We get many questions about spelt-containing products, so hopefully this piece helps to clarify when spelt-products can be part of a Low FODMAP diet.
Spelt is an ancient form of wheat. It has a number of different characteristics to the modern wheat – one of the major ones being that the grains are hulled (a hard coat which has to be removed to release the grain for milling). The hull protects the spelt grain from pests, disease and harsh climatic conditions. However, the hull has also introduced an extra step in the processing, as the removal of the hull is required to release the grain for milling. This is probably one of the major reasons why modern wheats (‘free-thrashing’ where the grains are easily released) are more favoured by modern agriculture. Nevertheless- the use of spelt is gaining in popularity worldwide.
Our FODMAP analysis of spelt has revealed that spelt flour tends to be lower in total FODMAPs than modern wheat (see Figure 1). Both spelt and modern wheat tend to be higher in FODMAPs than the gluten-free flours (rice, cornflour, oat).
Figure 1. Total FODMAP content of common flours.
However, does this mean that bread made using spelt will meet our criteria for low FODMAP? As you are probably aware- ‘processing’ has a major impact on FODMAP levels in foods.
Figure 2 shows some results for a typical serve of different types of bread. The highest levels of FODMAPs are for the ‘modern wheat’ and for ‘spelt’ that use - modern bread-making techniques. The lowest FODMAPs are for the spelt made using traditional sourdough methods of bread making. It is thought that during the long fermentation period the fermenting microorganisms such as the lactobacilli will use the FODMAPs in the spelt flour. The gluten-free bread was also low- however gluten free breads are not made using sourdough techniques and the lower levels here are due to the low FODMAP content of the gluten-free flours.
Figure 2. Total FODMAP content of one serve of bread: spelt, wheat and gluten-free.
So where does spelt fit into the Low FODMAP diet story?
Spelt bread made using very traditional sourdough methods should be lower in FODMAP content and so suitable to have while following the Low FODMAP diet. However this does not apply to all products made using spelt.
High Spelt products listed in the app.
In the app we have a spelt pasta listed- this is high FODMAP at a typical serve of 1 cup (cooked pasta). At a reduced serve of 1/2 cup however, the rating changes to green- and this smaller serving size should be better tolerated. We have also recently tested a spelt flakes - this was also high and so will have a red rating in the app with the next update.
So in summary- if you are going to have spelt- it may only be Low FODMAP if it is used in a traditional sourdough spelt bread product. Check out the 'certified' section of the app for Monash University Low FODMAP CertifiedTM breads, including sourdough spelt varieties.