Buckwheat is a pseudo cereal, a type of grain that doesn’t grow on grasses but is used similarly to other cereals. It is referred to as a gluten-free grain but is actually a seed which is harvested from a flowering plant related to rhubarb and is known to provide significant health benefits. This seed is plant-powered, full of nutrients and easily digestible. But unfortunately, its controversial name, buckwheat, is largely misunderstood as it is not related to wheat at all. Quinoa, amaranth, and chia seeds are also examples of pseudo-cereals which are also gluten free.
Buckwheat is not and does not actually contain any wheat or gluten
So, despite its name, buckwheat is not part of the wheat family and is a seed rather than a grain, meaning it’s gluten-free and safe for those with gluten intolerances, allergies or celiac disease. Buckwheat can be bought as whole kernels, either raw or roasted, as Buckinis (activated buckwheat), as a flour or as flakes. It has a nutty, earthy and robust flavour, pairing well with fruit, dark spices, nuts and earth vegetables. It has a stronger flavour than other popular grains like wheat and rice but has a similar texture and consistency.
How to use Buckwheat
If you’ve ever tried any gluten-free food, you’ve probably already tried buckwheat as it is widely used. It is an ingredient that can be used in almost any dish, from savoury to sweet. Buckwheat can be prepared like any other grain, seed or flour using the same cooking methods. Buckwheat is often used in place of other carbs such as rice, couscous, potatoes or pasta. As mentioned before, buckwheat can also be ground and used as a flour. Buckwheat flour has become very popular, used instead of regular flour in breads, baked goods, wraps, crepes and pancakes. Unlike many grains, whole buckwheat kernels (Buckinis) are delicate enough to eat. They make a delicious, crunchy salad-topper, and a great addition to granola and other healthy desserts. Buckwheat is also a common ingredient in several traditional dishes. It is used to make Japanese soba noodles, Dutch pancakes and many variations of crepes and wraps.
Health Benefits of Buckwheat
Buckwheat is considered a functional food, which means that it provides health benefits beyond just basic nutrition. It is known to optimize health and reduce the risk of certain diseases. Buckwheat has an impressive nutritional profile, providing key nutrients, vitamins and minerals – including magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and calcium. It is also low in fat and packed with health-promoting phytonutrients, like quercetin and rutin. These nutrients contribute to the list of health benefits associated with buckwheat.
To list a few:
Buckwheat is a complete protein
Buckwheat is one of the many plant-based sources of complete protein – meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids in balanced amounts.
Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Research has shown that buckwheat can stabilize blood sugar levels and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Buckwheat has high levels of resistant starch, which lowers the glycemic index response (GI= 34.7). This allows for carbohydrates to be absorbed slowly into the bloodstream, providing a steady amount of energy and preventing spikes in insulin.
Buckwheat contains phytochemicals, rutin and quercetin, which have antioxidant effects and can support the reduction with inflammation. These chemicals protect cells against free radicals and prevent inflammation that can contribute to chronic diseases.
Several studies show that buckwheat can stabilize blood pressure and support healthy blood cholesterol levels, vascular health and proper blood flow. All these are important for maintaining a healthy heart and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Buckwheat Contributes to Gut Health (… and mental health!)
Whole buckwheat is a great source of insoluble fibre and resistant starch. It has prebiotic properties, meaning it nourishes the good bacteria in the gut. Also, buckwheat is a great choice for people with functional gut disorders because it is low in FODMAPs.Dietary fibres are essential to promoting good gut bacteria and maintaining good digestive health. Research shows that the benefits of fibre can extend beyond just promoting gut health It also nourishes your brain health.
Buckwheat goes beyond just satisfying basic nutritional needs. Research shows that buckwheat does more than simply provide essential proteins, minerals and fibre; it can prevent spikes in insulin and reduce inflammation while promoting heart and gut health.
It is easy to incorporate into your daily diet and be added to many meals. Try it as porridge, use the flour in pancakes, sprinkle it on salads(buckinis) or try adding vegetables to the cooked kernels in a salad or add it cooked to your stir-fries.
Give it a go and find out what Buckwheat can bring to your plate and health.