Dr Darina Naydenova: Einkorn – the grain alternative for mothers’ and children’s nutrition

Einkorn is a natural food, which can have a positive influence on the health of a young mother, her children and the entire family. It is a traditional and at the same time contemporary grain crop for modern-day Bulgarians. Einkorn (Triticum monococcum) is a kind of hulled wheat and is one of the first varieties cultivated by mankind. It is called “the bread of the Thracians” and “wild wheat”. Nowadays einkorn can be found around Bulgaria, but its cultivation is limited. In the beginning of the 20th century it is gradually being replaced by modern selections of high-yielding wheat varieties, at the expense of modified quality indicators.

Einkorn differentiates from conventional wheat both in appearance (smaller grains, covered with a hard shell), and composition. This grain crop combines perfectly the benefits of wholesome nutrition: close to 58% carbohydrates, 17% proteins, just 3% fats and over 9% fiber. Einkorn’s carbohydrates are complex compounds, which release their energy slowly and gradually into the digestive system. They assist pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as small children in satisfying their energy needs. Furthermore, they provide the glucose necessary for the proper development of the nervous system of the fetus. Einkorn’s fiber reflect very well on intestinal transit and help overcome the problem of constipation both during pregnancy and childhood. They contribute to maintaining a feeling of satiety, a better appetite control and a healthier weight for young mothers.

Einkorn’s protein differentiates from that of wheat in quantity and quality. An important characteristic of einkorn is its very low gluten content. This complex protein defines the great baking qualities of hybrid wheat. However, it is also the reason for the inflammation of intestines of patients who suffer from coeliac disease. A gluten allergy might manifest as skin problems, digestive or metabolic disorders etc. Research shows that einkorn, due to its low gluten content, is tolerated much better by the gastrointestinal tract. The most appropriate time to include einkorn in the menu of a baby during weaning is between 6 and 7 months after birth. Einkorn is used for the preparation of porridge or mash (in the form of grounded grains or sprouts), and later it is included in soups, pastry goods and desserts. One of the most delicious einkorn desserts is ‘ashure’ – easily prepared with walnuts, dry fruits, cinnamon and honey. An einkorn ashure is an energizing breakfast, especially when served with fresh fruit. Einkorn flour is used for the making of delicious cookies, pancakes, muffins and other favourite desserts of children.

Einkorn is a wonderful source of a number of vitamins. It provides B group vitamins – B1, B2, B6, folic acid. The concentration of these vitamins increases when the grains are sprouted. Einkorn sprouts are a great source of folic acid, especially when consumed raw. They are appropriate for pregnant and nursing mothers, who have a greater need for this vitamin. A sufficient intake of folic acid reduces the risk of any neural tube birth defects in the baby, as well as the risk of a miscarriage. In order to prevent such problems, doctors recommend the intake of folic acid at least 3 months prior an intended pregnancy. Since most pregnancies in Bulgaria are not planned it is recommended for all women at childbearing age to regularly consume natural foods rich in folic acid, such as einkorn sprouts. Einkorn delivers vitamins B1, B2 and B6. All of these are necessary for a healthy course of pregnancy. The vitamins get through to the breastmilk and are of great importance for the growth of the baby. They have an effect on the brain function and the emotional state, and are beneficial for every future mother. On top of that vitamin B6 helps with morning sickness, which is a common problem during the first months of a pregnancy.

Einkorn is a great source of vitamin E – the vitamin of fertility. Research shows that this vitamin can help with some forms of infertility. It has a positive effect on the quality of semen and facilitates the fertilization of the egg.

The content of valuable fatty acids and minerals in einkorn is higher in comparison to the rest of the grains. Wild einkorn is very rich in magnesium. This mineral is of key importance for good muscle tone, including muscle tone of the uterus during pregnancy. The shortage of magnesium is а common problem of modern people and might be the reason for muscle weakness and pain, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances and depression. Therefore, it is of great importance for every young mother to consume enough foods rich in magnesium.

Einkorn is considered to strengthen the natural resistance, improve the tone and performance of the body. It takes care of the cleansing of the body from toxins, as it activates renal function. Einkorn has other useful applications besides food. If you place einkorn on a specific place on the body it relieves disease symptoms and has a soft regenerating effect. The shell of einkorn seeds is used for the filling of special pillows and mattresses, appropriate for breast feeding, sleep, rest and meditation – for the mother and the baby.

The husk that covers einkorn seeds and the thickness and shortness of the ears of wheat build the natural defense system of the plant against diseases, enemies, lodging. Therefore, the use of chemicals for plant protection (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides etc.) is not necessary. Einkorn is an excellent choice for anyone who would like to consume natural foods and dislikes polluted products. If we are interested in the lack of potentially dangerous substances in the food of our children, this is another reason to include einkorn in our daily menu.

Dr Darina Naydenova,

Food and dietetics specialist
Medical University of Varna, Department of Hygiene 

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