First time we read about Buckwheat, we thought it could be economy or cheaper variety of wheat – Wheat which saves your bucks. We were wrong. Buckwheat is seed of flowering plant belonging to same family as sorrel or rhubarb. It is not a grain or cereal.
Seeds of plant Fagopyrum esculentum are used as buckwheat. This plant is native to North Europe and South East Asia. In Asia, another variety of Fagopyrum tataricum (Tartary buckwheat or Kuttu (Hindi) or Okhla (Punjabi)) is cultivated in Himalyaas. Buckwheat or Kasha or beech wheat has typical triangular seeds very much similar to beechnut and used as substitute of wheat. Name originates from Dutch word boecweite – meaning beech wheat.
Our ancestors nearly 10000 years ago knew how to cultivate buckwheat. Today Chinese, Japanese and Korean still use these seed. Culinary use of buckwheat has been popularized by these cultures. Traditional Chinese used to make buckwheat noodles and wooden utensils and press. Today when awareness about gluten and celiac disease is high, gluten free buckwheat has again found popularity.
Nutritional value of buckwheat
Just like any other cereal, Buckwheat is mainly carbohydrate which offers energy tod body. It contains a good amount of dietary fibers. About one seventh of buckwheat is made of protein which is complete in nature with supply of all essential amino acids. It supplies body with good amount of minerals like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and copper and vitamins like Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Pantothenic acid. It contains phytonutrients like rutin, quercitin, Catechin 7-glucoside, procyanidins, fagopyrins and others, some of which offers medicinal properties to buckwheat.
Health benefits of Buckwheat
Health benefits of buckwheat can be attributed to presence of dietary fibers, minerals and other nutrients along with phytochemcials present in buckwheat. Some of the buckwheat health benefits are discussed here.
Buckwheat is absolutely gluten free
People have lately become aware to gluten intolerance and celiac diseases. Buckwheat doesn’t contain gluten unlike other cereals and effective and treating celiac diseases. Gluten free diet also helps in improving digestive health and relieving symptoms of celiac disease like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, headache and fatigue.
High fiber buckwheat
Around 10% of buckwheat consists of dietary fibers by weight. A food high in dietary fibers like buckwheat offers many health benefits. It helps in providing required roughage for smooth bowel movements and keeps digestive tract healthy. It prevents absorption of cholesterol and other toxins in intestine. Research has shown that high fiber diet can also protect you from risk of cancers.
Buckwheat reduces high blood pressure
Magnesium helps in improving blood pressure and relaxing blood vessels. Buckwheat with supply of magnesium can help reduce blood pressure without any ill effects. It offers body other phytonutrients which can contribute to regulating blood pressure.
Buckwheat to reduce cholesterol
Buckwheat contains phytochemcials like rutin and other flavonoids which are known to reduce cholesterol in body. Further high fiber in the seed prevents absorption of bad cholesterol in intestine.
Buckwheat strengthens blood vessels
Our blood circulation system is complex and network of arteries and vein which supply blood and nutrients to various organs of body. Presence of buckwheat in diet helps in strengthening blood vessels. It improves blood circulation and treats varicose veins. It prevents development of deposits in blood vessels and hardening of arteries / atherosclerosis.
Buckwheat for healthy heart
Buckwheat contains Lignans, which is metabolized into compound enterolactone which is known to be effective on hormone related cancer and heart disease. It provides adequate supply of dietary fibers which reduces risk of heart diseases.
Buckwheat and diabetes
Buckwheat with its dietary fiber and carbohydrate profile offers low glycemic load. It releases glucose slowly and thus helps regulate blood sugar. Further it offers good amount of protein which is required in diabetic food. It contains compound D-chiro-inositol, which research has found to be useful in treatment of type II diabetics. It is effective in reducing blood sugar as was found in animal studies on drug induced diabetic mice. Buckwheat offers body with magnesium which is important for metabolism of insulin and sugar.
Kasha to prevent gallstones
A study suggest role of buckwheat in preventing development of gallstones. This is attributed to presence of higher insoluble fiber content. It helps regulates movement of food in digestive tract. A lesser stay in digestive tract results in lesser secretion of bile and gall bladder activity.
