What is Spelt Flour?
One of the most popular non-wheat, whole grain flours is called as spelt flour. Also called triticum spelta, this flour is used to prepare pasta, breads and a variety of recipes which are wheat free. Spelt flour is also called as hulled wheat or dinkel wheat.
Spelt comes from the wheat family, but it is not wheat. It is a cereal grain which has the same genes as wheat, but from a different species. Spelt cereal has been cultivated in various parts of Europe and the Middle East since centuries. Spelt flour was used around 7000 to 8000 years ago due to which it is also termed as one of the oldest cultivated crop till date. It was one of the staple foods of the Europeans.
As mentioned earlier, spelt is part of the wheat family but it is not the same as wheat (triticum aestivum). The appearance is also very similar to that of wheat, but in case of spelt, the outer shell is hard before the process of milling. The flavor of spelt is nutty and slight sweet, very similar to whole wheat. Spelt can be easily substituted in place of what in cookies or bread recipes since it contains gluten.
Today, spelt flour is very famous more so because of its nutritional value. It has a growing demand in the health food stores. Today, more and more people are gluten sensitive hence are opting for gluten free food such as spelt flour instead of regular flour. Even as we say that spelt flour does contain gluten, it can still be tolerated easily compared to wheat.
In the 20th century, spelt flour was almost replaced by wheat flour in most of the areas where it was cultivated, however it was later revived due to its popularity by the end of the century. Spelt also requires less fertilizers compared to wheat flour.
One of the other reasons for its comeback was due to its multiple health benefits. Spelt flour improves blood circulation, promotes a better immune system, aids in digestion, builds up muscles and provides healthy bones. People who are suffering from weak or brittle bones, blood pressure issues, diabetes, stress, hypertension are recommended to go in for spelt flour rather than wheat flour.
Nutritional Facts of Spelt Flour
One whole cup of cooked spelt flour contains the below nutrients:
- 11 grams of proteins
- 250 calories
- 0 cholesterol
- 2 grams of fat
- 10 milligrams of sodium
- 8 grams of dietary fibre
- 0.2 milligrams of vitamin B6
- 0.5 milligrams of vitamin E
- 25 micrograms of folate
- 51 grams of carbohydrates
- 5 milligrams of niacin
- 2.1 milligrams of manganese
- 95 milligrams of magnesium
- 3 milligrams of iron and zinc
- 20 milligrams of calcium
- 0.4 milligrams of copper
- 0.2 milligrams of thiamine
- 277 milligrams of potassium
- 291 milligrams of phosphorus
Use of Spelt Flour
Spelt flour can be incorporated in your diet in various forms. Those people who are sensitive to wheat can have spelt flour without any hesitation, since spelt does not contain wheat even after coming from the same family.
Spelt flour contains moderate levels of gluten, hence people sensitive to gluten can consume it. It is very easy to digest and does not cause trouble in the digestive tract. Keep in mind to use less liquid for kneading when you swap the flours. Various recipes can be prepared using spelt which are tastier and healthier at the same time.
Benefits of Spelt Flour
- Builds up strong bones and muscles – Due to its wide range of minerals, spelt flour is known to build strong and healthy bones. It is one of the recommended choices of doctors for promoting the health of bones. Spelt flour contains both calcium and phosphorous which bind together to form crystals. When they come together, they are known to strengthen the bones and maintain them strong for life.
- Maintain the body’s pH level – Spelt flour is high in phosphorus which helps to maintain the pH level in the body which also helps in energy withdrawal.
- Promotes blood circulation – Iron and copper present in spelt flour promotes proper blood circulation. The oxygen in our body is transported throughout the blood with the help of iron. Hence people dealing with iron deficiency often complain of anaemia. Anaemia is a medical condition that occurs when the red blood cells being produced in our body are lesser due to insufficient iron. Due to lack of oxygen to the tissues and cells in our body, we often feel tired, weak and fatigued. Here, iron plays an important role by producing haemoglobin and promoting development of red blood cells which helps in treating anaemia.
- Aids in digestion – Spelt flour is high in fibre which is very important for digestion. Fibre actually does not contain any calories and it is mostly found in carbohydrate foods. A diet rich in fibre essentially does not contribute carbs to the body. Since fibre is not absorbed in our body, it freely passes from the digestive system taking along with it all the toxic waste, fat and cholesterol, thus improving our digestive tract. In this process, it also makes us feel full and helps in detoxifying the body.
- Supports the immunity system – Due to its abundance in minerals and vitamins, spelt flour is seen as an immunity boosting food which also reduces inflammation from the body. Minerals such as iron and thiamine play an important role in building the immune system. These minerals keep inflammation at bay and help to fight off stress which usually has an effect on our immune system.
