Fact checkedEvidence Based

Evidence Based

This article is objectively based on relevant scientific literature, written by experienced medical writers, and fact-checked by a team of degreed medical experts.

Our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and licensed medical professionals seek to remain objective and unbiased while preserving the integrity of any scientific debate.

The articles contain evidence-based references from approved scientific sites. The numbers* in parentheses (*1,2,3) will take you to clickable links to our reputable sources.

Is Spelt Gluten-Free? Get The Facts On Spelt In 2024

Ellie Busby

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Jennifer Olejarz, Nutritionist & Health Coach

is spelt gluten free
Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat. Photo: Shutterstock & Team Design

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.[1] But is spelt gluten-free?

Gluten[2] 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.[3] 

Ancient grains such as spelt have been promoted as a healthier, lower gluten[4] 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[5] — 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[6] 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[7] 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[7] content.

Spelt grain is also a more sustainable[5] 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[4] 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[7] 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,[8] which might contribute to reducing inflammation[9] 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[6] on average. Spelt also contains more dietary fiber[10] 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[10] 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[11] non-celiac gluten sensitivity say they can tolerate spelt better[12] 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[13] — 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[12] 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[14] 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[15] 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. [16] Made from cassava, it’s a starch that can be used to bind or thicken recipes.
  • Rice flour:[17] 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[18] is being developed to enhance the nutrient content of gluten-free food products such as breads and muffins.
  • Lentil pasta: Try lentil pasta[19] 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.

Conclusion

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,[20] 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

Is spelt safe to eat on a gluten-free diet?

No, spelt contains gluten and is unsafe to eat on a gluten-free diet.

Is spelt bread gluten-free?

No, spelt contains gluten, so spelt bread is not gluten-free.

Is spelt flour gluten-free?

No, spelt flour is not gluten-free.

What are good gluten-free substitutes for spelt flour?

Some gluten-free alternatives to spelt flour include rice flour, tapioca flour, teff flour, cornflour, and coconut flour.


