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Why Your Bird Should Try Spelt

Your bird will love the chewy texture, and you'll love the health benefits.

Patricia Sund

Spelt

I admit it. I think the word spelt is a funny word. I don't know why, it just strikes me as amusing.

To be honest, I really didn't know much about this grain until about five or six years ago. I grew up in the Midwest and and it was all about corn meal and refined wheat flour. Minute Rice was what you ate instead of the real thing. But with the rise of the organic food markets, a more global awareness arose.

Increased world travel, all those food writers looking for something different to write about and an interest in sustainable food, the public's interest in alternative foods has brought some of the more unusual and ancient grains into the supermarkets and specialty shops. Spelt is one of those ancient grains that has captured the interest of the public.

Spelt or Triticum spelta has been grown for thousands of years. And of course, humans being humans, even though it's been around that long, botanists are still arguing about it. Some seem to think it's a subspecies of wheat and other maintain that it's a completely separate species. Either way, it used to be a staple in many homes but lost popularity due to the chewiness and toughness of the outer husk. This flip-flopped in the last few decades due to a renewed interest in a more natural and organic way of eating.

I've made it for my African greys and it smelled divine!

And the taste? Nutty, chewy and full of grain flavor, spelt, like quinoa, can be sprinkled into salads or used as a side dish. I happen to like barley and the taste is similar to that but it's chewier than barley and doesn't get that slippery, slime-like texture to it.

It's easy to prepare and it's very versatile. I like to use it for a little change up in my flocks diet. Parker, Pepper and Nyla seem to like it; I think it is the chewy texture that puts this one over the top.

I've used it in my chopped vegetable mix (Yes, I call it Chop … nothing like keeping it simple) that I freeze for my birds and I also put it in my Grain Bake. I don't even bother cooking it before putting it in the Grain Bake as it cooks beautifully in the oven along with the other ingredients. I like using it my Grain Bake because it doesn't stick together. It's maintains its fluffiness much like properly cooked rice.

If you want to cook it on the stovetop, simply follow the directions on the package. The method is very much like making risotto and you can add herbs and spices and make it tastier if you like.

Spelt has more protein (15 to 21 percent) and more vitamins than wheat. The highest protein content is in hard red spring wheat, which has about 15.4 grams of protein per 100 grams. Spelt does look very much like wheat grain. It's about the size of orzo pasta and it has a tougher outer hull which I suppose explains that chewiness.

It's not a gluten-free grain; it's moderately high in gluten but people who have issues with wheat can tolerate spelt for the most part. And if you are allergic to wheat, you just might be able to tolerate it. Because the gluten in spelt is more soluble than the gluten in wheat, it is thought that it is easier to digest. You can purchase spelt flour to make bird bread for your birds, but it might be tricky because of the soluble gluten.

Spelt is made up of 57.9 percent simple and complex carbohydrates and about 3 percent fat. Complex carbohydrates are a fairly important factor in allowing blood clotting as well as stimulating the immune system.

Aside from being rich in protein, these proteins contain all of the eight essential amino acids needed by the human body. These amino acids are called "essential” because the body cannot manufacture them. You need to get them from food. Spelt is very high in the "bioavailability” department, meaning that the nutrients it contains are easily and quickly accessible to the body. It’s easily and rapidly broken down and used without much effort.

Many grocery stores carry it and you can purchase both whole grain spelt and spelt flour online.You can even find pasta and noodles made from spelt. Give it a try for something new, different and nutritious for your parrots.

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Posted: January 15, 2015, 9:45 a.m. PDT

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