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What Is the Difference between Spelt and Wheat?

Spelt and wheat are close relatives, but spelt is an ancient grain with a nuttier flavor and tougher husk. While both provide similar nutrients, spelt offers a different protein structure, potentially easier for some to digest. Wheat, more common, is the basis for many modern flours. Wondering how these grains can enhance your diet? Let's explore their unique benefits.
Brandon May
Brandon May

Spelt and wheat are commonly used in breads and baked goods, and have slight differences in texture, taste and nutrient ranges, depending on the breeds. Although spelt and wheat both contain gluten, which is a protein, spelt contains a higher amount of protein and amino acids. Their differences in taste vary slightly, depending on their specific breed, processing and cooking methods, leading some individuals to substitute one for the other in baking recipes. Both grains are unsuitable for those with celiac disease or those suffering from gluten intolerance, as they are from the same family of grains and both contain gluten.

It isn't unusual for alternative recipes to use spelt flour, an ancient grain that predates the use of wheat and other grains suitable for baking and cooking. Spelt and wheat flour can be used interchangeably in a recipe, substituting one for the other quite easily in any baked good. The difference in texture and taste is slightly noticeable, and spelt in often a whole grain and isn't refined before being ground into a flour. Using spelt flour in place of wheat flour, whether whole or refined, often results in a denser bread and a nuttier, sweeter flavor.

Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).
Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).

The grain spelt contains a slightly higher amount of nutrients in its nutrient profile than regular wheat, depending on the breed of spelt. As such, spelt is often called for in healthy recipes to boost the nutritional content of a baked good and to increase the amount of protein. Although spelt contains slightly more nutrients than wheat, it still does not necessarily produce a significant amount of nutrients that are needed for daily energy requirements. Wheat flour, and especially refined white wheat flour, often differs from spelt flour in both its nutrients and its lighter taste and texture produced in its baked goods.

A field of wheat.
A field of wheat.

Sometimes, it might be suggested that spelt is safe for individuals suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease, a condition that results in the poor breakdown of the gluten protein. This is untrue, as spelt and wheat are from the same family and both contain the gluten protein that can hurt the inner lining of the small intestine. Wheat is often the most common grain used in baked goods, such as breads and cakes, as it is less expensive and more available in the marketplace. Therefore, spelt and wheat flours often vary in price, with spelt flour being slightly higher than wheat flour in some markets.

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Discussion Comments

anon1007132

I am allergic to wheat. Can I substitute spelt?

anon1004461

ANON999604, that's like saying that diabetics can have raw organic honey because it's the way God made it. Not! It will spike their sugar to the roof!

Spelt does have a more digestible gluten than wheat, but it is still gluten. Some people with gluten intolerance can tolerate spelt but those with Celiac disease cannot.

Marie

anon999604

This article states that both grains are unsuitable for those with celiac disease, since both contain gluten. This is not necessarily true. Most wheat, at least in the United States, is genetically modified, and has even been called a Frankenfood for good reason: Its gluten is harmful. Spelt is one of the grains God made -- a grain with a gluten that does not harm the body--big difference!

These truths need to be pointed out, if you truly want to inform the people. Also, it is my understanding that spelt is significantly higher in nutrition than is wheat.

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    • Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).
      Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).
    • A field of wheat.
      A field of wheat.
    • Spelt grains.
      By: al62
      Spelt grains.
    • Wheat flour contains a significant amount of fiber which makes it easy to digest.
      By: Studio Gi
      Wheat flour contains a significant amount of fiber which makes it easy to digest.
    • Breads that are made using spelt usually taste more earthy and nutty than other wheat breads.
      By: Irochka
      Breads that are made using spelt usually taste more earthy and nutty than other wheat breads.