In response to the many people who ask me what are the benefits of spelt, I provide this summary in plain language rather than scientific terms.
Benefits of Spelt (triticum spelta) versus Common Wheat (triticum aestivum):
Spelt (triticum spelta) is a lesser known grain than its modern cousin common wheat (triticum aestivum) Spelt has significant health benefits and many people who switch to spelt based products rather than wheat based products notice improvement in their health.
There are some amazingly tasty spelt products in the marketplace, often found in the frozen section of health food stores, including bagels, breads, and pizza dough. You can also find spelt pasta, pretzels, and flour. Spelt can also be substituted for wheat in many favorite recipes. It is a bit idiosyncratic, so check in with companies that work with spelt on advice on how to best use. Purity Foods, the producer of Vita Spelt, is a good source.
As an ancient grain, like quinoa, millet, amaranth, and others, spelt has not been manipulated to meet manufacturing needs. Rather, it is a food that our body recognizes as food, not one that was created for modern conveniences. As we like to say, “Eat spelt, your body will thank you.” Spelt is one of the oldest cultivated grains tracing is roots more than 6,000 years back to ancient Mesopotamia. Spelt has kept many of its original characteristics which provide an impressive nutritional profile, along with ease of digestibility leading to anti-inflammatory qualities.
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, “[m]any of spelt’s 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 manganese, 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.”
People with a range of health issues, including digestive problems, arthritis, Lyme’s disease, migraines, behavioral issues, skin irritations, irritable bowel syndrome, and others report that they feel better eating spelt rather than common wheat. Because spelt has gluten, however, it is not appropriate for people with celiac.
There are many reasons why spelt is easier to digest than common wheat. The gluten in spelt is water soluble; it is degraded by heat and is easily broken down by mixing action. Wheat gluten, in contrast, does not break down in water and only relaxes when exposed to heat and seems to get stronger as it is mixed – bakers refer to it as “developing the gluten.” If you over mix spelt, it will break down. If you over mix wheat, it will get stronger. Something similar happens within the digestive system. Spelt’s relatively fragile gluten is easily broken apart during the chewing and mixing action which allows the enzymes and acid secreted during the digestive process to work on the surface of the food. During the digestive process, wheat forms a bolus which remains a ball making it harder to digest.
Further, as an ancient grain, spelt has retained its hard outer hull, which protects the inner grain from pests and the elements. Common wheat (modern wheat) no longer has a hull so it is easier to harvest, but without that hull, the grain needs to protect itself from insects. Modern wheat has an enzyme inhibitor to fight off those pests. Enzymes are what we use to digest foods. Spelt, by its nature, does not need enzyme inhibitors.
Both properties of modern wheat contribute to the problem creating digestive and inflammatory issues. First, common wheat has tough gluten which gets stronger with mixing and remains in a ball like mass interfering with digestion. Second, the enzyme inhibitors further retard the enzyme activity that is needed for complete digestion.
Thus, the anecdotal reports by many people claiming they feel so much better eating spelt as opposed to common wheat, makes scientific sense. It is the nature of the spelt grain that makes it naturally good for you.
For more information about Spelt Right, see our web site at speltrightbaking.com