Spelt Grain

6 Sep

Spelt

A wonderfully nutritious and ancient grain with a deep nutlike flavor, spelt is a cousin to wheat that is recently receiving renewed recognition. Spelt products can be found in your local health food store year-round.

Spelt is an ancient grain that traces its heritage back long before many wheat hybrids. Many of its benefits come from the fact that it offers a broader spectrum of nutrients compared to many of its more inbred cousins in the wheat family. It can be used in many of the same ways as wheat including bread and pasta making. Spelt does not seem to cause sensitivities in many people who are intolerant of wheat.

Food Chart
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Spelt provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Spelt can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Spelt, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Spelt is an ancient grain that traces its heritage back long before many wheat hybrids. Many of its benefits come from this fact: it offers a broader spectrum of nutrients compared to many of its more inbred cousins in the Triticum (wheat) family. Spelt features a host of different nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamin B2, a very good source of manganse, and a good source of niacin, thiamin, and copper. This particular combination of nutrients provided by spelt may make it a particularly helpful food for persons with migraine headache, atherosclerosis, or diabetes.

Reduce Risk of Atherosclerosis

Concerned about atherosclerosis? You may want to increase your intake of spelt. This ancient grain is a good source of niacin, which has numerous benefits against cardiovascular risk factors. Niacin can help reduce total cholesterol and lipoprotein (a) levels. (Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a) is a molecule composed of protein and fat that is found in blood plasma and is very similar to LDL cholesterol, but is even more dangerous as it has an additional molecule of adhesive protein called apolioprotein (a), which renders Lp(a) more capable of attaching to blood vessel walls.

Niacin may also help prevent free radicals from oxidizing LDL, which only becomes potentially harmful to blood vessel walls after oxidation. Lastly, niacin can help reduce platelet aggregation, the clumping together of platelets that can result in the formation of blood clots. Two ounces of spelt flour will supply you with 24.0% of the daily value for niacin.

The fiber in spelt can also help to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels. The presence of fiber also contributes to the cholesterol-lowering potential of spelt. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol. Fiber isn’t absorbed, so when it exits the body in the feces, it takes the bile acids with it, making less available for cholesterol production.

Prevent Heart Failure with a Whole Grains Breakfast

Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly in the United States. Success of drug treatment is only partial (ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers are typically used; no evidence has found statins safe or effective for heart failure), and its prognosis remains poor. Follow up of 2445 discharged hospital patients with heart failure revealed that 37.3% died during the first year, and 78.5% died within 5 years. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Mar 12;167(5):490-6.;Eur Heart J. 2006 Mar;27(6):641-3.Since consumption of whole grain products and dietary fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack, Harvard researchers decided to look at the effects of cereal consumption on heart failure risk and followed 21,376 participants in the Physicians Health Study over a period of 19.6 years. After adjusting for confounding factors (age, smoking, alcohol consumption, vegetable consumption, use of vitamins, exercise, and history of heart disease), they found that men who simply enjoyed a daily morning bowl of whole grain (but not refined) cereal had a 29% lower risk of heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Oct 22;167(19):2080-5. Isn’t your heart worth protecting, especially when the prescription-a morning bowl of hearty whole grains-is so delicious? For quick, easy, heart-healthy, whole grain recipes, click The World’s Healthiest Foods, and look at the “How to Enjoy” section in any of our grain profiles.

Significant Cardiovascular Benefits for Postmenopausal Women

Eating a serving of whole grains, such as spelt, at least 6 times each week is an especially good idea for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

A 3-year prospective study of over 200 postmenopausal women with CVD, published in the American Heart Journal, shows that those eating at least 6 servings of whole grains each week experienced both:

  • Slowed progression of atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque that narrows the vessels through which blood flows, and
  • Less progression in stenosis, the narrowing of the diameter of arterial passageways.

The women’s intake of fiber from fruits, vegetables and refined grains was not associated with a lessening in CVD progression.

Spelt and Other Whole Grains Substantially Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Spelt and other whole grains are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body’s use of glucose and insulin secretion.

The FDA permits foods that contain at least 51% whole grains by weight (and are also low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol) to display a health claim stating consumption is linked to lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Now, research suggests regular consumption of whole grains also reduces risk of type 2 diabetes. (van Dam RM, Hu FB, Diabetes Care).

In this 8-year trial, involving 41,186 particpants of the Black Women’s Health Study, research data confirmed inverse associations between magnesium, calcium and major food sources in relation to type 2 diabetes that had already been reported in predominantly white populations.

Risk of type 2 diabetes was 31% lower in black women who frequently ate whole grains compared to those eating the least of these magnesium-rich foods. When the women’s dietary intake of magnesium intake was considered by itself, a beneficial, but lesser-19%-reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes was found, indicating that whole grains offer special benefits in promoting healthy blood sugar control. Daily consumption of low-fat dairy foods was also helpful, lowering risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%. Get the benefits of both spelt and dairy by enjoying a glass of low-fat milk with a sandwich made with spelt bread. Or try this healthier version of a “grilled cheese sandwich.” Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Mist a cookie sheet with a little organic olive oil cooking spray. Using your favorite low-fat cheese and spelt bread, make a sandwich, put it on the cookie sheet, mist the top slice with organic olive oil cooking spray, and cook for 10 minutes.

