Is Spelt More Nutritious Than Wheat?

With all the wheat-bashing going on these days, people are looking for alternatives. Is spelt a better option? Nutrition Diva takes a look.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

Q. "My husband and I make all our bread from whole grain spelt flour and feel fuller longer (and generally better) eating this than store-bought, whole-wheat bread. What do you think about spelt? Is it better for us than wheat?"

A.  Although it is closely related to wheat, spelt has a reputation for being a healthier choice. Some people also prefer the flavor, which they describe as mellower and nuttier than regular wheat. And, unlike rice, oat, and other non-wheat flours, you can substitute spelt flour in recipes that call for whole wheat flour with reasonably good results—because it has a lot of the same properties.

Is Spelt More Nutritious Than Wheat?

With all the wheat-bashing going on these days, it’s not surprising that people are looking for alternatives.  But is spelt actually better for you than wheat?  

As you can see in the chart, spelt has twice as much vitamin K, while wheat has 6 times as much selenium. Other than that, however, the two grains are quite similar in vitamin and mineral content. Spelt is substantially higher in sugar than wheat, which may explain why many people prefer the taste. Whole wheat, on the other hand, is somewhat higher in fiber.

Is Spelt Safe for Celiacs?

Wheat is higher in protein and gluten—and the gluten it contains is stronger and more elastic, which explains why spelt breads don’t rise quite as high or have quite the same texture as whole wheat breads.

Make no mistake, however: spelt does contain a substantial amount of gluten, making it unsafe for anyone with Celiac disease. As for claims that people with wheat allergies may be able to tolerate spelt, this is entirely anecdotal. Because spelt is a sub-species of wheat, anyone with a true wheat allergy would be well advised to avoid it.

See also: Is Food Intolerance Testing for Real?


Is Spelt Better For You?

Based on the nutritional properties, it’s hard to make a case for spelt being significantly better (or worse) for you than whole wheat. I think this really comes down to individual preferences. If you prefer the taste or you find it more satisfying, I can’t see any reason not to enjoy it. (And who wouldn't prefer home-baked bread to store-bought?!)

Just remember that all grains, even whole grains, are best enjoyed in moderation.

See also: The Truth About Whole Grains

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.