Buckwheat is a gluten-free food that has been around for centuries. It is a grain-like seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. Buckwheat contains high levels of protein, fiber, and minerals, making it a healthy choice for those on a gluten-free diet.
Some of the key points about buckwheat are discussed below:
A brief history of buckwheat
Buckwheat is popularly known as Grechka in Russia and Soba in Japan. It was first cultivated around 5000 years ago in Asia Minor. The buckwheat seeds were used to produce flour and buckwheat was cooked and consumed as a porridge. Buckwheat has been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs.
It was during the 14th century that buckwheat made its way to France and Germany, where it was known by its German name ‘Buchweizen’. People in Poland started using buckwheat for human consumption after their country experienced famine around 1774. At present, buckwheat is mainly cultivated in China, Nepal, Russia, Ukraine, and Japan.
What does buckwheat look like?
Rough buckwheat seeds are dark brown or blackish-brown in color and shaped like a teardrop. The buckwheat plant produces buckwheat seeds as fruit.
Nutritional value of buckwheat
Buckwheat is a gluten-free food that provides the body with essential nutrients and macronutrients. It is rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, and manganese. Buckwheat also has unsaturated fatty acids and contains linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). Buckwheat helps improve cholesterol levels by increasing HDL (the good cholesterol). It is very high in protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. As buckwheat does not contain wheat or gluten, it can be consumed by those on a gluten-free diet.
Nutrients in buckwheat seeds (per 100 g)
Protein: 15 g; Fat: 4 grams; Fiber: 10 grams; Carbohydrates: 79 grams; Moisture: 10%
Minerals present in buckwheat seeds
Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc.
Vitamins present in buckwheat seeds
Thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3). B5 and folates. Vitamin E is also present in buckwheat.
How to use buckwheat?
The following are some of the delicious ways buckwheat can be used:
- Buckwheat flour is a healthy substitute for wheat flour. It can be used in making buckwheat pancakes, buckwheat noodles, buckwheat crepes, buckwheat muffins, and buckwheat tortillas.
- Replace rice or oatmeal with buckwheat when cooking breakfast cereals.
- Use buckwheat to make crackers which can be served as appetizers. These buckwheat chips are delicious with hummus or guacamole dip. You may also top it with shredded cheese and bake until the cheese melts.
The health benefits of buckwheats are listed below:
- Helps prevent cancer: buckwheat helps protect the body from cancers of the bladder, blood cells, breast, colon and rectum, kidney, uterus, and ovaries. Buckwheat contains a substance called rutin which helps prevent cancer-causing compounds from binding with DNA. Rutin is also effective in lowering the risk of developing lung cancer.
- Helps lower cholesterol: the fiber present in buckwheat helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the body. This way buckwheat can help lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack brought about by high cholesterol levels.
- Helps manage diabetes: buckwheat has a low glycemic index (GI). GI refers to how quickly blood sugar levels are raised after consuming food. Buckwheat helps control the rise in blood glucose levels after a meal. Therefore, buckwheat can be taken by those suffering from diabetes type 1 and 2, as buckwheat does not raise blood glucose to dangerous levels.
- Helps manage high blood pressure: buckwheat contains minerals that help reduce blood pressure by removing excess water and sodium from the body. As buckwheats reduce sodium intake, it also helps lower your risk of developing kidney stones.
- Helps prevent constipation: buckwheat has a high fiber content which promotes regular bowel movement without causing diarrhea or stomach discomfort. Fiber is also helpful in relieving hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
- Helps promote weight loss: buckwheat is low in calories, so buckwheat can be used to replace high-calorie foods. Buckwheat contains resistant starch which serves as food for the friendly gut bacteria. These good bacteria ferment buckwheat in the colon and improve digestive health.
- Helps manage inflammatory bowel diseases: buckwheat has anti-inflammatory effects, making it beneficial in preventing the inflammation of the stomach or intestine brought about by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Helps prevent heart disease: buckwheat helps reduce bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol levels in the body when taken regularly. This way buckwheats help lower your risk for heart disease brought about by high cholesterol levels.
- Helps treat infections of the urinary tract, bladder, and prostate: buckwheat is rich in flavonoids which have antioxidant effects. These antioxidants protect cells from damage by free radicals which are linked to cancer development as well as infection of the urinary tract or prostate.
- Helps increase energy levels: buckwheat contains niacin (vitamin B3) which helps convert food into energy quickly after buckwheat has been consumed.
- Helps promote healthy skin: buckwheat is high in vitamin e, an antioxidant that protects body tissues from free-radical damage that leads to skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, boils, and dry skin.
- Helps prevent cataracts: buckwheat is a good source of zeaxanthin which helps protect the eyes from damage by free radicals that can lead to cataracts.
- Helps improve bone health: buckwheat contains selenium, magnesium, and calcium which are necessary for healthy bones. Selenium prevents free radical damage to cells while magnesium supports strong muscle and nerve function in addition to promoting blood circulation. Calcium helps maintain optimal pH levels in the body as well as regulate heart rhythm.
- Helps promote better sleep patterns: zinc deficiency has been linked with insomnia and buckwheat is packed with zinc which promotes sound sleep when consumed regularly. Zinc also boosts the immune system.
- Helps prevent birth defects: buckwheat helps provide proper nutrition for pregnant women to help ensure that their baby is born healthy since buckwheat contains folates which are essential in preventing birth defects.
- Helps treat upset stomachs and heartburn: the dietary fiber present in buckwheats soaks up excess acidity in the stomach or esophagus due to heartburn. This way buckwheat can help relieve discomfort caused by the over-production of acid in the stomach.
- Helps treat menstrual cramps: magnesium deficiency has been linked with painful periods, buckwheat being packed full of magnesium to help reduce menstrual cramps when consumed regularly.
- Helps treat acne: Buckwheat contains selenium which helps reduce skin inflammation, buckwheats thus being an effective dietary supplement for treating acne.
- Promotes healthier teeth and gums: Buckwheat’s insoluble fiber content helps prevent plaque buildup by preventing food particles from sticking to the surface of the teeth. The insoluble fiber also stimulates the gums to promote stronger tooth enamel.
- Helps manage diabetes: Fiber-rich buckwheat lowers blood sugar levels after buckwheat has been consumed since it slows down digestion. This way buckwheats are beneficial in regulating glucose levels in diabetics without causing fluctuations in blood sugar levels among people who do not have diabetes.
There are many other health benefits that we won’t get into today, but buckwheat is an excellent food that everyone should include in their diet for its health benefits.
It can be prepared by boiling buckwheat and then adding brown sugar or honey until the buckwheat has a sweet taste. It can also be prepared to replace your morning oatmeal just like rolled oats, masa harina, or whole wheat flour.
It’s also good to know that buckwheat can be sprouted just like other seeds and legumes which makes buckwheat easier to digest.
Buckwheat is gluten-free which makes buckwheats an excellent alternative for people who are allergic to wheat or other grains that contain gluten.
As per the American Journal of Gastroenterology, buckwheat has been proven to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome due to buckwheats’ ability to act as an anti-inflammatory.
Buckwheats is also suitable for celiac sufferers since buckwheat contains no gluten which is typically found in wheat products.