydrate food, it is high in fiber, which makes it filling and nutrient dense.

Fats

There is a very small amount (less than 1 gram) of fat in bulgur when it is prepared without any additional oils or butter. 

Protein

A single serving of bulgur provides a healthy 5.6 grams of protein. Protein is the building block of hair, skin, and nails.

Vitamins and Minerals

Bulgur is rich in B vitamins, which help convert the food we eat into energy. Bulgur is also a good source of manganese, phosphorus, and selenium

Health Benefits

As a whole (i.e., minimally processed) grain, bulgur has more nutritional value than refined or processed grains.

Provides Filling Fiber

A single serving of bulgur contains about one-third of the recommended daily allowance of fiber. In fact, per serving, bulgur has more fiber than quinoa, oats, and corn. Fiber is known for its usefulness in promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Fiber-rich foods can help you feel full, pull cholesterol away from the heart, and keep blood sugars stabilized by adding glucose into the bloodstream slowly. This also means that fiber can help you lose weight or maintain a weight loss.

Provides Essential Iron

Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency. The resulting anemia can make you feel tired, cold, and run down. Bulgur is a plant-based source of iron (1.75mg per 1-cup serving, or about 10% of the recommended daily intake). This mineral is essential in making red blood cells as well as the synthesis of certain hormones, proteins, and neurotransmitters.

Improves Heart Health and Longevity

A large review study published in 2016 provided a lot of convincing evidence that eating whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Eating just two or three daily servings of whole grains can make a big difference.

Promotes Healthy Gut Bacteria

We all need a colony of "good" bacteria in our digestive tract to help us stay healthy. Some research shows that compounds in whole grains, including bulgur, can help build and sustain a healthy microbiome in the body.

Improves Metabolism

Those good bacteria may help promote a healthy metabolism and reduce the risk of insulin resistance and sensitivity. Research shows that other compounds found in whole grains like bulgur also help with this process.

Allergies

Up to 1% of people are allergic to wheat (wheat allergy is not the same as celiac disease). Children are more prone to wheat allergies, but they are also likely to outgrow them. If you have a wheat allergy, you should not consume bulgur, as it could cause a dangerous allergic reaction.

Adverse Effects

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you should also avoid bulgur as it contains gluten. Some people, especially those who work with grains all day, also experience what is called "baker's asthma" when exposed to certain grains. Upon ingestion, you may experience difficulty breathing if you have baker's asthma. Consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice.  

Most of the fiber in bulgur is the insoluble type, which means it may cause symptoms in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and should be avoided if you follow a low-FODMAP diet to manage your symptoms.

Varieties

Bulgur is most often made from durum wheat, but almost any wheat, hard or soft, red or white, can be made into bulgur. 

When It's Best

You can find bulgur in your grocery store all year long.

Storage and Food Safety

Purchase bulgur that is well-packaged and sealed tightly. Check the label and look for the expiration or sell-by date and choose the newest one. If the bulgur has a musty or oily scent, it means that it is probably past its peak and should be discarded. Grains should always look and smell faintly sweet or have no aroma at all.

Whole grains, like bulgur, must be stored a bit more carefully than their refined counterparts because the healthy oils found in the germ can be negatively affected by heat, light, and moisture. Therefore, it's important to store bulgur in an airtight container in a cool dry place. It will keep for about six months this way. To extend the shelf life, place it in the freezer where it can last up to a year. Once cooked, store it in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.

How to Prepare

Read the package instructions for cooking bulgur. Most of the time, the bulgur you buy will be precooked.

Because it has been precooked, it can be prepared quickly, typically in about 10 to 20 minutes. Once prepared, use bulgur to add protein and fiber to salads, hot cereal, muffins, healthy side dishes, and main-course meals.

Swap out refined carbohydrates like white rice with bulgur and serve with grilled vegetables and lean protein like chicken, turkey, or fish. Or mix bulgur into meatballs or meatloaf to boost your fiber intake. You can also add bulgur to soups, chilis, and stews. You can use it instead of quinoa (or with quinoa) in many recipes.

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Article Sources
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