Does spelt have any h ealth benefits?

Whole grains, like whole spelt, are considered to be very healthy for most people.

They are an important source of carbs, protein, fiber, and essential nutrients like iron and zinc.

Research consistently links higher intakes of whole grains with lower risk of stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

People who consume more whole grains are also more likely to maintain a moderate weight and have better digestive health (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

One review of six studies involving a total of 247,487 people found that those who ate the most whole grains were 14% less likely to have a stroke compared with those who ate the least amount of whole grains (7Trusted Source).

Similarly, an analysis of over 14,000 people found the highest intakes of whole grains were associated with a 21% reduced risk of heart disease compared to the lowest intakes (8Trusted Source).

Another 2013 review showed that high whole grain intake (3 servings per day) was associated with a 32% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Refined grains did not show the same benefit (14Trusted SourceTrusted Source).

Although most of these studies are observational, there have been some human clinical trials that support the health benefits of whole grains as well (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).


Regularly consuming spelt or other whole grains promotes health and could help protect against obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

 Spelt ma y be harmful for some people

Despite the health benefits of whole grains, spelt may be harmful for some people. This includes those who have celiac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance, or have irritable bowel syndrome.

Gluten intolerance and wheat allergy

Gluten is the name for the mixture of gliadin and glutenin proteins found in grains like wheat, spelt, barley, and rye.

It can cause problems for people who are intolerant to gluten, such as people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (19Trusted Source).

For people with celiac disease, gluten will trigger an autoimmune reaction, which causes inflammation in the small intestine. This serious condition can only be treated with a lifelong gluten-free diet.

Left untreated, celiac disease can cause nutrient deficiencies including iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and folate. It’s also been linked to an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, schizophrenia, and epilepsy (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may experience a negative effect when they eat gluten, usually in the form of digestive problems (24Trusted Source).

It’s estimated that about 1.4% of people worldwide have celiac disease. A similar number of people are thought to have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (Trusted Source19Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).

People who have a wheat allergy may also be sensitive to spelt. Wheat allergy occurs when there is an immune response to the proteins in wheat (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).


Spelt contains gluten. It is unsuitable for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gut disorder characterized by symptoms including stomach pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. About 11% of the global population has IBS (28Trusted Source).

While individual experiences with IBS vary greatly, among the possible dietary triggers is a group of short-chain carbs known as FODMAPs. Like wheat, spelt contains a significant amount of FODMAPs, which can trigger IBS symptoms in susceptible people (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source,Trusted Source 31Trusted Source).

The way foods are processed can also affect the amount of FODMAPs present.

For example, traditional bread-making with fermentation can reduce FODMAPs. In modern bread-making, the FODMAP content remains the same (32Trusted Source).

However, spelt flour is actually lower in FODMAPS than modern wheat flour (33Trusted SourceTrusted Source).

Therefore, some spelt products, including sourdough bread, have been labeled as “safe” by the Monash Low-FODMAP system, a well-regarded resource for people trying to follow a low-FODMAP diet.

Here are some tips for including spelt in your diet if you have IBS:

  • Read the label. Make sure the ingredients list on the label says 100% spelt flour or spelt bread.
  • Choose sourdough. Pick a sourdough bread to eat.
  • Limit serving size. Do not eat more than 3 slices (26 grams each) per sitting.

Spelt contains FODMAPs, which can cause problems for people with IBS. Fermenting spelt to make sourdough bread can lower the amount of FODMAPs present, making it more suitable for people trying to manage IBS symptoms.

Like most plant foods, grains also contain some antinutrients.

Antinutrients are substances, including phytic acid and lectins, that can interfere with the digestion and absorption of other nutrients (34Trusted Source).

Phytic acid

Phytic acid, a compound naturally found in many plant foods, can reduce the absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc (35Trusted Source).

For most people eating a well-balanced diet, this is not a problem. But it can be a concern for vegetarians and vegans, who rely on plants exclusively for these and other essential minerals.

Like wheat, spelt does contain a significant amount of phytic acid. However, the way it is processed can affect the phytic acid content.

Traditional methods like soaking, sprouting, and fermenting can significantly reduce the phytic acid content of grains, including spelt, thus improving micronutrient availability (35Trusted Source).


Spelt contains phytic acid, which can reduce the absorption of minerals. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting grains can reduce the phytic acid content.


Lectins are a group of proteins found in many foods, including grains such as spelt (36Trusted Source).

Some people think lectins should be avoided, since a high intake has been linked with damage to the gut lining, digestive discomfort, and autoimmune diseases (37Trusted Source).

However, most lectins are destroyed during cooking and processing, and more importantly, most of the grains and other foods that contain lectins are generally eaten in cooked form (38Trusted Source, 39).

As with phytic acid, the traditional processing of grains through soaking, sprouting, and fermentation significantly reduces the lectin content (40Trusted SourceTrusted Source).

The amount of lectins you’re exposed to from spelt is unlikely to cause harm or prevent nutrient availability if consumed cooked.


All grains contain high amounts of lectins. However, most of these lectins are eliminated during cooking or processing.

How to add spelt to your diet

You can add spelt to your diet as a whole grain or in spelt flour. If you’re using whole grains, be sure to wash them thoroughly and soak them overnight. This helps to make the spelt easier to digest.

You can then use them as a substitute for other carbs, like rice or potatoes, in many dishes. A few popular ideas are spelt risotto or spelt broths and stews.

It’s also easy to substitute spelt flour for wheat flour in most recipes, as they are very similar. If you are baking, you can substitute about half your usual flour for spelt flour and get a similar result.

You can buy spelt flour in stores or online.


Spelt can be used as a substitute for other carbs. You can try cooking the whole grains or using spelt flour instead of wheat flour in recipes.

The bottom  line

Spelt is an ancient whole grain that can be a nutritious addition to your diet.

However, it contains gluten, and is not a good option for people with gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy.

It’s also not clear whether there is any benefit to consuming spelt over wheat.

That being said, it is always a good idea to choose whole grains instead of their refined counterparts.