SPELT (source: World's Healthiest Foods)

A wonderfully nutritious grain with a deep nutlike flavor, this cousin to wheat is recently receiving renewed recognition.

Health Benefits

Spelt features a host of different nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamin B2, a very good source of niacin, and a good source of both dietary fiber and zinc. This particular combination of nutrients provided by spelt may make it a particularly helpful food for persons with migraine headache, atherosclerosis, or diabetes. In addition, spelt is a good source of protein. Just 2 ounces of spelt flour contain 7.6 grams or 15.1% of the daily value for protein.

Help for Migraine Headache Sufferers
Spelt may be one of the most important foods for many migraine headache sufferers since it is an excellent source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), a nutrient necessary for proper energy production within cells. Riboflavin has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in persons who get migraines, possibly by improving the energy metabolism of their brain and muscle cells. Eating just 2 ounces of bread or other baked goods made from whole grain spelt will provide more than 100% of the daily value for riboflavin--118.2% of the DV for riboflavin to be precise.

Atherosclerosis
Concerned about atherosclerosis? You may want to increase your intake of spelt. This ancient grain is a very 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 oxididizing 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 34.3% of the daily value for niacin.

Spelt is also a good source of the trace mineral zinc, which is needed for the proper function of blood vessels and, since it functions as a antioxidant, can help prevent the damage to the endothelium (blood vessel lining) caused by oxidized LDL cholesterol. That same two ounces of spelt flour contains 16.1% of the daily value for zinc.

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.

Riboflavin is often present in the body in the form of FAD, a compound which serves many important roles, including being a cofactor for an enzyme (MTHFR) that is involved in the breakdown metabolism of homocysteine (high levels of homocysteine have been found to be associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.) Certain individuals have MTHFR enzyme that don't function optimally, owing to a genetic mutation, and are therefore more at risk for having high homocysteine levels. Researchers have suggested that among these individuals, those who have inadequte riboflavin status are more likely to have elevated homocysteine levels than those whose riboflavin status is adequate.

Diabetes
Spelt is a great food to incorporate into your diet if you are concerned about diabetes. Many studies have shown that a diet high in fiber, a nutrient with which spelt is well endowed, has beneficial effects on diabetes. One of fiber's benefits is that it may contribute to the regulation of blood sugar and insulin levels. Blood glucose (blood sugar) does not rise as high after eating foods made with whole grains such as spelt as it does when compared to white bread. This beneficial effect is due to spelt's fiber, which research studies have shown not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but may also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. Just two ounces of whole grain spelt flour, the amount you would most likely consume in a couple of slices of spelt bread, will provide 18.9%% of the daily value for fiber.

Spelt is also a good source of zinc, a trace mineral frequently found to be low in persons with diabetes. This mineral is very important since zinc can help with blood sugar control, while also increasing the number and activity of certain types of immune system cells responsible for fighting infections. Two ounces of spelt flour provides 16.1% of the daily value for zinc.

Description

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—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.

History

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-dense 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.

Safety

Spelt is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart    
The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on World's Healthiest Foods' Food and Recipe Rating System, please visit www.whfoods.com

Spelt WholeGrain Flour
2.00 oz-wt
189.00 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 1.30 mg 76.5 7.3 excellent
manganese 1.24 mg 62.0 5.9 very good
tryptophan 0.10 g 31.3 3.0 good
vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.37 mg 24.7 2.3 good
vitamin B3 (niacin) 4.80 mg 24.0 2.3 good
copper 0.35 mg 17.5 1.7 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation

References

  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.

  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.

  • Jacques PF, Kalmbach R, Bagley PJ et al. The relationship between riboflavin and plasma total homocysteine in the Framingham Offspring cohort is influenced by folate status and the C677T transition in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. J Nutr 2002 Feb;132(2):283-8.

  • McNulty H, McKinley MC, Wilson B et al. Impaired functioning of thermolabile methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase is dependent on riboflavin status: implications for riboflavin requirements. Am J Clin Nutr 2002 Aug;76(2):436-41.

  • Oplinger ES, Oelke EA, Kaminski AR, Kelling KA, Doll JD, Durgan BR et al. Alternative Field Crops Manual: Spelt. http://newcrop.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/spelt.html.

  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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500 Martin Ave. Rohnert Park, CA 94928

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