Buckwheat has become quite popular as a healthy food due to its high mineral and antioxidant content & that it may improve blood sugar levels.
Buckwheat, despite its name, is not related to wheat at all. It is actually a pseudocereal. Pseudocereals are seeds that are consumed as cereal grains but they do not grow on grasses. Like buckwheat, quinoa & amaranth are pseudocereals too.
The name buckwheat is thought to have come from the fact that its seeds resemble the tetrahedral seeds of beech nut & it is also used like wheat. It has gained considerable popularity in recent years.
It is rich in nutrients and it has a unique nutty flavor.
There are two main types, common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and Tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tartaricum), which are most widely grown for food.
It is mainly grown in the northern hemisphere, especially in Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Central and Eastern Europe.
Buckwheat Nutrition Facts
Buckwheat is a nutrient-dense food & the nutritional value of this pseudocereal is higher than that of many other grains.
Carbs are the major dietary component while protein, various minerals and antioxidants are also present.
The nutritional facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw buckwheat are:
- Calories: 343kcal
- Water: 10%
- Protein: 13.3 g
- Carbs: 71.5 g
- Sugar: 0 g
- Fiber: 10 g
- Fat: 3.4 g
It has a low to medium glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar after a meal and should not cause sharp spikes in blood sugar levels.
Some of its soluble carbohydrates like fagopyritol and D-chiro-inositol, help to moderate the rise in blood sugar after meals.
It contains a good amount of fiber, which our body cannot digest. Fiber is very good for digestive health.
By weight, fiber makes up 2.7% of boiled groats of buckwheat and is mainly composed of cellulose and lignin.
Fiber is concentrated in the husk & the husk is kept in dark buckwheat flour, which gives it a unique nutty flavor.
Additionally, the husk also contains resistant starch, which is resistant to digestion and is thus categorized as fiber.
Resistant starch is fermented by gut bacteria in the colon. These beneficial bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate.
Butyrate and other SCFAs serve as nutrition for the cells lining the colon, which improves gut health and decreases the risk of colon cancer.
However, the protein has a relatively low digestibility because of the presence of antinutrients like protease inhibitors and tannins.
In animal studies, buckwheat protein has proven effective in lowering blood cholesterol, suppressing gallstone formation & reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Vitamins & Minerals
Buckwheat is richer in minerals than many other common cereals, such as rice, wheat, and corn.
However, it is not that high in vitamins. It contains small amount of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin K & vitamin B-6.
Of the two main varieties, the Tartary buckwheat generally contains more nutrients than the common type.
The most abundant minerals in common buckwheat are:
- Manganese. It is found in high amounts in whole grains. Manganese is essential for metabolism, growth & development, and for antioxidant defenses.
- Copper. It is often lacking in the Western diet & is an essential trace element that plays major role in red blood cell formation & keeping a healthy nervous & immune system.
- Magnesium. When present in sufficient amounts in the diet, this essential mineral may lower the risk of various chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease & migraines.
- Iron. Iron deficiency leads to anemia, a condition characterized by reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood.
- Phosphorus. It plays an essential role in the growth and maintenance of body tissues.
These minerals of cooked buckwheat are better absorbed in comparison to other grains. This is because buckwheat is relatively low in phytic acid which is an inhibitor of mineral absorption found in nuts, grains & seeds.
Is buckwheat gluten free ?
Like other pseudocereals, buckwheat is gluten-free and is therefore suitable for people with gluten intolerance. It does not contain any wheat or gluten and is not a grain. It is a flowering plant which is related to leafy vegetables. The name buckwheat only comes from the resemblance of its small, triangular seeds to larger beech tree seeds and also because its flour was traditionally used as a wheat substitute.
Other plant compounds of buckwheat
It is also rich in various plant compounds which possess potent antioxidant activities & are thus responsible for many of its health benefits. It provides more antioxidants than many other common cereal grains like wheat, barley, oats, and rye.
- Rutin. It is the main antioxidant polyphenol in buckwheat & it may help to lower the risk of cancer and improve chronic inflammation, blood pressure and blood lipid profile.
- Quercetin. It is also another antioxidant that may have a variety of beneficial health effects, including lowering the risk of heart disease & cancer.
- Vitexin. Animal studies have shown a number of health benefits of this antioxidant anti-inflammatory effects, anti cancer effecta & neuro-protective effects. However, excessive intake may lead to an enlarged thyroid.
- D-chiro-inositol. This is a unique type of soluble carbohydrate that reduces blood sugar levels and may help with diabetes management. Buckwheat is the richest food source of this carb.
How to eat buckwheat ?
Buckwheat flour is not ideal for making bread as such. It has to be mixed with some other ideal flour. However, It can be used alone or mixed with wheat flour, to make griddle cakes called buckwheat cakes in the United States & Canada. .
It can be used in making buckwheat tea or can be processed into groats. These groats are used in the same way as rice & these are the main ingredient in many traditional European and Asian dishes.
Buckwheat health benefits:
Improves blood sugar control
Since it is a good source of fiber, it has a low to medium GI which means that it does not cause sharp spikes in blood sugar & it should be safe to eat for most people with type 2 diabetes.
In research studies, a link has been seen between buckwheat intake & lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
This is further supported by a study on rats with diabetes, in which buckwheat concentrate was shown to lower blood sugar levels by 12–19%.
This effect is thought to be due to D-chiro-inositol, the unique compound found in buckwheat. Research studies indicate that this soluble carb makes the cells more sensitive to insulin, which is the hormone that causes cells to absorb sugar from blood.
Some of its components also seem to prevent or delay the digestion of table sugar.
All these properties make buckwheat a healthy choice for people with type 2 diabetes or people who want to keep diabetes at bay.
Buckwheat may help to promote heart health as it has many heart-healthy compounds, such as rutin, magnesium, copper, fiber, and certain proteins.
It is the richest source of rutin, among all cereals & pseudocereals. Rucin is an antioxidant which has a number of health benefits to offer.
Rutin may cut the risk of heart disease by preventing the formation of blood clots and by decreasing inflammation and blood pressure.
It has also been found to improve the lipid profile which plays a major role as a risk factor for heart disease.
A research study in 850 people established a link between buckwheat intake & lower blood pressure and an improved lipid profile, including lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
This effect is believed to be caused by a type of protein that binds cholesterol in the digestive system & thus prevents its absorption.
There are no major adverse effects seen with the intake of this pseudocereal. If eaten in moderation, it does not has any downside. However, people who are prone to allergies may see some allergic effects but not serious ones.
An allergy is more likely to develop only in those who consume it very often or in very large amounts.
A phenomenon known as allergic cross-reactivity makes one more prone to develop buckwheat allergy which means that this allergy is more common in people who are already allergic to latex or rice.
Allergic symptoms may include skin rashes, swelling, digestive distress, and in less common cases, a severe allergic shock.
Overall, Buckwheat is a nutrient-dense food that has a lot of potential health benefits. It is an excellent source of protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, essential minerals, and vitamins. It may help to improve heart health & blood sugar levels.
FAQs(Frequently asked questions)
What is the taste of buckwheat ?
It has a nutty taste basically & a little earthy & a little bitter too. However one can roast the seeds, or mix the flour with other flours and the taste is not that intense then.
What is buckwheat called in India ?
It is called kuttu ka atta in India.
Is buckwheat a grain or a millet ?
It is a seed which belongs to the class of pseudocereals which are consumed as cereal grains but they do not grow on grasses.
How much buckwheat should I eat a day ?
One can eat 3/4 cup of buckwheat groats everyday.