Wondergrains

3: Spelt

A cousin to wheat, spelt was cultivated in ancient Europe and the Middle East, but fell out of favour because of its relatively low yield and its hard-to-remove outer husk. Today, machinery allows spelt to be processed at a commercial level, and the grain, with its bran and germ, offers a wider spectrum of nutrients than modern wheat. High in fibre but also highly water soluble, spelt is easier to digest than wheat, and contains B-complex vitamins. A cup of cooked spelt has about the same number of calories as rice, but twice the protein and iron. Spelt also lowers the risk of Type II diabetes thanks to its magnesium content. The grain is agriculturally robust: it removes fewer nutrients from the soil, is resistant to frost and disease and thrives without fertilizers even on poor soils, while its thick husk protects it from pollutants and insects. Now popular in health-food stores, spelt is used as a substitute for wheat in breads, and the cooked, nutty spelt grains are a great rice substitute or basis for a salad.

(c) Biosphoto / Michel Gunther/BIOSphoto/Still Pictures/ Specialiststock.com

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