This blogpost is all about buckwheat, health benefits and cooking tips included.
Technically speaking, buckwheat is not a cereal. It belongs to the family Polygonaceae, which also includes sorrel and rhubarb. Its scientific name is Fagopyrum Esculentum. Its English name comes from the Dutch «boekweit», which literally means “beech wheat”. The name reflects the similarity of buckwheat with beechnuts (the shape) and wheat (characteristics). Buckwheat flowers are very fragrant and attractive to bees, which use them to produce a dark, aromatic honey.
It is believed that buckwheat comes from high plains of south-eastern China and the Himalayas. As long as at least a thousand years ago it was one of the main foods of local residents. From there in the 14th-15th centuries buckwheat spread to Europe and Russia. In the 17th century buckwheat was introduced in the United States by the Dutch. Today buckwheat is widely produced and consumed in Russia and Poland. Other countries where buckwheat is actively sold include United States, Canada and France. The latter is of course well-known for its buckwheat pancakes.
Buckwheat is sold unroasted and roasted. The roasted one has a brown color and is called «kascha». I personally find it very strange. «Kascha» in Russian language literally means “porridge” and can refer to any type of porridge – oat porridge, rice porridge, millet porridge… Unroasted buckwheat is green and, in my opinion, has a much less “nutty” flavor. Buckwheat sprouts are recently gaining popularity. Sprouted buckwheat is actually a raw buckwheat that underwent controlled germination process and then was slowly roasted at a temperature of no higher than 42 degrees Celsius.
Buckwheat contains about 12-14 grams of protein per 100 grams. This is comparable to most common cereals. It is noteworthy that buckwheat contains the amino acid lysine, which is lacking in the most popular crops, such as wheat, corn, rice, etc.
Buckwheat is a rich source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. 100 g buckwheat supplies 10 g of fiber. It is nothing less than one-third of the recommended dietary allowance fiber for women and one quarter for men. Fiber accelerates the intestinal peristalsis and removes the toxins from the colon.
Proper operation of our own antioxidant defence system depends on the presence in the diet of minerals selenium, copper, manganese and zinc, and vitamins C, E and B2. Buckwheat contains many elements of the above-mentioned, some of them in remarkable quantities. Thus 100 grams buckwheat (dry weight) supply:
- 65% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of manganese,
- 55% RDA copper,
- 16% RDA zinc,
- 12% RDA selenium,
- 25% RDA vitamin B2.
Buckwheat itself contains little vitamin C, but it does contain a unique chemical component rutin that helps the body efficiently use vitamin C, and thus actively produce collagen (the main building block of the skin). Rutin has a well-defined anti-inflammatory properties and helps prevent blood clots inside the blood vessels.
Other health benefits of buckwheat
Epidemiological data from China indicate a significantly lower incidence of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in communities that traditionally consume buckwheat as the main cereal, compared with those communities who eat mostly rice. Hence scientists speculate that buckwheat has a potential role in glycaemic control. A study of 2013 confirms this hypothesis. Interestingly enough the same study observed a lower level of so-called “hunger hormone” ghrelin in the blood of those participants who regularly consumed buckwheat products compared to controls.
Scientific evidence shows that regular consumption of buckwheat products has a positive impact on the level of cholesterol. Most likely this occurs thanks to the buckwheat fiber.
A review study shows that that buckwheat honey improves cold symptoms in children.
Buckwheat also has a prebiotic potential. In other words, it promotes the growth of good bacteria in our intestines.
Regular consumption of buckwheat can reduce the appearance of cellulite.
How can you eat buckwhear? A couple of quick ideas
- Eat buckwheat for breakfast. Did you know that it is very tasty mixed with oatmeal?
- Add cooked buckwheat to soups or stews to give your dishes a thicker texture.
- Buckwheat goes perfectly well with all kinds of mushrooms.
- Buckwheat is a great base for vegetarian burgers.
- Nowadays in any organic store you can buy buckwheat pasta.
- Use buckwheat flour to make pancakes, breads, cakes and muffins. Since buckwheat is not not a grain, it does not contain gluten and, consequently, does not possess binding properties. Therefore in most recipes it is mixed with another type of flour.