Buckwheat and Cancer treatment
Buckwheat offers protective effect from various cancers. This can be attributed to presence of large amount of fibers and phytonutrients. A study covering over 36000 women showed that consumption of high fiber diet like buckwheat helped reduce risk of developing Breast cancer by half. Further research is active in area of identifying various chemicals in buckwheat which have anticancer properties. A novel protein has been identified in buckwheat which has anti tumor property. Buckwheat has been traditionally used in China for treatment of lung tumors.
Buckwheat and childhood asthma
Over 20 million American suffer from asthama and many of them have this since childhood. A Dutch research suggests consumption of food like buckwheat, whole grain that offers high fibers can reduce incidence of childhood asthma.
Buckwheat as Liver tonic
Study has identified hepatoprotective properties of buckwheat. This means it protects liver from oxidative stress of various toxins including alcohol. It protects liver through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Buckwheat for weight loss
Buckwheat offers carbohydrate to body with low glycemic index. This means you would have feeling of filled stomach for longer time and reduces urge for eating more. Buckwheat contains high amount of fibers which forms gelatinous substance in digestive tract. It offers all essential proteins which other cereals does not. It helps controlling blood sugar and reduces blood cholesterol associated with obesity. All this plays important role in reducing weight.
Buckwheat for healthy bones
Buckwheat offers body with minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and Manganese which play important role in bone and teeth health. It helps in developing bone structure and bone density. It facilitates absorption of calcium and helps prevent osteoporosis.
Skin Benefits of Buckwheat:
Skin is largest organ in body and needs adequate amount of nutrients. Buckwheat supplies required nutrients for health of your skin. Rutin and other phytochemcials have antioxidant properties and protect skin from oxidative stress of sunlight and pollutants. Buckwheat offers improving blood circulatory system which is essential for glowing and youthful skin. Try out making skin pack with buckwheat flour and gram flour with yoghurt. Apply this to skin, leave it to dry for 10-15 minutes and then scrub the flour out. It will offer clean and fresh skin.
Hair Benefits of Buckwheat
Buckwheat ensures supply of nutrients to scalp and improves blood circulation to skin follicles. It thus prevents hair damage and loss. Unlike other grains, it offers all essential amino acid which help in development of hairs. It offers minerals like zinc, copper and selenium that play conducive role in hair development.
Side effects of buckwheat
Buckwheat is a potent allergen and can allergy to people. Cases of anaphylaxis induced by buckwheat ingestion have been seen. Fagopyrin in buckwheat leaves and sproutes may cause fagopyrism or light sensitivity to few, which may result development of rash on exposure to sunlight.
Culinary Uses of buckwheat
Buckwheat groats or kernels of buckwheat seed are often roasted and eaten as snack – Kasha. Buckwheat grits are finely cracked unroasted kernel used as cereal. Buckwheat flour is used in cooking. Buckwheat crepes or buckwheat pancakes are popular buckwheat recipes in Europe. Sprouted buckwheat is good vegan food which provides bioavailable form of minerals and vitamins.
Tough it doesn’t contain gluten, but it contains gelatinous substance when soaked which offers good binding property of making innovative healthy recipes. Buckwheat honey is monofloral honey made from buckwheat nectar. Did you ever try gluten free beer? There is variety of such beer made from buckwheat.
Try out these healthy buckwheat recipes:
Sautee 1 large onion and 3-5 cloves of garlic in olive oil till they are soft. Now add to this 2 medium diced and cleaned carrots, 2 stalks of cut celery and sautee for another 5 minutes. Once carrots are bit soft, add to this 6 cups of vegetable stock and a cup of cut tomatoes. Add a cup of buckwheat and continue heating at low flame for 30-40 minutes until buckwheat is soft. Add cup of beans and spinach each and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Your buckwheat minestrone soup is ready to be served hot and enjoy its health benefits.Image Credits: Flickr - ksa_mis, Flickr - kazamatsuri