Kamut Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Spelled or kamut - a special kind of wheat in an old ceramic cup in a rustic style
Anna Bogdanova / Getty Images

Kamut is the trademarked name of an ancient grain that goes by other names, most commonly khorasan wheat (Triticum turanicum). Khorasan is the name of a historical region that occupied a large territory that now lays in northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan.

The grain may have originated in this area, but there are other nicknames for the grain that suggest other regional origins. "Kamut" means wheat in the ancient Egyptian language. Some believe that the grain originated in Mesopotamia and was found in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Kamut is a whole grain, similar to wheat but the grains are about three times the size and have a curved, humpback shape, and tan color. Kamut has a nutty taste and firm texture.

This high-protein, fiber-rich grain is often used instead of rice in dishes such as pilaf or casseroles and can also be ground into flour. It provides several vitamins and minerals including selenium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins.

Kamut Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a one-cup serving (about 172g) of cooked Kamut.

  • Calories: 227
  • Fat: 1.4g
  • Sodium: 13.8mg
  • Carbs: 47.5g
  • Fiber: 7.4g
  • Sugars: 5.3g
  • Protein: 9.8g

Carbs

A one-cup serving of Kamut provides 227 calories, most of which are carbohydrates. You'll consume 47.5 grams of carbohydrates in a single serving, 7.4 grams of fiber, and 5.3 grams of naturally-occurring sugar. The rest of the carbohydrates in Kamut are starch.

Whole grain Kamut flour provides about 94 calories per quarter-cup (30g) serving. There are 21 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of sugar in that serving size.

The University of Sydney has not tested Kamut to determine a glycemic index. The most closely related grain included in the database is barley (another whole grain) which has a glycemic index of 27, making it a low glycemic food.

The grain experts at Oldways Food and Nutrition note that almost all intact grains have a very low glycemic index.

Fats

There are just 1.4 grams of fat in a single serving of Kamut. Most of the fat is polyunsaturated (0.4g) with some coming from monounsaturated fat (0.14g) and some from saturated fat (0.13g).

Protein

Kamut is usually considered the highest-protein grain, providing 9.8 grams per one-cup serving. Comparable whole grains provide less of the macronutrient. As a basis for comparison, brown rice provides 4.5 grams of protein and quinoa provides about 8 grams per one-cup cooked serving. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Kamut is packed with vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of zinc providing 3.16 milligrams per one cup-serving or about 28% of the daily value (DV) set by the FDA that is used for food labels.

It provides 253 mg of phosphorus or 20% of the DV, 82.6 mg of magnesium or 19.6% of the DV, 0.16 mg of thiamin (vitamin B1) or 13.5% of the DV, and 4 mg of niacin (vitamin B3) or about 33% of the DV.

A one-cup serving of Kamut provides close to 100% of the DV of selenium (55 micrograms), 0.36 mg of copper or 40% of the DV, and 1.7 mg of manganese or 77% of the DV.

Health Benefits

There have been numerous studies investigating Kamut brand wheat or generic khorasan wheat. Here's what studies have suggested about this and other ancient grains.

Improves Fiber Intake

Kamut is rich in dietary fiber, providing 7.4 mg per one-cup serving, higher than many other whole grains. For example, brown rice provides 3.5 grams per cup and quinoa provides 5 grams per cup.

Organizations including the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health recommend that we make better efforts to consume the recommended dietary intake of fiber. In addition, the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans has mentioned that fiber is a nutrient of public health concern since 2005. Currently, about 5% of Americans meet adequate fiber intake. The current daily value for fiber provided by the FDA is 28 grams per day. Fiber can provide health benefits including improved blood glucose, improved blood cholesterol, and even a reduced risk of certain cancers.

Improves Carotenoid Intake

Researchers have compared different types of bread wheat to see if ancient grains provide a nutritional advantage. Studies have suggested that grains including Kamut, einkorn, and emmer, contain higher amounts of lutein than modern white bread wheat.

