What are the health benefits of spelt?
People in Europe have grown spelt grain for over 300 years, but it did not reach the United States until the 1890s.
People can use spelt flour in place of wheat flour in most recipes. It gives baked goods a nuttier flavor than wheat can. Prepackaged products made from spelt, such as pasta and crackers, are also popular.
In this article, we look at the possible health benefits of spelt. We also suggest some ways that individuals can add more spelt to their diets.
The nutritional value of spelt is marginally different to that of wheat. It also has a nuttier flavor.
One cup of cooked spelt contains:
- calories: 246
- protein: 10.67 g
- total fats: 1.65 g
- carbohydrates: 51.29 g
- fiber: 7.6 g
- calcium: 19 mg
- iron: 3.24 mg
- magnesium: 95 mg
- phosphorus: 291 mg
- potassium: 277 mg
- sodium: 10 mg
- zinc: 2.42 mg
- thiamin: 0.2 mg
- riboflavin: 0.06 mg
- niacin: 5 mg
- vitamin B-6: 0.16 mg
- folate: 25 mcg
- vitamin A: 8 iu
- vitamin E: 0.50 mg
Compared with wheat, spelt contains:
- a slightly higher protein content (15.6 percent in spelt vs. 14.9 percent in wheat)
- a slightly higher fat content (2.5 percent vs. 2.1 percent)
- less insoluble fiber (9.3 percent vs. 11.2 percent)
- less total fiber (10.9 percent vs. 14.9 percent)
There are no significant differences in the levels of sugar or soluble fiber between spelt and wheat.
Consuming spelt as part of a healthful diet may provide the following benefits:
1. Improved cholesterol levels
Eating foods containing soluble fiber, such as spelt, may reduce the amount of cholesterol that the body absorbs into the bloodstream.
Past research found that soluble dietary fiber lowers both total and low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol.
A 2015 study on people in China found that a higher dietary fiber intake could increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol levels.
The researchers report that the higher the fiber intake, the greater the increase in HDL cholesterol.
2. Reduced blood pressure
Eating spelt and other whole grains may reduce hypertension due to the grains' high dietary fiber content.
3. Heart health
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend getting enough dietary fiber to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Research suggests that fiber can reduce the risk of both cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
One meta-analysis of 18 studies found that people who ate the most whole grains had a 21 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Another analysis involving over 247,000 participants revealed that people with the highest intake of whole grains had a significantly reduced risk of stroke.
4. Better digestion
Fiber is essential for healthy digestion by making stool easier to pass. Consuming fiber is an effective way to reduce constipation and diarrhea, as well as other digestive complaints, such as bloating, gas, and hemorrhoids.
Research suggests that a high-fiber diet may also reduce the risk of diverticular disease, which affects the colon, and its complications.
However, some people with irritable bowel syndrome may not be able to tolerate spelt because it is high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs). These are fermentable short-chain carbohydrates.
5. Weight management
High-fiber foods can play a role in helping a person achieve or maintain a healthy weight because they keep people feeling fuller for longer.
Research suggests that even simple changes, such as increasing fiber intake to 30 grams per day, can aid weight loss.
The researchers also noted that simply increasing fiber intake may be easier for some people to stick to than more complicated diet plans.
6. Reduced risk of diabetes
Many studies suggest that consuming high-fiber foods, such as spelt, can reduce the risk of diabetes or help those with the condition to manage their symptoms.
This is because fiber slows down digestion and reduces sudden surges in blood sugar.
A 2013 review reported that eating at least 2 servings of whole grains daily might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Refined grains, such as white bread and white pasta, do not provide similar protection against the disease.
People who already have diabetes may benefit from eating spelt because it can help them manage their weight and reduce their risk of heart disease, which is a common complication of diabetes.
How to use spelt
People can add whole spelt grains to various dishes.
People can use spelt flour or whole spelt grains.
Use the flour:
- to bake spelt bread or cookies
- as a substitute for half the wheat flour content in bread recipes
- to thicken sauces and gravy
Eat whole spelt grains:
- as a side dish
- as a breakfast cereal
- in risottos
- in stews
People should always rinse the grains well before cooking them.
Spelt, with its mild, nutty flavor, is a popular alternative to wheat. It also provides several essential nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Consuming spelt and other whole grains may improve heart health, aid digestion, reduce the risk of diabetes, and help people achieve or maintain a healthy weight.