Gallstone Prevention

Eating foods high in insoluble fiber, such as spelt, can help women avoid gallstones, shows a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Studying the overall fiber intake and types of fiber consumed over a 16 year period by over 69,000 women in the Nurses Health Study, researchers found that those consuming the most fiber overall (both soluble and insoluble) had a 13% lower risk of developing gallstones compared to women consuming the fewest fiber-rich foods.

Those eating the most foods rich in insoluble fiber gained even more protection against gallstones: a 17% lower risk compared to women eating the least. And the protection was dose-related; a 5-gram increase in insoluble fiber intake dropped risk dropped 10%.

How do foods rich in insoluble fiber help prevent gallstones? Researchers think insoluble fiber not only speeds intestinal transit time (how quickly food moves through the intestines), but reduces the secretion of bile acids (excessive amounts contribute to gallstone formation), increases insulin sensitivity and lowers triglycerides (blood fats). Abundant in all whole grains, insoluble fiber is also found in nuts and the edible skin of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, many squash, apples, berries, and pears. In addition, beans provide insoluble as well as soluble fiber.

Spelt is an ancient grain with a deep nutlike flavor that has recently received renewed recognition. It is a distant cousin to wheat, and while it can be used in many of the same ways as wheat-such as bread and pasta making-it does not seem to cause sensitivities in most people who are intolerant of wheat. In addition to spelt flour, spelt is also available in its hulled, whole grain form (often referred to as spelt berries), which can be prepared and enjoyed like rice. Spelt is scientifically known as Triticum speltum.

Native to Iran and southeastern Europe, spelt is one of the world’s most popular grains with a heritage thought to extend back 7,000 years. Spelt was one of the first grains to be used to make bread, and its use is mentioned in the Bible.

Spelt played an important role in ancient civilizations, such as Greece and Rome, serving as a staple grain. Spelt was so well regarded that it even took on symbolic importance as it was used as a gift to the pagan gods of agriculture to encourage harvest and fertility.

Throughout early European history, as populations migrated throughout the continent, they brought this hearty and nutritious grain with them to their new lands. Spelt became a popular grain, especially in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. During the Middle Ages, spelt earned another level of recognition with the famous healer Hildegard von Bingen using spelt as a panacea for many illnesses.

Spelt was cultivated on a moderate level in the United States until the beginning of the 20th century when farmers turned their efforts to the cultivation of wheat. While there may have been many reasons for this agricultural shift, one is that spelt’s nutrient-rich tough husk makes it harder to process than wheat. Yet, recently this ancient grain has been receiving renewed interest, and its popularity and appreciation are beginning to escalate.

Spelt is generally available in its whole grain and flour forms. Pastas and bread made entirely from spelt are also available.

Spelt grains and flours can be found prepackaged as well as in bulk containers. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the spelt are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Whether purchasing spelt in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure there is no evidence of moisture.

Store spelt grains in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place. Spelt flour should be kept in the refrigerator to best preserve its nutritional value.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Spelt:

As with all grains, before cooking spelt berries, rinse them thoroughly under running water and remove any dirt or debris that you may find. After rinsing, soak spelt in water for eight hours or overnight. Drain, rinse and then add three parts water to each one part spelt berries. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about one hour.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Use spelt bread for your next hearty sandwich. Spelt’s robust flavor really enhances old favorites like grilled cheese.

Serve cooked spelt berries as a side dish substitute for rice or potatoes.

Combine spelt pasta with olives, tomatoes and feta cheese for a quick and easy Mediterranean-inspired salad.

Add some spelt flour to your favorite bread, muffin or waffle recipe.

Spelt is a member of a non-scientifically established grain group traditionally called the “gluten grains.” The idea of grouping certain grains together under the label “gluten grains” has come into question in recent years as technology has given food scientists a way to look more closely at the composition of grains. Some healthcare practitioners continue to group wheat, oats, barley and rye together under the heading of “gluten grains” and to ask for elimination of the entire group on a wheat-free diet. Other practitioners now treat wheat separately from these other grains, including spelt, based on recent research. Wheat is unquestionably a more common source of food reactions than any of the other “gluten grains,” including spelt. Although you may initially want to eliminate spelt from your meal planning if you are implementing a wheat-free diet, you will want to experiment at some point with re-introduction of this food. You may be able to take advantage of its diverse nutritional benefits without experiencing an adverse reaction. Individuals with wheat-related conditions like celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathies should consult with their healthcare practitioner before experimenting with any of the “gluten grains,” including spelt.

Spelt is an excellent source of manganese. It is also a good source of niacin, copper, phosphorus, protein, and fiber.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Spelt.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Spelt is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn’t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food’s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients – not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good – please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you’ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.”
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2 Responses to “Spelt Grain”

  1. A-kay September 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. My site was down and just came up, and that is when I saw your message. You have a very nice site here. Will keep visiting.

  2. Sere December 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    Great post! I love spelt, though it’s hard to find a lot of different spelt products. I mainly eat spelt bagels (incredible) from Mount Royal Bagel Bakery (Montreal). If you’re interested, they ship #(1877LEBAGEL)

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