Kamut, also known as khorasan wheat is an incredible grain, but it has so many unique characteristics that set it apart from the conventional wheat found in many of the foods lining grocery store shelves across America. This historical grain has stood the test of time as a staple in many cultural cuisines—and for good reason. The health benefits of kamut are pretty stellar as it’s absolutely packed with nutrition.
What is kamut or khorasan wheat?
Kamut (pronounced “kah-moot”) is a trademarked name for khorasan wheat. “Khorasan wheat is thought to have originated in the Fertile Crescent in Northeastern Iran thousands of years ago,” says Amy Davis, RD, LDN, registered dietitian at FRESH Communications. Khorasan wheat (scientific name: Triticum turanicum) was also popular in ancient Egypt where its rediscovery during modern times is partially to thank for its gaining popularity today.
History has it that a Montana-based U.S. airman was introduced to a grain found in an Egyptian tomb in 1949 after World War II was over—which turned out to be khorasan wheat. This man’s father was a farmer who then cultivated the wheat varietal, bringing it to local county fairs where16-year-old Bob Quinn found it in the 1960s, and eventually, Quinn and his father started to grow khorasan wheat because of its delicious buttery, nutty flavor, chewy texture, and increased digestibility.
In fact, Quinn was so passionate about this ancient grain that he trademarked it as Kamut, which translates to “wheat” in ancient Egyptian, to keep it unadulterated. “Kamut is always organically grown and never genetically modified,” Davis says.
Khorasan is a whole grain that looks very similar to other wheat grains, curved and tan in color, but it’s about three times the size of conventional wheat kernels. Nevertheless, it grows from the same tall, swaying blades of grass you envision when you think of wheat fields.
And while this wheat varietal does contain gluten, it tends to be more digestible than other gluten-containing grains and foods. “Although kamut is still technically a form of wheat and not appropriate for those with celiac disease, many individuals who are sensitive to commercial wheat products can tolerate kamut with no digestive issues,” Davis says. This may be due to its lack of genetic modification, unlike conventional wheat.
Health benefits of kamut (aka khorasan wheat)
Aside from increased digestibility, there are many other health benefits associated with kamut that are worth mentioning, thanks to its impressive nutrition profile. In khorasan wheat, you’ll find notable amounts of protein, fiber, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, magnesium, plant compounds, and B vitamins like niacin and thiamin. Here are just some of the ways these nutrients benefit overall health:
With both a mix of insoluble and soluble fiber, kamut helps to maintain digestive regularity through addressing common concerns like constipation, bloating, and diarrhea. But the soluble fiber it contains also serves as food for the healthy bacteria in our gut microbiome, a complex ecosystem of microorganisms in the GI tract that influences digestion, immune responses, and overall well-being, qualifying it as a prebiotic. The gut microbiome, located in the large intestine, is closely tied to our overall gut and digestive health.
But it’s not only gut health that benefits from a thriving microbiome—our immune health does as well. This is thanks to the microbiome’s amazing ability to modulate the immune response1. Beyond that, “kamut is also a great source of selenium, zinc, and niacin, which can help with inflammation and immunity,” says Davis. Its copper and plant compound content also function as antioxidants in this regard, helping to boost the immune system. And as a bonus immune health benefit, one of the plant compounds found in kamut, a carotenoid called lutein, is protective against degenerative eye diseases and supports overall eye health2.
“Kamut is particularly high in protein and fiber, which both help to keep you fuller for longer and optimize blood sugar levels,” shares Davis. The benefit of these two macronutrients can be significant for those with metabolic concerns—in fact, one 2019 randomized control trial determined that khorasan wheat supplementation reduced bodily markers linked to type 2 diabetes development3, including insulin levels.
The soluble fiber found in this wheat varietal binds to dietary cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract, helping to rid it from the body. Otherwise, when absorbed into the blood, dietary cholesterol can negatively impact blood cholesterol levels, which can contribute to symptoms of heart disease. A 2017 study echoes this, finding that kamut intake was tied to lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)4.
Bone and thyroid health
The magnesium found in kamut plays an integral role in overall bone health, while the high amount of selenium it contains is vital to optimal thyroid function5.
With these enticing health benefits of kamut, you may be curious to give this grain a try at home
Many grocery stores are starting to carry kamut; however, if your local market doesn’t stock it yet, this wheat is readily available online, whether that be in whole grain or flour form. Once you have it home, cooking this whole grain couldn’t be easier. After an overnight soak (which starts the sprouting process, making it even more digestible), “it should simply be boiled for 40–60 minutes until tender,” explains Davis.
Cooked kamut serves as the perfect addition or grain substitute in soups, stews, cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, pilafs, casseroles, hot or cold salads, and risottos. On the sweeter side of things, this grain can be made into a porridge for rice puddings, baked into granola, or folded into your favorite energy bite recipes. Many love to enjoy kamut porridge in place of oatmeal in the morning with all the fix-ins as well. Plus, kamut flour is the perfect nutritious alternative to regular all-purpose flour in any baked good you can think of, from pies, cookies, and crepes to muffins, breads, and even pastas.
From its taste and yummy texture to notable health benefits, there are so many reasons to love kamut. While this grain has been fully adopted by American culture through its trademark, this historial grain should be appreciated for its cultural significance as a staple food in many parts of the ancient world. So what better way to show this appreciation than by featuring it in dishes inspired by the culinary traditions of the Middle East and Northern Africa at home?
Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
- Shi, Na et al. “Interaction between the gut microbiome and mucosal immune system.” Military Medical Research vol. 4 14. 27 Apr. 2017, doi:10.1186/s40779-017-0122-9
- Buscemi, S., Corleo, D., Di Pace, F., Petroni, M. L., Satriano, A., & Marchesini, G. (2018). The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. *Nutrients*, 10(9), 1321. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091321
- Trozzi, Caterina et al. “Evaluation of antioxidative and diabetes-preventive properties of an ancient grain, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, in healthy volunteers.” European journal of nutrition vol. 58,1 (2019): 151-161. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1579-8
- Whittaker, Anne et al. “A khorasan wheat-based replacement diet improves risk profile of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM): a randomized crossover trial.” European journal of nutrition vol. 56,3 (2017): 1191-1200. doi:10.1007/s00394-016-1168-2
- Ventura, Mara et al. “Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment.” International journal of endocrinology vol. 2017 (2017): 1297658. doi:10.1155/2017/1297658
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