Lutein is a carotenoid. Carotenoids are chemical compounds found primarily in plant foods. They are believed to have antioxidant properties. Increased dietary lutein intake is associated with improvements in visual function and a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Studies have also suggested that consistent lutein consumption, either through diet or supplementation, may contribute to reducing the burden of several chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline.

Provides Vegan and Vegetarian Protein

As a high-protein grain, Kamut is a good source of protein for those who choose to avoid meat and dairy products. Kamut is not a complete protein, like quinoa, but it can be a complete protein when combined with legumes (such as chickpeas) or lentils.

Increased Stool Frequency

A research review published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2012 found that increasing dietary fiber intake can increase stool frequency in those who have constipation. That review, however, concluded that increased fiber intake did not improve stool consistency, constipation treatment success, laxative use, or painful defecation.

But another study conducted in 2018 found that adding fiber to the diet in older adults may be effective in increasing stool frequency and/or decreasing laxative use and reducing the burden of constipation.

Helps Maintain Healthy Thyroid Function

Kamut provides a full day's supply of selenium if you consume a one-cup serving. Selenium is essential for many important functions in the body involved in reproduction and DNA production. Selenium also provides antioxidant benefits that help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals and provide immune support to fight infections.

Selenium is particularly important for thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism. There has been some evidence suggesting that low selenium levels in women may be associated with certain thyroid problems, especially in those who also have low iodine levels.

Studies involving selenium supplements have provided inconsistent results. Researchers acknowledge that more studies need to be done to understand the relationship between selenium intake and healthy thyroid function.

Allergies

Those with a wheat allergy should not consume Kamut as it is a wheat grain. Symptoms of a wheat allergy include a skin rash or hives, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea, a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, headaches, and asthma. In severe cases, anaphylaxis may occur.

Adverse Effects

Since Kamut is a type of wheat, it, therefore, contains gluten. Those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should not consume grains labeled as Kamut or khorasan wheat.

Also, even though Kamut does not provide more than a full day's recommended intake of selenium (for adults), getting too much selenium can cause problems. If you consume Kamut with other foods high in selenium (such as Brazil nuts, or certain types of seafood) you may experience symptoms including (but not limited to) hair and nail loss, nausea, diarrhea, or skin rashes.

The tolerable upper limit for selenium in adults is 400mcg, so it would be hard to reach that intake with foods other than Brazil nuts. But the tolerable upper limit in children is lower: 90mcg for children 1–3 years and 150mcg for children 4–8 years.

Lastly, there is some (limited) evidence that selenium may interact with cisplatin, a chemotherapy agent that is used to treat ovarian, bladder, lung, and other cancers. If you are taking cisplatin, speak to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice.

Varieties

When shopping for Kamut, you're likely to see different names on the label. The Kamut trademark is owned by Kamut International, Ltd.

Grains that carry this trademarked name must guarantee that their product is an unhybridized, unmodified, and non-GMO ancient khorasan wheat. 

You're likely to see the trademark symbol alongside the name on the label. Most khorasan wheat is sold under the name "Kamut" but you might also see packages labeled "Khorasan Wheat."

When It's Best

Kamut is available all year long in stores around the country. It is also available online.

Storage and Food Safety

Kamut should be stored like you store all of your grains. Keep it in an airtight container away from heat and light for up to three months. You can also freeze it for up to a year. Once it is cooked, keep Kamut in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days.

How to Prepare

Cooking Kamut is fairly simple. Most people prefer to soak the grains overnight to decrease cooking time. After soaking, drain them to prepare for cooking.

Bring a pot of about two quarts of water to a boil. Add the Kamut and continue to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and boil uncovered until the grains are soft, about 40–60 minutes. You will probably need to drain some cooking water before serving. Kamut can also be cooked in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.

Use Kamut instead of other hearty grains or rice in casseroles, pilafs, salads, or soups. The cooked grain is delicious hot or cold.

Recipes

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