It’s believed that spelt flour was first used between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest cultivated crops in human history. Spelt flour, also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat, is a grain or cereal closely related to wheat.
Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe — from the Bronze Age to medieval times. Today, it’s rising in popularity and has found a new market in health food stores. Because more and more people are dealing with gluten sensitivities, spelt offers an alternative to wheat flour. Although it does contain gluten, it seems to be tolerated more easily than wheat.
The earliest archaeological evidence of spelt is from the fifth millennium B.C. in Transcaucasia, northeast of the Black Sea — although the most abundant and well-documented archaeological evidence of spelt is in Europe. In the 20th century, spelt was replaced by wheat bread in almost all areas where it was still grown; however, the United States’ organic farming movement revived its popularity toward the end of the century, as spelt requires fewer fertilizers than wheat.
The many health benefits of spelt flour are responsible for its current comeback. Spelt aids blood circulation, boosts the immune system, builds strong bones and aids digestion. People with varying health conditions can benefits from spelt flour, particularly those with weak and brittle bones, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, and hypertension.
Spelt Flour Nutrition Facts
Spelt flour has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor, similar to that of whole wheat flour. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, when compared to wheat flour, spelt has higher contents of copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus.
- 246 calories
- 2 grams fat
- zero cholesterol
- 10 milligrams sodium
- 51 grams carbohydrate
- 8 grams dietary fiber
- 11 grams protein
- 5 milligrams niacin (25 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams thiamine (13 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams vitamin B6 (8 percent DV)
- 25 micrograms folate (6 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligrams vitamin E (3 percent DV)
- 2.1 milligrams manganese (106 percent DV)
- 291 milligrams phosphorus (29 percent DV)
- 95 milligrams magnesium (25 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams copper (21 percent DV)
- 3 milligrams iron (18 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams zinc (16 percent DV)
- 8 micrograms selenium (11 percent DV)
- 277 milligrams potassium (8 percent DV)
- 19 milligrams calcium (2 percent DV)
9 Spelt Flour Benefits
1. Aids Circulation
The copper and iron present in spelt flour allows this grain to aid blood circulation. Iron helps transport oxygen throughout the blood. In fact, an iron deficiency is most commonly linked to the development of anemia, which is a condition that is due to a lack of healthy red blood cells being produced.
Anemia is related to a problem with the hemoglobin cell that carries oxygen throughout the body. When the body is unable to get enough oxygen to the cells and tissues, it feels weak and fatigued. Iron helps metabolize proteins and plays a role in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells, serving as a natural treatment for anemia.
2. Builds Strong Bones
With an impressive range of essential minerals that strengthen the bones, spelt is a natural choice for boosting bone health. Calcium and phosphorus, for example, bind together to form crystals that make up bones and teeth. Together, they strengthen bones and keep them strong for a lifetime, according to a study at the University of North Carolina.
With 29 percent of your recommended daily value of phosphorus in spelt flour, you are well on your way to providing for your bones. Foods high in phosphorus, like spelt flour, also maintain the body at the proper pH level and help with energy extraction.
3. Boosts Immune System
The vitamins and minerals in spelt flour help to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Iron, for example, is closely linked to the immune system, according research published in the Journal of Neural Transmission. It’s also needed to properly digest and absorb other nutrients from food, due to its role in the metabolic enzyme process. In addition, iron helps bring enough oxygen to damaged areas of the body, including damaged tissues, organs and cells that are prone to infection or disease development.
According to research published in Biochemistry, thiamine plays a role in immune system activation. That’s because thiamine helps maintain the muscle tone along the walls of the digestive tract, where much of the immune system is actually located — and spelt flour’s thiamine count helps prevent thiamine deficiency. It also wards off inflammation and helps fight chronic stress, which can impact your immune system greatly.
4. Aids Digestive Function
Consuming a high-fiber diet is very important for digestion, and spelt flour provides this necessity. Fiber actually contains zero calories since it essentially can’t be digested by humans, and although it’s found in carbohydrate foods like spelt flour, it doesn’t contribute any carbs to our diets.
Due to its structure and our inability to absorb it, fiber passes through our digestive system unabsorbed by digestive enzymes within the stomach — taking with it toxins, waste, fat and cholesterol particles and removing them from the gut. In the process, it helps improve our digestion and heart health, makes us feel full, and supports detoxification.
Due in part to its fiber content, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, spelt flour bread is rapidly digestible, again touting its digestive benefits.
A high-fiber diet also helps prevent digestive disorders and diseases like diverticulitis, colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. This is because prebiotic fiber helps improve immune function and maintains better colon and intestinal health, while also clearing away harmful waste from the digestive organs.
5. Decreases Cholesterol
Not only does the dietary fiber present in spelt flour help with digestion, but it also helps the body lower cholesterol levels naturally. Fiber targets LDL (bad) cholesterol and eliminates it from the body in order to regulate the balance of fatty acids. A 1999 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine evaluated the blood cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber. After a 51-week treatment period, where participants were given a fiber supplement daily, there were clear, positive results.
The fiber supplement provided significant and sustained reductions in LDL cholesterol, without reducing HDL cholesterol or increasing triglycerides. Because of spelt flour’s high levels of dietary fiber, it has the power to aid the reduction of cholesterol levels.
6. Reduces High Blood Pressure
Because spelt contributes to a high-fiber diet, it essentially lessens a person’s likelihood to experience hypertension and other risk factors of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. A 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that increasing the intake of fiber in Western populations, where intake is far below recommended levels, may contribute to the prevention of hypertension.
Elevated blood pressure is when the pressure on the arteries and blood vessels becomes too high and the arterial wall becomes distorted, which causes extra stress on the heart. This stress can lead to serious health conditions like heart attack and stroke. It’s important to add natural remedies for high blood pressure, like the consumption of spelt flour and other high-fiber foods, into your diet and lifestyle.
7. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Spelt flour helps regulate the amount of glucose and insulin that’s released in the body; this is due to its high fiber content as well. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies show that a high-fiber diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes, lower insulin and blood sugar levels, and improve cholesterol and triglyceride (fats in the blood) levels in people with diabetes. One well-designed clinical study suggests that pregnant women with type 1 diabetes may be able to reduce the amount of insulin they use if they eat a high-fiber diet.
A telling clinical study compared people with type 2 diabetes, who were eating 50 grams of fiber daily, with people getting the recommended 24 grams of fiber daily. After six weeks, people on the higher-fiber diet had better control of blood glucose, insulin and blood lipids.
8. High Source of Manganese
One cup of cooked spelt flour has over 100 percent the daily recommended value of manganese! Manganese is an important trace mineral that’s needed for many vital functions, including nutrient absorption, production of digestive enzymes, bone development and immune-system defenses. A manganese deficiency can cause serious health threats, such as bone loss, muscle aches, joint pain and changes in mood.
One of the most vital benefits of manganese is its ability to reduce bone loss. When it’s combined with other minerals, including calcium, zinc and copper, it minimizes bone loss, especially in older women who are more susceptible to bone fractures and weak bones. By improving bone mass, manganese helps prevent and treat osteoporosis, which is when small holes or weakened areas are formed in the bone that can lead to fractures, pain and a Dowager’s hump.
9. High Source of Niacin
Niacin is a part of the vitamin B complex, and it’s a water-soluble vitamin that’s important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and metabolism — especially balancing blood cholesterol levels. Niacin helps with brain function, healthy skin formation, and preventing or treating diabetes.
There’s evidence that niacin can help to lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, eye disorders like cataracts, acne and skin flair-ups, osteoarthritis, circulation problems, migraine headaches, dizziness, and learning disorders like ADHD. Some initial studies have pointed to the fact that niacin can be hard to tolerate for some people, resulting in certain unwanted niacin side effects; however, researchers have found evidence that when taken in regular amounts, niacin’s favorable effects outweigh the slim potential for patients experiencing niacin side effects.
How to Use Spelt Flour
Because spelt flour is gaining popularity due to its health benefits, you can find it again in your local health food store. Stores are selling pasta, bread, crackers and baked goods that are made with spelt flour.
When you buy spelt flour, make sure there is no sign of moisture in the package or container. You also want to purchase spelt from a store that has a high turnover to ensure it is a fresh product. Once you get spelt flour home, it should be refrigerated, unless you plan to use it within a few days. In order to keep the flour fresh, store it in an air-tight container in a cool and dark place.
There are two different types of spelt flour sold at the store, just like wheat flour. You will find white spelt flour, which has had the germ and bran removed and has a lighter texture in baked goods. There is also whole spelt flour, which gives you the full array of health benefits. Whole spelt flour is similar to whole wheat flour — but won’t give you the same belly as wheat — and you can swap out the wheat flour from recipes and add spelt instead, especially if you are sensitive to wheat but still want to enjoy homemade baked goods.
When you substitute whole spelt for whole wheat flour, keep in mind that spelt is more water-soluble so you may need to use less than what the recipe calls for. Start with a little less liquid when cooking or baking with spelt, and then add slowly until you get the perfect consistency. Also, be careful not to over-knead spelt flour — you will notice that it is a bit more fragile than wheat flour and needs less attention when preparing.
Because of the way wheat and gluten-containing products are prepared today, more and more people experience sensitivities and intolerances. Spelt flour contains only moderate levels of gluten, and it may be more easily digested than wheat flour, especially for people with a gluten sensitivity. I tend to post recipes that call for gluten-free flour, but if you want to give spelt a try then just sub it in. When swapping flours, start with less liquid than the recipes calls for and add it in slowly. You will begin to get a feel for what each type of flour requires.
Spelt Flour Recipes
There are many ways to incorporate spelt flour into your diet. Remember that it does contain gluten, so if you have an intolerance you want to stick to gluten-free flour in your baking recipes. But spelt flour is wheat-free, so many people who are sensitive to wheat have no reaction to spelt flour.
You can swap out gluten-free flour and wheat flour and add spelt flour instead. A way to test this out is with my easy Almond Butter Chocolate Cookie Recipe. These delicious cookies are an alternative to the classic cookie recipe. You can also try replacing gluten-free flour with spelt flour when preparing my Banana Nut Muffins. These awesome muffins have banana, dark chocolate and walnuts!
I have a bunch of healthy and delicious pancake recipes that call for pancake flour. If you want to try incorporating spelt flour to these recipes, here is how you prepare the pancake flour:
- 4 cups spelt flour
- 3 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of sugar (you can maple syrup or agave nectar instead)
Possible Spelt Flour Side Effects & Cautions
Spelt contains gluten, which may be a problem for people who have celiac disease. Celiac disease is a serious digestive disorder that is increasing around the world. It’s also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy, and it’s sometimes triggered or activated by childbirth, pregnancy, severe emotional stress, surgery or a viral infection. According to a 1995 study conducted in Germany, when spelt flour was investigated for its toxicity on coeliac disease patients, the results suggested that spelt is a coeliac-toxic cereal and has to be avoided.
You also want to avoid or limit gluten, like spelt flour, if you are gluten-sensitive. A gluten intolerance is 30 times more prevalent than celiac disease; one in seven people are sensitive to gluten but test negative for celiac disease. They suffer many of the same symptoms and are known as non-celiac gluten-sensitive (NCGS). If you are gluten-sensitive, after consuming gluten you may experience diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, irritability, skin rash, muscle cramps, joint pain, upset stomach, or weakness and fatigue.