Nature reminds us time and again how good it is at creating healthy and nutritious food for humans to eat. When we have at our disposal nature’s perfect plant food gems, such as buckwheat, it is a mystery why so many of us reach for unhealthy options.
What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat is a type of shrub-like plant native to the temperate regions of East Asia. It is bright green with broad heart-shape leaves and white flowers and its seeds are harvested for use.
The plant tends to be short and broad, easily forming a notable level of ground coverage. Its cultivation in China dates back to 1000 AD.
Currently, buckwheat is cultivated worldwide with most of it growing in China, Japan and North America. Over 14 species of the plant exist with two of them being cultivated species and the remaining existing in the wild.
Buckwheat contains a rich nutritional profile of protein, minerals, and fiber.
• The levels of copper, zinc, and manganese exceed the levels found in other cereal grains. The significant bioavailability of copper, zinc, and potassium also makes buckwheat a desirable addition to any diet. In addition, buckwheat does not contain gluten so people with gluten sensitivities or intolerance may safely consume pure buckwheat flour, groats and grits.
• The protein content of buckwheat exceeds that of oats, one of the best plant sources for protein. Its protein content includes all eight essential amino acids with a strong concentration of lysine at six percent of its nutritional profile.
• Buckwheat grains contain high quantities B-complex vitamins, especially riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3).
• The grains contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps with digestion and elimination.
• Gluten free so ideal for those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity.
The Many Health Benefits of Buckwheat
There are many health benefits from adding buckwheat to your diet.
• It is good for diabetics. The high fiber content slows the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream, helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and possibly lowering A1C.
• It supports the immune system. Copper, zinc and potassium are key minerals for establishing and
maintaining a healthy immune system. Copper also supports the production of red blood cells.
• It helps heart health. The magnesium content of buckwheat assists with lowering blood pressure building balanced cholesterol levels.
• Buckwheat fights inflammation a precursor and symptom of many systemic diseases. The polyphenols, water-soluble plant pigments with antioxidant properties, found in buckwheat combat inflammation and dysfunctional clotting in blood vessels.
The seeds of the plant are harvested and processed in a variety of ways to make them available for various uses. After removing the hull from the three-sided triangular shaped seeds, they may be added to cereals, coarsely ground into grits, finely ground into flour or roasted to make kasha.
Preparation methods for buckwheat groats and kasha include boiling, steaming and baking. The dishes serve the same role in meals as potatoes or rice. Buckwheat flour may also be added to sauces and gravies to thicken them and give them additional color.
Other uses for buckwheat include:
• Providing honey bees with nectar which they transform into a dark strongly flavored honey
• A component of livestock feed to be used in combination with corn, barley or oats
• As a cover crop to prevent weeds before planting another crop
• As a fertilizer crop to be plowed under to return nutrients and moisture to the soil prior to the next planting
Buckwheat is both nutritious and versatile. This gluten free and nutrient dense food grows quickly making it a plentiful food source. You need to monitor yourself for sensitivity though as some people get a skin rash when they eat buckwheat.
It is widely available and lends itself to a variety of preparations such as breakfast cereal, porridge, pancakes as well as grain salads, pilafs, Asian Soba noodles, snacks and in baked goods.
You can blend it with other grains if you find the flavor of buckwheat too heavy or bitter.