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Recipe for Health: Spelt Chili

Recipe: Here's a great way to tap the value of legumes and whole grains.

If you want to know which foods deserve prime real estate in your shopping cart, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition offers some guidance. German investigators reviewing how certain food groups influence disease markers found that nuts, legumes and whole grains had the greatest impact on metabolic measures like LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides and insulin resistance, while sugary drinks performed worst. The study combed through 66 randomized trials with 3,595 subjects, comparing 10 food groups: refined grains, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy, fish, red meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

These findings suggest trying out this hearty vegetarian chili, which serves up a dynamic duo of whole grains and legumes via spelt berries and kidney beans. Serves six.

Spelt Chili

1 C whole spelt berries

2 t canola oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1/2 t salt

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 T tomato paste

1 T chili powder

1 t dried oregano

1 t cumin powder

1 t coriander powder

1 1/2 C low-sodium vegetable broth

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

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

1 C frozen corn kernels

Place spelt, 3 cups water and a couple pinches of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until spelt is tender (about 40 minutes). Drain off excess liquid. In a separate large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and salt; heat 5 minutes. Place sweet potatoes, peppers and garlic in pan; heat 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cumin and coriander; heat 1 minute. Place broth, tomatoes and beans in pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes, or until potato is tender. Stir in spelt and corn; heat 5 minutes.


Fast Facts About Spelt

  • Spelt is a type of wheat (and, yes, it contains gluten).
  • It’s one of the oldest cultivated crops in human history—first used more than 8,000 years ago!
  • It’s good source of fiber; a cup of cooked spelt contains 7.6 grams—and it also serves up small amounts of calcium, selenium, and vitamins B1, B6 and E.
  • In addition to being a healthy ingredient in food recipes, spelt is used to brew beer in Bavaria and Belgium.

Sources: healthline.com; organicfacts.net.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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