October 31, 2014
Kamut: Fit for a Pharoah
Ask the Experts

Kamut: Fit for a Pharoah

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

Q: What is Kamut? Is it healthier than other grains?

A: Kamut is the brand name for a type of ancient wheat called khorasan that’s said to have been found in the tomb of a Pharaoh (thus, the nickname “King Tut’s Wheat”). In 1949 an American airman sent some kernels to his father, a farmer in Montana, though the grain was not commercially cultivated until another Montana farmer “rediscovered” it in the 1970s. It was registered under the trademark Kamut in 1990 and is now available from several companies.

To be called Kamut, the grain must meet certain criteria. It must be grown organically, for example, and cannot undergo any breeding or genetic modification. Compared to regular wheat, Kamut has higher levels of protein, several minerals (including selenium, zinc, and magnesium), vitamin E, and phenolic (antioxidant) compounds.

Though many health claims are made about Kamut, only two very small company-funded human trials have been published. One, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013, found that Kamut lowered cholesterol and blood sugar and improved some markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, while modern wheat, for the most part, did not. And in a 2014 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, people with irritable bowel syndrome reported fewer and less severe symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain when they ate Kamut for six weeks, compared to when they ate regular wheat.

Some people with “wheat sensitivities” claim they tolerate Kamut better than regular wheat. But according to the company, it is not more “digestible” than other wheat varieties. And it contains gluten, so it is not suitable for people with diagnosed gluten problems, notably celiac disease.

Even so, there’s no question Kamut is a healthy grain (check the labels to make sure it’s whole-grain Kamut). Its flavor has been described as nutty and earthy but also sweet and buttery. You can use it to make pancakes, breads, muffins, pizza crusts, and pilafs (instead of rice). You can also find pastas, breads, crackers, and other products made with Kamut in health-food stores and some supermarkets.