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Spotlight on Khorasan Wheat

Written by: Katie Philippi, Graduate Student in Dietetics, Coordinated Program, Georgia State University
Monday June 1, 2020

Wheat, which comes from a type of grass called Triticum (genus) and produces a dry one-seeded fruit called
a kernel, is one of the world's most commonly consumed cereal grains.1 While it has been primarily
considered as an energy source, wheat also contains substantial quantities of other nutritional components
essential for health including protein, fiber, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. The presence
of each of these components can vary widely among wheat species. Triticum aestivum, known as “common
wheat” or “bread wheat”, is the major modern wheat species grown throughout the world. Triticum
turgidum
variety, durum, or “durum wheat”, is another major modern wheat species that flourishes in hot,
dry climates and is used for making pasta.1 Some other wheat varieties are cultivated in smaller areas and
are marketed as health foods, including the wheat varieties of those grains considered to be “ancient”. The
Whole Grains Council defines ancient grains as varieties that have remained largely unchanged over the
last several hundred years.2 This definition excludes modern durum and common wheat, which have been
continuously bred and altered, but includes the wheat varieties farro and spelt. You may have incorporated
ancient grains into your diet as their popularity has surged in Western cultures. Have you tried khorasan
wheat?

Triticum turgidum subspecies turanicum, commonly known as khorasan wheat, is a non-hybridized ancient
wheat. Khorasan wheat has a rich amber color and is similar in appearance to common wheat; however, a
kernel of khorasan wheat is much larger in size, measuring approximately two to three times the size of
modern wheat kernels with a unique curved hump in the middle of its elongated form. Although the exact
origin of khorasan wheat is unknown, it likely derived from the Fertile Crescent. Its name comes from the
historical province of Khorasan that includes parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Today, khorasan
wheat is usually found under the name Kamut®, a registered trademark of Kamut International, Ltd. and
Kamut Enterprises of Europe, bvba.3 Khorasan wheat produced under this trademark is guaranteed to be
certified organic and is never hybridized or genetically modified.

Kernels of khorasan wheat can be cooked similarly to pasta and have a buttery, sweet taste, and chewy
texture. Khorasan may be used as a substitute for other whole grains in a variety of recipes including salads,
grain bowls, or soups. Like other grains, khorasan wheat is milled into a hearty flour and used to make
breads, pancakes or pasta. Khorasan wheat does contain gluten. One cup of cooked khorasan wheat has 251
calories and 11 grams of protein, making it higher in protein than quinoa, another popular ancient grain.
Khorasan wheat is a rich source of dietary fiber, magnesium, selenium, zinc, manganese, and niacin and a
good source of iron and thiamin.4

Several studies have examined the health benefits of khorasan wheat related to clinical conditions and
disease states. One randomized, double-blinded, crossover trial in patients with acute coronary syndrome
tested whether a replacement diet in which all cereal grains were substituted with organic khorasan wheat
products would provide additive benefits in secondary prevention when compared to a replacement diet
using modern wheat products.5 The organic khorasan wheat replacement diet significantly reduced serum
total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood insulin from baseline
levels independent of age, sex, traditional risk factors, medication, and diet quality. Another randomized,
double-blinded crossover trial in a group of patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus found that a replacement
diet with khorasan wheat consumption provided additive protection in reducing serum levels of total and
low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood insulin and glucose levels, reactive oxygen species production,
and select inflammatory risk factors compared to a diet with products made with modern wheat.6 A
randomized, non-blind, parallel arm study of healthy volunteers also found that consumption of Kamut®
products significantly decreased some markers associated to the development of type-2 diabetes compared
to a diet of modern wheat.7 Interestingly, individuals with sensitivities to modern wheat have reported less
gastrointestinal distress with khorasan wheat consumption than with other wheat species.8

Is there room in your diet for khorasan wheat? Here are several recipes that highlight this unique grain:

Mediterranean Khorasan Wheat Salad from Garlic & Zest
Kamut and Plum Salad by Naturally Ella
Baking Bread with Kamut by Bread Experience

References:


  1. Shewry PR, Hey SJ. The contribution of wheat to human diet and health. Food Energy Secur. 2015;4(3):178-202. doi:10.1002/fes3.64

  2. Ancient Grains | The Whole Grains Council. https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain/ancient-grains. Accessed April 22, 2020.

  3. Bordoni A, Danesi F, Nunzio MD, Taccari A, Valli V. Ancient wheat and health: a legend or the reality? A review on KAMUT khorasan wheat. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2017;68(3):278-286. doi:10.1080/09637486.2016.1247434

  4. Nutrition - KAMUT® Khorasan Wheat. https://www.kamut.com/en/health/nutrition. Accessed April 23, 2020.

  5. Whittaker A, Sofi F, Luisi MLE, et al. An organic khorasan wheat-based replacement diet improves risk profile of patients with acute coronary syndrome: a randomized crossover trial. Nutrients. 2015;7(5):3401-3415. doi:10.3390/nu7053401

  6. Whittaker A, Dinu M, Cesari F, et al. A khorasan wheat-based replacement diet improves risk profile of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM): a randomized crossover trial. Eur J Nutr. 2017;56(3):1191-1200. doi:10.1007/s00394-016-1168-2

  7. Trozzi C, Raffaelli F, Vignini A, et al. Evaluation of antioxidative and diabetes-preventive properties of an ancient grain, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, in healthy volunteers. Eur J Nutr. 2019;58(1):151-161. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1579-8

  8. Shewry PR. Do ancient types of wheat have health benefits compared with modern bread wheat? J Cereal Sci. 2018;79:469-476. doi:10.1016/j.jcs.2017.11.010