+ 20 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Curzon, A.Y., Chandrasekhar, K., Nashef, Y.K., Abbo, S., Bonfil, D.J., Ram Reifen, Shimrit Bar-El, Asaf Avneri and Roi Ben-David (2019). Distinguishing between Bread Wheat and Spelt Grains Using Molecular Markers and Spectroscopy. [online] 67(13), pp.3837–3841. doi:https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.9b00131.
  2. Shewry, P.R. (2019). What Is Gluten—Why Is It Special? [online] 6. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00101.
  3. Liu, M., Zhao, Q., Feng, Q., Stiller, J., Tang, S., Miao, J., Vrána, J., Kateřina Holušová, Liu, D., Jaroslav Doležel, Manners, J.M., Han, B. and Liu, C. (2018). Sequence divergence between spelt and common wheat. [online] 131(5), pp.1125–1132. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00122-018-3064-z.
  4. Brouns, F., Geisslitz, S., Guzmán, C., Ikeda, T., Arzani, A., Latella, G., Senay Simsek, Mariastella Colomba, Gregorini, A., Schuppan, D., Lullien-Pellerin, V., Jonkers, D. and Shewry, P.R. (2022). Do ancient wheats contain less gluten than modern bread wheat, in favour of better health? [online] doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/nbu.12551.
  5. Geisslitz, S., Friedrich, C., Katharina Anne Scherf and Koehler, P. (2019). Comparative Study on Gluten Protein Composition of Ancient (Einkorn, Emmer and Spelt) and Modern Wheat Species (Durum and Common Wheat). [online] 8(9), pp.409–409. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8090409.
  6. Tóth, V., László Láng, Vida, G., Péter Mikó and Rakszegi, M. (2022). Characterization of the Protein and Carbohydrate Related Quality Traits of a Large Set of Spelt Wheat Genotypes. [online] 11(14), pp.2061–2061. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11142061.
  7. Friedrich, C., Afzal, M., Jens Pfannstiel, Bertsche, U., Melzer, T., Ruf, A., Heger, C., Pfaff, T., Schollenberger, M. and M. Rodehutscord (2023). Mineral and Phytic Acid Content as Well as Phytase Activity in Flours and Breads Made from Different Wheat Species. [online] 24(3), pp.2770–2770. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24032770.
  8. Marjeta Mencin, Nika Markanovič, Maja Mikulic-Petkovsek, Veberic, R. and Terpinc, P. (2023). Bioprocessed Wholegrain Spelt Flour Improves the Quality and Physicochemical Characteristics of Wheat Bread. [online] 28(8), pp.3428–3428. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules28083428.
  9. Dinu, M., Whittaker, A., Pagliai, G., Stefano Benedettelli and Sofi, F. (2018). Ancient wheat species and human health: Biochemical and clinical implications. [online] 52, pp.1–9. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.09.001.
  10. Biskup, I., Gajcy, M. and Izabela Fecka (2017). The potential role of selected bioactive compounds from spelt and common wheat in glycemic control. [online] 26(6), pp.1015–1021. doi:https://doi.org/10.17219/acem/61665.
  11. Hanna Fjeldheim Dale, Biesiekierski, J.R. and Gülen Arslan Lied (2018). Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and the spectrum of gluten-related disorders: an updated overview. [online] 32(1), pp.28–37. doi:https://doi.org/10.1017/s095442241800015x.
  12. Zimmermann, J., Longin, F., Schweinlin, A., Basrai, M. and Bischoff, S.C. (2022). No Difference in Tolerance between Wheat and Spelt Bread in Patients with Suspected Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity. [online] 14(14), pp.2800–2800. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14142800.
  13. Simonetti, E., Bosi, S., Negri, L. and Dinelli, G. (2022). Amylase Trypsin Inhibitors (ATIs) in a Selection of Ancient and Modern Wheat: Effect of Genotype and Growing Environment on Inhibitory Activities. [online] 11(23), pp.3268–3268. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11233268.
  14. Sajad Ahmad Sofi, Ahmed, N., Farooq, A., Rafiq, S., Sajad Majeed Zargar, Kamran, F., Tanveer Ali Dar, Shabir Ahmad Mir, Dar, B.N. and Amin Mousavi Khaneghah (2022). Nutritional and bioactive characteristics of buckwheat, and its potential for developing gluten‐free products: An updated overview. [online] 11(5), pp.2256–2276. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.3166.
  15. Azizi, S., Mohammad Hossein Azizi, Moogouei, R. and Peyman Rajaei (2020). The effect of Quinoa flour and enzymes on the quality of gluten‐free bread. [online] 8(5), pp.2373–2382. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.1527.
  16. Roozen, M. and Serventi, L. (2022). Ingredients from Climate Resilient Crops to Enhance the Nutritional Quality of Gluten-Free Bread. [online] 11(11), pp.1628–1628. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11111628.
  17. Saito, K., Okouchi, M., Yamaguchi, M., Tayori Takechi, Hatanaka, Y., Koji Kitsuda, Takayo Mannari and Takamura, H. (2022). Quality improvement of gluten‐free rice flour bread through the addition of high‐temperature water during processing. [online] 87(11), pp.4820–4830. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.16333.
  18. Paz, G., King, J.M., Witoon Prinyawiwatkul, Chelsea and Ricardo (2020). High‐protein rice flour in the development of gluten‐free muffins. [online] 85(5), pp.1397–1402. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.15140.
  19. Valdelvira, R., Garcia-Medina, G., Crespo, J.F. and Cabanillas, B. (2022). Allergenic Content of New Alimentary Pasta Made of Lentils Compared with Lentil Seeds and Analysis of the Impact of Boiling Processing. [online] 77(3), pp.443–446. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-022-00997-w.
  20. Bascuñán, K.A., María Catalina Vespa and Araya, M. (2016). Celiac disease: understanding the gluten-free diet. [online] 56(2), pp.449–459. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1238-5.
Ellie Busby

Written by:

Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

Medically reviewed by:

Jennifer Olejarz

Ellie Busby is a Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT) and nutrition writer. She holds a bachelor's in Chemistry and a Masters in Nutrition. Ellie specializes in plant-based nutrition for health and fitness. She is also the Founder of Vojo Health, a personalized nutrition service based on genetic testing.

Medically reviewed by:

Jennifer Olejarz

Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Trusted Source

Go to source

SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

Trusted Source

Go to source

African Journals Online

Non-profit Platform for African Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of The American Board of Family Medicine

American Board of Family Medicine

Trusted Source
Go to source

Informit

RMIT University Library

Trusted Source
Go to source

European Food Safety Authority

Science, Safe food, Sustainability

Trusted Source
Go to source

OrthoInfo

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Trusted Source
Go to source

American Academy of Family Physicians

Strengthen family physicians and the communities they care for

Trusted Source
Go to source

Agricultural Research Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Trusted Source
Go to source

The American Journal of Medicine

Official Journal of The Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Database From National Institute Of Health

Trusted Source
Go to source

Lippincott Journals

Subsidiaries of Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute on Aging

Database From National Institute Of Health

Trusted Source
Go to source

Translational Research

The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine

Trusted Source
Go to source

Cell

An All-science Publisher

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of Translational Medicine

BioMed Central

Part of Springer Nature
Go to source

Federal Trade Commission

Protecting America's Consumers

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Human Genome Research Institute