- Controls high blood pressure – Since spelt is high in dietary fibre, it basically reduces a person’s chances of experiencing hypertension or other risky medical conditions such as heart diseases or metabolic syndrome. High blood pressure is caused when there is pressure on the arteries due to which the blood vessels tends to become hard, ultimately distorting the arterial wall. This then causes stress on the heart which can lead to further serious conditions such as a heart attack or stroke. One of the natural remedies for high blood pressure is to include spelt flour as part of your daily diet and lifestyle.
- Helps to reduce cholesterol – Dietary fibers which are found in spelt not only aid in digestion, but are also good when it comes to lowering the cholesterol level of the body naturally without taking any medication. The main work of fibre is to target the cholesterol from the body and flush it out from the body so that the balance of fatty acids is regulated.
- Good source of manganese – Manganese is one of the important minerals required for our body to smoothly continue the functioning of the vital organs which would include building bone density, promoting a healthier immune system and absorption of essential nutrients by the body. Deficiency in manganese can lead to serious medical conditions such as pain in the joints, sudden changes in the mood, body aches or muscle aches, loss of bone. These conditions if not treated on time can lead to more serious conditions.One of the main functions by manganese is to reduce the loss of bone when combined with certain other minerals such as copper, calcium and zinc. This usually happens to women post 30 years. Women are more likely to come across bone issues such as weak bones or fractures in the bones. In such conditions, women are then asked to intake iron or calcium supplements. Instead of these medications, one can go in for regular intake of spelt flour as part of day to day diet. This would act as a natural medicine to the body without any side effects. With the intake of manganese, one would reduce the chances of developing osteoporosis, which is a bone related issue wherein weakened areas or small holes start to form on the bones ultimately leading to fracture or pain in the bones.
- Natural medicine to lower blood sugar levels – Due to the high fibre content in spelt, it helps to regulate the amount of glucose or insulin that can be released by the body. It also helps to prevent Type 2 diabetes along with lowering the insulin and sugar levels.
- Rich in Niacin – A part of the vitamin B complex, Niacin is a water soluble vitamin which is very important when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart, and increasing the body’s metabolism. Niacin has been known to prevent or treat diabetes, aid in skin development or formation and promote healthy functioning of the brain. Niacin has also shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, issues pertaining to eyes such as cataract, acne, headaches, migraine, and loss of memory or ADHD.
Key points to remember for buying, storing or using of Spelt Flour
- When one buys spelt flour, check that there is no moisture in the container or package.
- Store the flour in an airtight container in a cool and dark place or you can also refrigerate it.
- Spelt flour can be used in most of the recipes where one would use whole wheat flour, however the content of spelt flour would be less since it is more water soluble.
- Spelt flour is more fragile when compared to normal wheat flour, hence there would be no need to over knead it.
- Spelt flour is of two types, whole spelt flour and white spelt flour. The whole spelt flour is healthier than the white spelt flour.
Spelt Flour versus Regular Flour
People these days are going more for foods which have taste as well as nutritional benefits. Same is the case with spelt flour when compared to regular flour which has been used since ages. As compared to regular flour, spelt flour is very easy to digest.
As compared to wheat, spelt flour is very high in nutritional value. Spelt flour has fewer calories and more protein than wheat flour. This flour is very easy to digest. Wheat flour is quite resilient and takes a lot of time to knead so that its gluten strengthens, whereas the gluten in spelt flour is very unusual and breaks down rather quickly.
The gluten present in spelt is water soluble which is easy to break down by the mixing action. In the case of regular flour, the gluten does not break down in water easily and usually gets stronger while getting mixed. Similarly, in our digestive system, spelt gets easily broken down during the chewing and mixing action, whereas in case of wheat, it remains like a ball in the digestive system not easy to break down or rather hard to digest.
When it comes to the characteristics of spelt, the outer hull is hard, thus protecting the grain inside from pests or any other elements. In the case of regular wheat, there is no outer covering or hull which makes it quite easy for harvesting, but in the absence of an outer hull, the grain needs to be protected from any insects or pests.
Spelt does not need any enzyme inhibitor whereas in the case of regular wheat there is a need for enzyme inhibitor which helps to fight off the pests.
Side Effects pertaining to Spelt Flour
For some people who are suffering from celiac disease, spelt flour could pose a problem due to the gluten. Celiac is termed as a serious disease of the digestive disorder, which is increasing day by day around the world.
This disease is usually triggered due to anxiety, stress, childbirth, pregnancy, any surgery or viral infection caused. People who are sensitive to gluten would complain of diarrhea, bloating, pain in the abdomen, rashes appearing on the skin, pain in the joints, muscle aches, fatigue, tiredness, weakness or feelings of irritability once they consume spelt flour.
- Spelt is one of the ancient grains mostly cultivated in the European and Middle East regions.
- Spelt flour is easy to digest since it has moderate levels of gluten causing little trouble to the body.
- Spelt flour is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is gaining popularity owing to its multiple health benefits.