What’s the Deal with Spelt?

what is spelt
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

Cruising down the grain aisle in your local grocery stores, you may have noticed spelt crackers, spelt bread, spelt pasta and spelt tortillas. Wondering what spelt is and whether eating it is a good idea? Let us break it down.

Spelt is an ancient relative of our modern day wheat. Before the turn of the twentieth century, spelt was the predominant base of breads in many European countries.

Spelt fell out of favor for a couple of reasons: it’s a bit harder to grow and process for consumption than wheat, and spelt dough tends to not be as stretchy.

Okay, so what about the nutritional aspects?

In some studies, the protein content of spelt has been shown to be higher than wheat, along with more resistant starch — which helps stabilize blood glucose levels. The differences have been significant in some studies, while not in others.  Spelt is a good source of manganese, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. What about gluten? Yep, spelt’s got it—so all of you out there with celiac disease, spelt is not a good wheat alternative.

So what’s the verdict you ask? Spelt is pretty good for you—high in protein, resistant starch and fiber, and is broken down slowly by the body.

Is it significantly better than whole wheat? Judging by the available research out there, probably not.

Whether you’re choosing spelt or whole wheat, just remember, the less processed the better.

Sources: USDA, Science Direct, Oxford Journals – Journal of Experimental Botany

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