Database From National Institute Of Health

Trusted Source
Go to source

Food Production, Processing and Nutrition

BioMed Central

Part of Springer Nature
Go to source

BMC Gastroenterology

BioMed Central

Part of Springer Nature
Go to source

ACS Publications

A Division of The American Chemical Society

Trusted Source
Go to source

Annual Reviews

Independent, Non-profit Academic Publishing Company

Trusted Source
Go to source

PubChem

National Center for Biotechnology Information

National Library of Medicine
Go to source

PLOS Journals

Nonprofit Publisher of Open-access Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

Thieme E-books & E-Journals

Peer-reviewed & Open Access Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

European Journal of Agriculture and Food Sciences

Peer-reviewed International Journal Publishes

Trusted Source
Go to source

Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing Home

Chemical Science Journals, Books and Database

Trusted Source
Go to source

Frontiers

Publisher of Peer-reviewed Articles in Open Acess Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

De Gruyter

German Scholarly Publishing House

Trusted Source
Go to source

Hindawi

Open Access Research Journals & Papers

Trusted Source
Go to source

Oilseeds and Fats, Crops and Lipids

EDP Sciences

Trusted Source
Go to source

Cambridge Core

Cambridge University Press

Trusted Source
Go to source

FoodData Central

U.S. Department Of Agriculture

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of the American Heart Association

Peer-reviewed Open Access Scientific Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

The Americans with Disabilities Act

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

Trusted Source
Go to source

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Organization of Food and Nutrition Professionals

tr
Go to source

Sage Journals

Database From Sage Publications

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute of Drug Abuse

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

The ClinMed International Library

A Repository and an Open Access Publisher for Medical Research

Trusted Source
Go to source

The Royal Society Publishing

United Kingdom's National Academy of Sciences

Trusted Source
Go to source

APA PsycNet

Database From American Psychological Association

Trusted Source
Go to source

The Pharma Innovation Journal

Peer-reviewed And Refereed Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Development

Peer-reviewed Bimonthly Journal

Trusted Source
Go to source

British Pharmacological Society

Journals - Wiley Online Library

Trusted Source
Go to source

American Psychological Association

Scientific and Professional Organization of Psychologists

Trusted Source
Go to source

AAP Publications

Database From American Academy of Pediatrics

Trusted Source
Go to source

Karger Publishers

Academic Publisher of Scientific and Medical Journals and Books

Trusted Source
Go to source

Cambridge University Press & Assessment

Database From Cambridge University

Trusted Source
Go to source

National Institute of Mental Health

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

MDPI

Publisher of Open Access Journals

Trusted Source
Go to source

Bulletin of the National Research Centre

Part of Springer Nature

Trusted Source
Go to source

The New England Journal of Medicine

Massachusetts Medical Society

Trusted Source
Go to source

Economic Research Service

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Trusted Source
Go to source

MedlinePlus

Database From National Library of Medicine

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

National Institute of Health

An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Trusted Source
Go to source

Trusted Source

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

The BMJ

Weekly Peer-reviewed Medical Trade Journal

The British Medical Association
Go to source

The British Psychological Society

The British Psychological Society is a charity registered in England

Database From Wiley Online Library
Go to source

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

PubMed

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
Go to source

DailyMed

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
Go to source

Google Scholar

Go to source

Science.gov: USA.gov for Science

Government Science Portal

Go to source

ResearchGate

Social Network Service For Scientists

Find and share research
Go to source

American Heart Association

To be a rentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives

Go to source

BioMed Central

Research in progress

Go to source

JAMA Network

Home of JAMA and the Specialty Journals of the American Medical Association

Go to source

Springer Link

Database From Springer Nature Switzerland AG

Springer - International Publisher Science, Technology, Medicine
Go to source

ODS

Database from Office of Dietary Supplements

National Institutes of Health
Go to source

Federal Trade Commission

Bureaus of Consumer Protection, Competition and Economics
Go to source

Trusted Source

Database From U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Governmental Authority
Go to source

Oxford Academic Journals

Oxford University Press

Trusted Source
Go to source

Taylor & Francis Online

Peer-reviewed Journals

Academic Publishing Division of Informa PLC
Go to source

WHO

Database from World Health Organization

Go to source

Journal of Neurology

Peer-reviewed Medical Journal

American Academy of Neurology Journal
Go to source

ScienceDirect

Bibliographic Database of Scientific and Medical Publications

Dutch publisher Elsevier
Go to source

Wiley Online Library

American Multinational Publishing Company

Trusted Source
Go to source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. National Public Health Agency

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

Trusted Source

Database from U.S. National Library of Medicine

U.S. Federal Government
Go to source

U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Federal Agency

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Go to source

PubMed Central

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
Go to source
Feedback

Help us rate this article

Thank you for your feedback

Keep in touch to see our improvement