Semolina is a popular type of flour. You'll find it in many common and often comforting foods: pasta, couscous, bulgur, noodles, and lots of desserts and breads. In some parts of South Asia, semolina is known as sooji.
You may find it fun to say and fun to consume. But if your body rebels against semolina, you'll have lots more fun making other food choices.
What Is Semolina Flour?
Semolina is a type of coarse flour that’s made from durum wheat, not from the other popular wheat type, known simply as common wheat. When durum wheat is milled, its most nourishing parts are ground into semolina. Durum wheat grains are golden in color, so the milled semolina is a pale-yellow flour.
Semolina and Nutrition
A 1-cup (167-gram) serving of durum wheat semolina has:
- 601 calories
- 21.2 grams of protein
- 1.75 gram of fat
- 6.51 grams of dietary fiber
- 7.28 milligrams of iron
- 306 micrograms of folate
Health Benefits of Semolina Flour
High in folate. That cup of semolina gives most people about three-quarters of the folate they need in a day. Folate is a B vitamin that’s also known as folic acid when taken as a supplement or added to food.
Folate is important during pregnancy for the healthy development of your baby, as it helps prevent neural problems such as spina bifida. The CDC recommends that pregnant women take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day in addition to eating foods rich in folate.
Rich in protein. Every cell in your body contains protein. Protein is made up of amino acids. Your body makes many amino acids, but nine of them must come from the food you eat.
Semolina is high in protein, without the saturated fat that meat has.
Rich in iron. If you’ve been feeling tired lately, you may be low on iron. Not having enough iron in your body is one of the causes of anemia, which is when you lack enough red blood cells. Iron is an essential part of your blood.
Your body gets iron from the foods you eat. Men need 8 milligrams of iron a day, and women need 18 milligrams a day. If you’re pregnant, aim for 27 milligrams a day.
As it’s plant-based, durum wheat semolina has nonheme iron. Your body doesn't absorb this form of iron as well as heme iron, which is found in meat, poultry, and seafood. But you can raise the amount of nonheme iron that your body absorbs by eating semolina with foods rich in vitamin C. The ascorbic acid in vitamin C boosts iron levels.
The best sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables, such as:
- Red and green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Citrus: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines
Low in the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly your body can digest a food and turn it into blood sugar. Some research has shown that eating foods that are lower on the glycemic index may help people with diabetes.
The glycemic index of pasta made from durum wheat semolina is much lower (47) than pasta made from regular wheat (68).
Is Semolina Gluten-Free?
The short answer is no. Gluten is a type of protein, and about 80% of the protein in wheat is gluten.
Because semolina gets its color from golden durum wheat grains, you may confuse it with cornmeal. But semolina is not gluten-free. It’s not good for people with medical conditions that are linked to gluten and wheat, even if it is a good ingredient for pasta.
Gluten-Related Health Conditions
Several conditions are linked with gluten:
Celiac disease. This is an autoimmune disease in which your body basically rebels against your digestive system when you eat gluten. Over time, this reaction will harm the lining of your small intestine, causing it to take in fewer nutrients.
Symptoms and signs of celiac disease can include:
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
- Gas and bloating
Some adults with celiac disease may not have digestive disorders but might notice:
- Joint pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Osteoporosis (thinning bones)
- Numbness and tingling in feet and hands or balance problems
Wheat or grain allergy. This is an allergic reaction to foods that have wheat or gluten. Wheat allergy symptoms can differ from person to person. They may include:
- Skin rash or hives
- Stomach cramps
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can cause your body to go into shock
Gluten ataxia.Ataxia is a disorder that causes problems with your nervous system and muscle control. Researchers say that in up to 40% of people who have ataxia with an unknown cause, it may be due to gluten.
Dermatitis herpetiformis. This is an itchy skin rash, usually on your knees, elbow, scalp, buttocks, and torso. It’s associated with celiac disease because it’s linked to damage to the small intestine’s lining. But you may have the rash without any digestive problems.
Most people can eat gluten without any problems. But some can get serious side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these symptoms sound familiar. Taking semolina and other products with gluten out of your diet may help.