Is Spelt Gluten-Free? Get The Facts On Spelt In [AU] 2023
Spelt is considered an ancient grain related to wheat. As a genetically older grain, spelt is considered by some as healthier and easier to digest than modern wheat. Hence it’s becoming increasingly popular in health food stores as a wheat substitute. But is spelt gluten-free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease — a severe autoimmune reaction to gluten — should avoid gluten.
So, does spelt have gluten? Read on to learn what spelt is and discover gluten-free grain alternatives for those following a gluten-free diet plan.
Is Spelt Gluten-Free?
No, spelt is not gluten-free.
Spelt is an ancient type of wheat and contains gluten. In fact, spelt tends to contain more gluten than modern, common wheat.
The gluten in spelt can induce and trigger symptoms in those with celiac disease and other gluten-sensitive individuals.
Does Spelt Contain Gluten?
No, spelt is not gluten-free. It’s an ancient grain genetically related to wheat.
Ancient grains such as spelt have been promoted as a healthier, lower gluten alternative to regular wheat. But spelt is still a type of wheat and hence contains gluten.
Is Spelt Flour Gluten-Free?
No, spelt flour is also not gluten-free.
Spelt flour actually contains more gluten — on average — than common wheat flour. Modern wheat now contains less gluten than older wheat varieties.
In general, the older the grain, the more protein and gluten it contains. However, there’s a huge variety in gluten content between different spelt grain cultivars.
What Is Spelt?
Spelt is a variety of wheat that’s thought to have been cultivated in ancient times.
In its whole-grain form, spelt is more nutritious than modern whole wheat. It’s higher in micronutrients — especially essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, and zinc — and some varieties are lower in phytic acid, an antinutrient that inhibits nutrient absorption.
However, the phytic acid content of bread made with spelt and modern wheat varies based on the proofing method used. The longer the proofing times, the lower the phytic acid content.
Spelt grain is also a more sustainable crop compared to wheat due to its higher nitrogen content.
However, some scientists argue that spelt may not even be considered one of the ancient grains. Research shows that currently grown spelt is derived from modern wheat and that ancient spelt may already be extinct.
Health Benefits Of Spelt
Higher In Micronutrients
Spelt flour is higher in several micronutrients compared to wheat flour, making it a great nutritious substitute for wheat in bread.
Spelt is especially higher in essential and trace minerals, including iron, molybdenum, copper, and zinc. Adding wholegrain spelt flour to bread can also increase the antioxidant content, which might contribute to reducing inflammation and inflammatory-related diseases.
Higher In Protein And Fiber
Gluten is a type of protein, and most of the protein in wheat and spelt is gluten. Although the protein and gluten content varies between varieties of spelt, it contains more protein than wheat on average. Spelt also contains more dietary fiber than regular wheat.
While the higher gluten may be better for your protein intake, it’s not good for optimal bread texture! Spelt flour actually makes a less stable bread dough and makes bread with a less favorable texture.
Better For Blood Sugar Control
Some studies suggest that spelt might be for your blood sugar than regular wheat. This is likely due to the higher dietary fiber and antioxidant content.
Hence, those with type 2 diabetes might benefit from eating bread made with spelt rather than wheat.
Improved Gut Symptoms
Spelt is definitely not safe for those with celiac disease. However, some people with self-diagnosed non-celiac gluten sensitivity say they can tolerate spelt better than other types of wheat.
However, as spelt tends to be higher in gluten, this doesn’t make sense. Experiencing improved symptoms after switching to spelt might indicate that gut symptoms are due to a wheat allergy or sensitivity to other components in wheat, such as fructans or amylase-trypsin inhibitors — a wheat protein.
So, if your gut passes the spelt test, a more appropriate term for your symptoms might be non-celiac wheat sensitivity. But even in those with self-diagnosed wheat sensitivity, researchers have found no difference between gut symptoms after consuming wheat and spelt. This suggests a strong nocebo effect when eating wheat — meaning that people expect a negative effect — and a placebo effect when eating spelt.
Spelt Substitutes For Gluten Sensitivity
Spelt is a gluten-containing grain. Hence, those with gluten intolerance or sensitivity will have to avoid wheat, spelt, and any wheat or spelt-containing food.
Here are some naturally gluten-free, whole-grain alternatives to spelt:
- Buckwheat: Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. Buckwheat is technically a seed rather than a grain and can be cooked whole as a substitute for spelt berries or used as flour in baked goods.
- Quinoa: Naturally gluten-free and high in protein, quinoa can be ground up and used as spelt or wheat flour substitute in baked goods.
- Tapioca flour: If you’re looking for a gluten-free binder to use in gluten-free baking, try tapioca flour.  Made from cassava, it’s a starch that can be used to bind or thicken recipes.
- Rice flour: Commonly found as a main ingredient in gluten-free flour blends, rice flour can be added to gluten-free baked goods to provide a light texture. High-protein rice flour is being developed to enhance the nutrient content of gluten-free food products such as breads and muffins.
- Lentil pasta: Try lentil pasta as a gluten-free alternative to regular pasta or spelt pasta.
Always look for certified gluten-free labels to ensure the product is free from cross-contamination with gluten.
Spelt is a gluten-containing grain and hence not suitable for those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or for those following a gluten-free diet.
In fact, spelt flour tends to contain more gluten than regular wheat flour. That means bread made with spelt is off the table if you want to stay gluten-free!
As a gluten-free diet can be lower in nutrients, we recommend consulting a registered dietitian for advice on personalized vitamins. Consider supplementing your diet with gluten-free protein powders and meal replacement bars, and check out gluten-free meal delivery services. If you’re looking to lose weight, some fat burner supplements are also gluten-free. Always look for certified gluten-free products to be on the safe side.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, spelt contains gluten and is unsafe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
No, spelt contains gluten, so spelt bread is not gluten-free.
No, spelt flour is not gluten-free.
Some gluten-free alternatives to spelt flour include rice flour, tapioca flour, teff flour, cornflour, and coconut flour.
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