What St. Hildegard Says
What does spelt have to do with a Benedictine nun who lived in Germany during the Middle Ages?
Saint Hildegard von Bingen – referred to by many of her followers today as “one of the most important figures in the history of the Middle Ages,” and “the greatest woman of her time” – was an outspoken visionary who wrote volumes on science, medicine and theology.
St. Hildegard never formally practiced medicine, but she is credited with writing about nearly 2000 remedies and possessing a deep understanding of holistic healing. A holistic approach to medicine suggests that the whole body must be treated, not the specific ailment or symptom – and diet is an important component to this approach. St. Hildegard’s teachings on the subject of eating well have piqued the interest of modern health and nutrition researchers as well as people who are looking for ways to improve their health through better diets.
As you might have guessed, spelt was high on the list of St. Hildegard’s list of must-eat foods.
What St. Hildegard had to say about spelt
Let’s take a closer look at this quote:
‘Spelt is warming’
The secret of spelt lies in the concept of bio-availability. Spelt is highly water-soluble, which makes it easy for the body to absorb its rich array of nutrients with a minimum of digestive effort. If we take the view that carbohydrates represent the stored energy of the sun, this energy is freed during the digestive process.
‘Spelt is lubricating’
Spelt has a balanced blend of fats, with a bias towards polyunsaturated fats. Combined with the superb fiber content, this balance helps lower or control cholesterol. Fatty acids are vital to the nervous system lending a line of defense against stress and the related symptoms of depression and fatigue.
‘Spelt is of high nutritional value’
Modern research has proven St. Hildegard right about spelt’s high nutritional value, even though she arrived at her conclusions without the benefit of our modern laboratories. Spelt is a good source of vitamins, in particular the B Complex. B Vitamins help control the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Spelt contains more Vitamin B-1 (Thaimine), pantothenic acid and niacin than wheat, with comparable levels of B-12 (Riboflavin).
‘Spelt is better tolerated by the body than any other grain’
Studies at the Hildegard Institute in Germany have demonstrated that many with sensitive digestive systems have found spelt to be easily tolerated. The World’s Healthiest Foods website also backs up this claim. This may in part be due to its fragile gluten, which is easier to digest than the gluten in common varieties of modern wheat.
‘Spelt provides its consumer with good flesh’
Spelt is an excellent source of nutrition for those looking to increase physical fitness and strength. Though the strain used is different, Spelt is often used to boost the performance of racehorses. Our strains are closely related, the difference being breeding to improve use in breads and other baked goods (Though raw spelt kernels are tasty all by them selves – Ed.).
‘and good blood and confers a cheerful disposition’
Spelt is rich in mucopolysaccharides, which are known to assist in blood function, boosting the immune system. St. Hildegard’s approach to health relied heavily on the ancient Greek system which viewed the body as controlled by the four “humors”: body-choler (yellow bile), blood, phlegm, and melancholy (black bile). One of the secrets of good health, according to St. Hildegard, is the ability of the body to absorb or counterbalance black bile. “If humans did not possess the bitterness of bile and the darkness of black bile, they would always be healthy,” she wrote.
‘It provides a happy mind and joyful spirit’
Neurotransmitters are important in determining mood and mental activity. Two important building blocks, phenylalanine and tryptophane, are well represented in spelt’s nutritional profile. Dopamine and the hormones adrenaline and noradrenalin are produced from phenylalanine, while tryptophane is a stimulant to the production of serotonin, important to moods and alertness.
‘No matter how you eat spelt, either as bread or in other foods, it is good and easy to digest’
Spelt makes a fine “Old World” bread with a wonderful taste, sweet and slightly “nutty” in flavor. Even white spelt flours are essentially whole grain flours. In contrast to wheat flours, the essential ingredients and vital nutritional components of spelt are retained in the kernel until just before milling. In contrast, white wheat flours must be “enriched”. Much of the nutritional value in wheat is lost in the milling process.
St. Hildegard’s recipe for a cure
“When someone is so weakened by illness that he cannot eat, then simply take whole spelt kernels and boil them vigorously in water, add butter and egg (and a pinch of salt). This will make the food tastier and the patient will want to eat it. Give this to the patient and it will heal him from within like a good healing salve.”
You can read more about St. Hildegard in this little book by Dr. Wighard Strehlow: Spelt: The Wonder Food.
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