Spelt: Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects and Facts

Spelt: Benefits, Side Effects, Nutrition and Facts

Spelt (Triticum spelta) is a grain in the wheat family that has been in cultivation for thousands of years. Some debate has occurred over the classification of spelt, with some botanists considering it a subspecies of common wheat and others saying that it is an entirely different species. Spelt fell out of popularity among grain cultivators due to the hardness of its outer shell, but with the advent of the health foods movement in the 1980s, spelt began to enter the popular diet again.


Spelt supporters feel that the grain has more nutritional value and flavor than wheat, because the hard outer casing protects the kernels. Spelt can also be eaten by some individuals with gluten intolerance, although spelt breads require special preparation because of the lack of gluten. Spelt has a delicious and characteristic nutty taste that is unlike the more mild flavor of wheat, although it seems unlikely to revolutionize human health, as proponents claim. The grain is richer in protein and many vitamins than wheat, and it requires less enrichment than conventional flour does.


In appearance, spelt looks much like wheat, with a dense cluster of kernels growing on an elongated stalk. When spelt is ready to harvest, the stalks turn golden and begin to bend under the weight of the heavy spelt kernels. Spelt is also harvested much like wheat, and the grain is separated from the chaff. The chaff can be plowed back into the field for mulch, used for construction projects, or used to provide animal bedding.


Because spelt has a much harder outer kernel or hull than wheat, however, it requires more work to get the inner kernel out. The hull of spelt can be removed using special threshing equipment to access the kernel inside. It is believed that this hull acts to protect the kernel during shipping, making it fresh and more flavorful when it is threshed and ground into flour. More importantly, the hull protects the kernel from many insect pests and infestations, making spelt easier to grow without the use of pesticides.


Much like wheat, spelt is ground into flour, with both white and whole grain incarnations available. Many bakers use whole grain spelt flour so that they can take full advantage of the nutrition that the grain offers. Spelt flour can be used like conventional flour in most recipes, although some adjustments may be necessary. For bakers who want to avoid the characteristic nutty flavor, white spelt flour is advised.


Spelt Nutrition

Spelt contains about 57.9 percent carbohydrates (excluding 9.2 percent fibre), 17.0 percent protein and 3.0 percent fat, as well as dietary minerals and vitamins. As it contains a moderate amount of gluten, it is suitable for some baking. Because spelt contains gluten, it is not suitable for people with coeliac disease. Nonetheless, many other people with allergies or intolerances to common wheat can tolerate spelt.


Spelt, uncooked

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Energy

1,415 kJ (338 kcal)

Carbohydrates

70.19 g

- Starch

53.92 g

- Dietary fibre

10.7 g

Fat

2.43 g

- polyunsaturated

1.258 g

Protein

14.57 g

Water

11.02 g

Thiamine (vit. B1)

0.364 mg (32%)

Riboflavin (vit. B2)

0.113 mg (9%)

Niacin (vit. B3)

6.843 mg (46%)

Vitamin B6

0.230 mg (18%)

Folate (vit. B9)

45 μg (11%)

Vitamin E

0.79 mg (5%)

Iron

4.44 mg (34%)

Magnesium

136 mg (38%)

Phosphorus

401 mg (57%)

Zinc

3.28 mg (35%)

Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.

Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The nutrition information below is for a serving size of 1 cup of cooked spelt.


Background Information

A serving of cooked spelt has 246 calories, 10.7 g protein and 51.3 g total carbohydrates, including nearly 40 g starches. It is low in total fat, with 1.6 g per serving, and the grain does not provide cholesterol, since it is a plant-based food and cholesterol is only in animal products. Spelt is a form of wheat, so do not eat it if you have celiac disease and need to avoid gluten-containing products.


Dietary Fiber

Each 1-cup serving of cooked spelt provides 7.5 g dietary fiber, or 30 percent of the daily value for fiber for a healthy adult consuming a 2,000-calorie diet. Dietary fiber comes from the parts of plant foods that your body cannot digest, and health professionals believe it provides important health benefits. The Mayo Clinic states that high-fiber diets may reduce your risk for constipation, help you control your blood sugar levels and reduce levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol in your blood.


Iron and Phosphorus

Spelt has 3.25 mg iron, an essential mineral needes for healthy red blood cells. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes that women of child-bearing age and children are at higher risk for iron-deficiency anemia. The Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center states that nearly every cell in your body needs phosphorus, and 1 cup of cooked spelt has 290 mg phosphorus, or nearly 30 percent of the daily value.


Sodium and Potassium

Spelt can be a healthy food if you are trying to control your blood pressure. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing potassium and decreasing sodium intake to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Spelt is high in potassium with 277 mg, or almost 8 percent of the daily value, and it is nearly free of sodium, with only 10 mg per cup compared to the daily value of 2,400 mg.


Benefits of Spelt

Spelt is a nutritious species of wheat with a deep nutlike flavor. Even before many of the wheat hybrids, spelt has been used by people. It scores more over many other species of wheat in containing a rich source of nutrients. Spelt can be consumed in whole form known as spelt berries, hulled form or even in the form of spelt flour. It originally belongs to Iran and Southeastern Europe. It is one of the first grains which were used to make bread. It served as a staple grain for the ancient civilizations like Greece and Rome. Spelt is highly health beneficial and keeping this point in view we bring you the health benefits of eating spelt in the below lines.


  • Intake of spelt in sufficient quantity reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.

  • Spelt contains niacin that protects the body against cardiovascular risk factors.

  • The niacin present in spelt reduces the level of cholesterol and lipoprotein. It may also inhibit free radicals from oxidizing LDL, which turns harmful to blood vessel walls after oxidation. Niacin also plays a significant role in reducing the aggregation of platelets.

  • Spelt contains rich amount of fiber, which can help reduce the LDL cholesterol levels. Fiber binds with bile acids and comes out from the body in the form of feces. Since bile acids are removed, cholesterol is reduced considerably.

  • Spelt is a rich source of magnesium, which is a co-factor for several body enzymes. It plays an integral role even in the enzymes that used in the secretion of glucose. As a result of this, spelt substantially lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

  • Consuming spelt can help women prevent the formation of gallstones, owing to its rich content of insoluble fiber.

  • Spelt can reduce the risk of childhood asthma considerably.

  • The fiber present in spelt also has a protective action in women, against breast cancer.

  • Spelt is rich in a special type of phytonutrient, called plant lignans. Plant lignans are considered to be highly effective in providing protection against breast and hormone-dependent cancers and also heart diseases.

  • Eating spelt can help protect the body against conditions like ischemic stroke, insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity.


Spelt Side Effects

Spelt belongs to the group of non-scientifically established "gluten grains". People who are prone to wheat-related conditions like gluten-sensitive enteropathies or celiac spruce should consult their physician before consuming spelt.


Spelt Cooking Tips

  • Rinse spelt thoroughly under running water before cooking, to make it free of any dirt or debris.

  • Soak the rinsed spelt in water for around eight hours or overnight. Once again before cooking spelt, you need to rinse it and drain the water.

  • Add three parts of water to each one part of spelt and bring to boil. Once it starts boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for about one hour.

  • Spelt can be eaten as a side dish substitute for rice or potatoes. It can also be used to make delicious bread or muffin recipe.

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