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Health food of the month - Spelt

May 2012  

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SpeltThere has been a recent trend towards spelt and today many people are choosing spelt products over traditional flour ingredients.

But in fact spelt (triticum spelta) is nothing new; it is actually a primitive form of wheat that was certainly used in Iran around 5000 to 6000 BC and may well have been used earlier. It was certainly used in Neolithic sites around 2000 BC in central Europe and by 500 BC it was commonly used in southern Britain.

How spelt exactly evolved is not entirely clear. Its genetic evidence points to it having originated as a hybrid of a domestic wheat (such as emmer wheat) and a wild goat grass (aegilops tauschii) but there are other factors in this and DNA research on the true origins of spelt is still being undertaken.

Spelt is quite similar to wheat in appearance, but has a tougher husk to protect the grain inside. This means it is more resistant to disease than common wheat and therefore can be grown with the use of fewer pesticides. It has also gained popularity because of its high protein and nutritional properties as well as its nutty taste. Spelt contains around 17 per cent protein (compared with around 11 per cent in wheat) and contains a broad spectrum of nutrients including vitamin B2, manganese, niacin, selenium, thiamine and copper.

Many people with allergies or food intolerances say that while wheat is difficult for them, they have found that they can eat spelt without problems. However spelt is not suitable for a gluten free diet as like wheat it contains gluten.

Many people like spelt because it is more related to the ancient foods used in more natural times, and because of its firmer flavour. Spelt can be used to replace flour in many recipes including in bread and pasty, and you can today buy white spelt which is lighter in colour and texture because it is milled more finely.

Spelt used to be only available in specialised health food and organic retailers but today many supermarkets now stock spelt flour and spelt products are increasingly coming onto the market.



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