About six years ago my health nosedived big time. It seemed that every part of my body had something wrong with it (immune system issues, gut/digestive/liver/kidney problems, pain, fatigue…). So I jumped right into the deep end of the health and nutrition world to get my body back on track. The only problem was, there was so much to take on board! My trying to incorporate so many necessary changes all at once was overwhelming. But one of the benefits of doing this, besides the best one of getting my health back, was that I learned about how real foods can heal. I knew I wanted to share the knowledge I gained; but I also really, really had a heart to introduce people to healthy change overs that were simple and doable. One step at a time…
I will start with one of the most effective: replacing wheat with ancient grains like spelt and einkorn flour.* Spelt flour has definitely grown in popularity over the past several years, so chances are, you’ve heard of it. But if you aren’t already baking with it, I hope that after reading these next few paragraphs, you will want to try it. I am convinced you will love it as much as I do and reap the benefits! Einkorn is perhaps not so well-known, but is the purest grain and definitely worth learning about as well.
Let’s begin with spelt. This was the first ancient grain I used where I saw a significant difference to my health.
First, to dispel some of the myths about spelt. It does have gluten. I believe this myth came about because some people with gluten intolerances have been able to take spelt without any problem. The reason for this may be when it is processed, the husks stay on for longer, therefore protecting the enzymes which makes it easier to digest. Spelt is also a hybrid, but not a modern one. It is an ancient hybrid thought to have occurred naturally between emmer wheat and wild goat grass.Before I give you a wee list of the grainy goodness of spelt, I will share a bit of my own journey. I experimented with spelt years ago while living in Ireland, but it wasn’t until my health crisis years later, when I found out I was allergic to gluten, that I completely switched over from wheat. I remembered the benefits of spelt and asked my doctor to test me to see if I could take it. Thankfully I could!** My family switched over with me and we all felt better for it, and it was a significant part in my gut getting healed and regaining my health. With spelt breads or pastas we no longer felt bloated after a meal as we did with wheat. We didn’t feel ‘heavy’ in our stomachs but were pleasantly full. Nor did we need/desire to eat as much as we did with wheat. And the taste was wonderful. I know you can benefit from this superfood as well! Here’s more reasons to change over to spelt:
* High in minerals like iron, copper, zinc & magnesium
* High in vitamins like Vitamin E, niacin (B3), Vitamins B17, B6 & B1
* Lower glycemic index than today’s modern, processed wheat
* Higher amounts of protein than modern wheat
* Higher amount of amino acids than wheat
* Higher fiber content can decrease the effects of simple sugar and carbohydrates
* Lower gluten content, making it easier to digest than wheat
* Anti-inflammatory properties in its carbohydrates
* Quickly absorbed nutrients into the body due to its high water solubility
* Stored with the hull intact, therefore it stays fresh for longer than other grains
* Protective husk means that fungicides and pesticides are not necessary and, unlike wheat therefore, it is also naturally protected from pests and harmful elements (making this better for the land and environment as well!!)
Due to its rising popularity, both white and wholegrain spelt flour can be found in most supermarkets, as well as health food stores (and of course, you can find it online and can sometimes be less expensive this way).
As far as baking with spelt flour, it has been really easy. You can substitute spelt flour 1:1 in all your favourite recipes. The only time I may add a bit more flour is when using white spelt to make bread or pizza doughs. Then I find another 1/2 cup (4oz.) is needed. Also, do be careful not to over-mix it (the gluten is not as hardy so if over-mixed, it can become crumbly). Wholegrain spelt can also be used for breads, biscuits (cookies), rolls, pancakes and waffles. But I think pies and cakes are best with white spelt. The easy thing about white spelt is there is no difference in taste from white flour. And wholegrain spelt breads taste like what you wish bread would taste like: hearty and amazing! For more information and tips with baking with spelt, click here. I truly find switching over from wheat to spelt flour in recipes pretty simple, but if you would prefer recipes specifically made for spelt flour, a good cookbook to check out would be Spelt by Roger Saul.
And then there’s einkorn flour. This is the grandaddy of all wheats. No hybridisation here. For that reason and others, I am trying to incorporate it more into my family’s food plan. Unfortunately, it is not as readily available as spelt. But hopefully that will change. At the moment, I have been ordering einkorn online. It is still a bit new to us, but we look forward to using it more. The incredible einkorn:
* Purest wheat available!
* High in protein
* High in Vitamin A, essential fatty acids, riboflavin, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamin B6, lutein & beta-carotene (lutein)
* High amounts of carotenoids (which have properties that can prevent diseases like cancer)
* Most ancient grain
* Has only two sets of seven chromosomes
* Has the protective hull as well, so has all the aforementioned benefits of spelt
* Less starch than regular wheat
* Can keep its antioxidant properties even through the baking processSomething to be aware of when baking with einkorn: as it contains caretenoids that oxidize when exposed to light, it is important to cover the dough and place in a dark place (like a turned off oven) when letting bread dough rise.
Tips on baking with einkorn can be found here.
Ancient grains are a bit more expensive than standardised modern wheat flour. However (and this is a big however), you and your health are precious. And you are worth it. You are most definitely worth it. Also, I find when you gradually add one healthy changeover at a time, the initial cost isn’t too crazy.
And you? Have you tried either of these ancient grains? If not, I truly hope you will give them a try! I believe your taste buds and your tummy will thank you!
*Soaked, sprouted, soured, ground wheat berries. You may or may not have heard of these terms with regards to grains. I am a big fan of these steps. If are already taking ancient grains and want to take it to the next level, a good book to check out would be Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
** Einkorn and spelt both do have gluten, if you have any kind of gluten intolerance, please check with your doctor to see if these are safe for you to use. As I’ve shared before, I am not a doctor, but just have a passion to share my experiences and the knowledge I have gained.