Spelt's Origin, Genetic Makeup, and Nutritional Value

Spelt is an ancient grain that has lately made a comeback in North America, even though it has been popular through the decades in many European countries. Spelt is a non-hybrid distant relative to present day wheat. Spelt's uniqueness is derived from its genetic makeup and nutrition profile. The scientific name of this ancient food staple is Triticum spelta, but it is more commonly known as dinkel which has been used for generations in Europe.
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. However during the digestive process wheat forms a bolus which remains a ball making it harder to digest.
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. 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.
Spelt however has high water solubility, so nutrients are easily absorbed by the body making it easy to digest. It is high in protein (significantly higher than wheat), higher in B complex vitamins, and spelt is high in both simple and complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates are an important factor in blood clotting and stimulating the body's immune system. Spelt is a superb fiber resource. It has so many nutritional benefits that are amazingly good for you! Keep reading to find out more about how spelt’s nutrients contribute to lower risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, type II diabetes, and can lessen occurrences of migraine headaches.
Spelt is packed full of nutrients: Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Manganse, Niacin, Thiamin, and Copper. It has very high levels of protein (21% of your daily recommended intake) and dietary fiber (30% in a single serving!) are very impressive. On top of those important compounds, spelt also contains significant levels of iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, selenium, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B6, and folic acid.
Spelt has one of the highest dietary fiber contents of wheat varieties hence reducing constipation and other gastro intestinal problems.
The high levels of iron and copper in spelt combine to significantly boost circulation. Iron and copper are essential for the creation of red blood cells, and when RBC production is up, there is increased blood flow throughout the body, which means additional oxygenation to organs and tissues, increased healing, boosted energy levels, and a more functional metabolism. Increased circulation can even boost hair growth, while the iron content helps the body avoid becoming anemic.
Hormonal Regulation and Creation: Niacin is one of the essential vitamins that can be found in significant quantities in spelt. Niacin plays a key role in the adrenal glands in the body, particularly in the production of sex hormones. The endocrine system is a sensitive and hugely important aspect of our health and general functioning, so maintaining healthy niacin levels by adding spelt to your diet is a wise choice.
Bone Health: Spelt has an impressive range of essential minerals that are necessary for bone health, including zinc, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, and selenium. These minerals contribute to the development of bone tissue and by boosting the levels of these minerals in your body, you can actively help prevent osteoporosis and other age-related conditions that weaken or degrade the bones in our body.
Growth and Development: The high levels of phosphorous, combined with the impressive content of protein in spelt makes this cereal very important for the development and growth of new tissues, blood vessels, muscles, bones, and organs. Phosphorous is one of the essential elements behind creating new proteins and making DNA to build new cells, while the proteins you get directly from spelt can be broken down into their composite amino acids and then re-formed to be used in the body for nearly every important bodily process.
Immune System Health: Thiamin is known to significantly boost your immune system and stimulate the defensive mechanisms of the body, while also easing psychological stress and anxiety. Spelt is one of the few cereals that can boast a significant level of the B-family vitamin.
ATHERSCLEROSIS & CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: Atherosclerosis is the hardening of your arteries caused by high levels of bad cholesterol which also contributes to cardiovascular disease. Niacin can reduce your total cholesterol levels. Eating spelt can increase your Niacin intake. Niacin can also help reduce formation of blood clots. Eating two ounces of spelt can supply 24% of your daily value (DV) for Niacin. Also, the fiber found in spelt can reduce your total and your LDL cholesterol levels. Eating whole grains, not refined grains, such as spelt at least 6 times each week is a great idea for people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other sings of cardiovascular disease.
TYPE II DIABETES: Spelt is a rich source of magnesium. Magnesium has been shown to help lower risk of type II Diabetes. Whole grains offer special benefits in promoting healthy blood sugar control.
GALLSTONES: A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that eating foods high in insoluble fiber, such as spelt, can help women avoid gallstones. How do foods rich in insoluble fiber help prevent gallstones? Researchers think insoluble fiber not only speeds how quickly food moves through the intestines, but reduces the secretion of bile acids, which in excessive amounts contribute to gallstone formation. The insoluble fiber also increases insulin sensitivity and lowers triglycerides (blood fats).
A Final Word of Caution: Despite all of these healthy benefits, spelt does contain gluten, which is the allergen that is responsible for Celiac disease. Therefore, people suffering from this condition should choose other grain/wheat alternatives.