Einkorn: A New Hope for Gluten Sensitivity
As I continue to educate myself on food and nutrition, I’ve discovered how different our wheat is today. Why are so many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, as well as Type 2-Diabetes and gastrointestinal challenges, being attributed to wheat? This controversy led me to begin baking with alternative flours in order to avoid wheat, because 95% of the wheat grown in the US is Genetically Modified (GMO). Selecting alternative flours such as coconut, almond, rice and cashew, can be challenging to use as a continual substitute for wheat, because:
- They are cost prohibitive.
- None of these flours should be a staple in your diet due to the overabundance of Omega 6—PUFA’s, which cause sub-cellular-inflammation. These are “treat foods,” not food-groups that are intended to supply your staple nutritional needs.
- None of these types of flour contain a huge amount of micronutrients.
- What happens when you have a mild allergy-or sensitivitiy- to those 4 foods, like I do? (Interestingly enough, those are the only 4 foods I am showing a mild allergy to in medical allergy testing. Wonder if it’s because I’ve been cooking with these foods a lot more in the past years?)
Obviously there are more alternative flours, but these were my most commonly used. Many families have tried to completely cut out baked goods, due to gluten sensitivity—but I’m not yet ready to throw grains completely out of my kitchen. There is way too much evidence that civilizations have consumed corn, wheat, oats and other grains for centuries, for me to think that grains are the singular reason to blame for the dramatic increase in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and auto-immune diseases in the past 50 or so years. Evidence is mounting to support the concept that it has more to do with commercial farming, GMO’s and poisonous chemical fertilizers. I had almost given up the joy of creating homemade bread for my children, like my mom did for me. Why was it ok then, and not ok now?
Today’s genetically altered (GMO) wheat can create symptoms like mood swings, asthma, weight gain and digestive problems, just to name a few—and Gluten Intolerance is the new BLACK! So….Just when I thought I would never bake with wheat again, I discovered the ancient heirloom grain, called Einkorn. A quick survey of my friends, let me know that this little baking gem was not getting the publicity it deserves! I’ll let you in on what einkorn’s secret is to healthy eating, and then share some of my favorite recipes in the coming weeks, that I’ve already experimented on with my family! As you can see in the picture, Tristan wouldn’t even let me take a picture before he was grabbing for it!
Einkorn is holding up well for its age, and the history behind this ancient treasure it is pretty incredible. Einkorn is over 10,000 years old, from Paleolithic times, which makes it one of the first planted foods since the dawn of agriculture. Archaeological evidence documents that nomadic populations also harvested and consumed cereal grains, including wild einkorn, barley and rye. The first wild seed that was planted was einkorn, from which all wheat strains have decended. The cool thing is that over time this grain hasn’t been modified or hybridized, like the GMO wheat that completely dominates today’s wheat based food products. “Einkorn only has two sets of chromosomes, so it is a low yield crop,–plus it has a husk that has to be removed, while today’s wheat does not. The Einkorn husk protects the inner seed from mycotoxins,–spores of dangerous fungus that develop on the exposed kernels. Genes were mutated to drastically reduce the height of the plants so that bending in the wind and rain would not ruin crops.” Modern GMO wheat is three times the size of the original einkorn grains. Einkorn has always managed to survive as a “relic” grain; its seeds were not selectively harvested or bred for improvements, so thankfully, it has remained as it has always grown, & just as nature intended. I’m a fan of cooking simple whole foods, and since einkorn hasn’t been “modernized” by subjecting it to genetic mutation, it’s much easier for your body to digest and so much healthier!
My next thought after learning about einkorn’s backstory, was my concern as to what kind of flavor content would it have? I mean, honestly, how tasty could something that ancient be, to today’s palette? Happily–Not an issue here! What I learned was the reverse is true for the flour we use today. After all of the stripping down and intensive farming, our foods are actually lose a ton of their flavor. Since Einkorn is the lowest yielding wheat, it is also the most nutritious and flavorful. Just mixing the flour in the bowl has a wonderful aroma and let’s not forget what the house smells like while it’s baking!
For example: your sweet little tomatoes grown in your backyard are flavor bombs, versus the mass-produced perfectly formed, globally imported, giant tomatoes at the supermarket, that are virtually flavorless.
Okay, so it’s ancient and flavorful. That’s great. But I really wanted to get down to the actual benefit of using einkorn flour. After further research, I learned that einkorn has 30% more protein than wheat, ( more than any other grain), 15% less starch, more antioxidants, B vitamins, and essential dietary and trace minerals.
