Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat that’s more nutritious than its more commonly found cousin. it's also more digestible than wheat and can be a substitute for wheat products if you have a wheat allergy. Spelt's whole-grain fiber and other properties can assist in weight loss and in improving overall health.
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Spelt is native to Iran and southeastern Europe and is one of the oldest cultivated grains, even mentioned in the Bible. It gained popularity during the Middle Ages when a nun famous for her medicinal expertise, Hildegard von Bingen, used spelt as a treatment for various illnesses. Spelt has more protein, complex carbohydrates and B vitamins than wheat and has high amounts of fiber and mucopolysaccharides, important for blood clotting and stimulating the immune system.
Spelt has a nutty flavor and is primarily grown to be ground into a bread flour used in breads, cereals, pasta and mixes. You can also purchase spelt berries or kernels and spelt flakes that are used like oats to make a hot breakfast cereal. There are many different varieties of spelt, with the nutritional composition of each dependent upon the type of soil and environment in which it’s grown.
Spelt is an excellent source of manganese, needed by your body to keep your bones, nerves, cells, thyroid and blood sugar levels healthy. It’s also a good source of niacin or B2, copper, phosphorus, protein and fiber. Many studies have linked whole grains like spelt to the prevention of diabetes and insulin resistance that can both lead to obesity and premature death. Whole grains are able to improve insulin sensitivity by lowering the glycemic index of your diet while increasing the absorption of nutrients. One cup of cooked spelt contains 246 calories and only 1.65 g of fat, while its 10.7 g of protein and 7.6 g of fiber help you feel full longer.
The magnesium in spelt and other whole grains helps in the production of more than 300 enzymes, including those involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin. In an eight-year trial, involving over 41,000 participants in the Black Women's Health Study, researchers found that the risk of type 2 diabetes was 31 percent lower in black women who frequently ate whole grains compared to those eating the least. When the dietary intake of magnesium in the women’s diet was considered on its own, a still-beneficial, but smaller 19 percent reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes was found, leading the researchers to conclude that whole grains offer special benefits in promoting healthy blood sugar control and preventing obesity and diabetes.
Spelt should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. It should be kept in the refrigerator to maintain its nutrients and freshness. To prepare whole spelt grains, you should rinse them first to remove dirt and soak them overnight before cooking them.
Although spelt can be tolerated by some people who are allergic to wheat, it still contains gluten. If you have celiac disease or are gluten-intolerant, you should avoid spelt and products that contain spelt.