Add variety to your diet with spelt and farro

These two types of wheat are packed with protein and fiber.

Whole grains are a great addition to the diet. According to Michigan State University Extension they provide fiber and other nutrients such as B vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that dietary fiber from whole grains may help reduce blood cholesterol as well as the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Whole grain foods contain fiber, which can help us feel full and satisfied.

Whole wheat is frequently mentioned as an example of a whole grain. You can find whole wheat pastas, crackers, breads and other foods in most grocery stores. These products are made from wheat varieties such as hard/soft white and red winter wheats. Durum wheat, the hardest wheat grown, is most often used in pasta and bread. Two versions of wheat, spelt and farro, can add lots of flavor and nutrients to meals whether they are ground or used in their whole form.


Spelt is a type of wheat that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Spelt berries have a sweet, nutty flavor. They cook quickly and can be prepared like rice or risotto and served as a side dish or in a salad. Cooked spelt can be used in place of rice or pasta in recipes. One half cup of cooked spelt contains 5.5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, calcium, iron and B vitamins (especially niacin). Spelt is fairly high in gluten so it is not appropriate for those who must follow gluten-free diets.

In addition to the whole berries, spelt can also be ground into flour. Spelt flour can be used in most recipes that call for white or whole wheat flour. Ready-made breads and pasta made of spelt can also be found. One quarter cup of spelt flour contains 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.


This wheat grain, also referred to as emmer wheat, was a staple food in ancient Rome and has been grown for centuries by Tuscan farmers. Farro has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It is a good substitute for brown rice and can be cooked as risotto. It can be stirred into stews, casseroles and salads when cooked.

One quarter cup of farro contains 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber and provides 10 percent of daily iron. It is also rich in magnesium and B vitamins. It contains gluten so is not suitable for those with celiac disease or wheat sensitivity.

Here is a recipe using farro from the 2015 U.S.D.A. Kids’ “State Dinner” Cookbook:

Farro with a Tennessee Twist

Makes 6 to 8 servings

611 calories • 19g fat • 83g carbohydrates • 31g protein 


For the Salad:

1½ cups farro

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 small bunch dinosaur kale or your favorite variety of kale, stems removed and leaves sliced into strips

3 stalks celery, chopped

5 green onions (scallions), white and light green parts only, chopped

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed

¾ ounce fresh mint, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

5 ounces shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese

For the Buttermilk Dressing:

1 cup buttermilk

Juice of 1 lemon

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste


To make the Salad:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the farro, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the kale and cook for about 5 minutes, or until wilted. Add the celery, green onions, tomatoes, white beans, and mint and cook for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

To make the Buttermilk Dressing:

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix well. Top with Parmesan cheese.

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