- Wheat gluten studies have found einkorn may be non-toxic to sufferers of gluten intolerance
- Einkorn wheat has 14 chromosomes while modern wheats have 42 (Friendly to the body’s digestive system)
- Einkorn contains 3 to 4 times more beta-carotene than modern wheats (Boosts immunity, helps prevent cancer and heart disease)
- Einkorn contains 2 times more Vitamin A (retinol equivalent) than modern wheats (Healthy eyes, reproductive organs and prevention of many cancers)
- Einkorn contains 3 to 4 times more lutein than modern wheats (Prevention of macular degeneration and cataracts)
- Einkorn contains 4-5 times more riboflavin than modern wheats (Used by the body to create energy and is an antioxidant that slows aging)
- Einkorn is a “hulled” wheat, whereas modern wheats are not. The hull can protect the grain from stray chemical contamination and insects making it an easier grain to grow ORGANICALLY!
Since Einkorn has a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio (28% vs 10%) compared to dwarf wheat species, this is the critical reason why blood sugar results in high insulin, the cause of a vast number of diseases of civilization…heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity to name a few. No empty calories means you’re getting the full nutritional benefit of this wheat, so you won’t want to binge & eat ice cream later. More importantly, I’ve made pizza and sandwiches, with no bloating,–no sleepy feeling after consuming, and was amazed to be full or satiated, but still energetic. “In genetic testing, einkorn was found to lack certain gluten proteins that people with wheat intolerances cannot digest.” Even those who are sensitive to gluten can use einkorn as an alternative, since the weak gluten is easier to digest,—although those with Celiac disease still need to be cautious, with any food that contains even a tiny amount of gluten.
Einkorn vs Major Types of Wheat Comparison Matrix
Where to buy:
One supplier of Einkorn flour is www.JovialFoods.com. According to their website, their organic Einkorn wheat flour “is high-extraction flour at 80%,–which means most of the germ and bran have been removed for lighter flour that stays fresh for longer.” They also have a whole grain version where the hull has not been removed. I love that is from small farms in Italy. The Einkorn flour from www.organicsproutedflour.net is a whole grain flour, meaning nothing is left out of the final product, –you get 100% of the ground wheat, including the germ and the bran, which is healthier than all-purpose flour.
The biggest difference between the two, is obviously the amount of fiber present in each serving. In the high extraction flour from Jovial, there are 2 grams of fiber in one serving, which is 1/4 cup. But the whole grain sprouted flour comes in at 5 grams of fiber,–two and a half times as much! Which means each are welcome evolutions in healthy food preparation! For a birthday cake, I would use the Jovial all-purpose flour, but for bread and general health reasons, either the whole grain or the sprouted variety of Einkorn would be my choice, for the increase in dietary fiber and less processing.
Einkorn it is very different from the GMO wheat produced today, with much lower productivity yields, much higher nutritional values, and a much lower gluten content. Durum wheat is a dwarf wheat that is inflammatory, causes weight gain, and addictive. It’s literally a designer wheat with the emphasis on craving more. So why is the gluten in einkorn tolerated by many people with sensitivity to wheat, when a diagnosis of celiac disease has been ruled out? Introduction of the D genome in hexaploid and tetraploid modern wheats is possibly the reason. Detection of an unacceptable level of the D genome, is the basis for detection of gluten in gluten-free facilities. Einkorn does not contain the D genome. Perhaps what was first regarded as a flaw of einkorn wheat in early farming, could quite possibly be the reason it is so magical today!
Cooking with Einkorn:
-Substitue 1:1 with regular flour in cakes and muffin recipes.
-For cookies, reduce the oils by 20% or you cookies will be flat and slide all over the place
-Substitue 1:1 with regular whole wheat flour for bread, but reduce liquids and yeast by 25%
-You can use a bread machine but kneading by hand makes better bread
One of the first recipes I made with Einkorn is a Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread that I modified right off the bag of flour in under 2 hours. No sour dough starter needed, you can make with a busy lifestyle and makes a great sandwich for the kids lunch box! And boy have they been begging for it. My son came home from school going on and on about how good the crust was! The crust? They normally leave the crust! It has been a joy to be able to cook some of the foods I grew up with without the pain, weight gain and health challenges associated with modern wheat. I’m also making bread which I never I thought I would do. Stay tuned for more recipes like a Rustic Cranberry Walnut Loaf!