Though the name might suggest otherwise, buckwheat is not actually a form of wheat. In fact, it isn’t a grain at all. This plant is commonly cultivated in Asia and can be used for a variety of culinary purposes, particularly in noodles, breakfast foods, and certain beverages. It’s also used in recipes for those following a raw food diet. Keep reading to learn more about what buckwheat is, how it can be used, and its health benefits!
What Exactly is Buckwheat?
Not related to wheat in any way, buckwheat is actually a seed that comes from the plant Fagopyrum esculentum, which remains fairly short but becomes very widespread and develops green heart-shaped leaves with tiny white flowers. Cultivated as a grain-like seed and a cover crop throughout Asia and in parts of Europe and North America, the seeds of the plant are commonly referred to as a pseudocereal. The seeds are rich in protein and fiber, as well as a variety of antioxidants and other nutrients, which leads many people to consider buckwheat a superfood.
The seeds themselves are called groats, and they have become popular among the gluten free crowd. One cup of cooked groats contains about 155 calories, with 6 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, 33 grams of carbohydrate, and 5 grams of fiber. These groats are packed with manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin, zinc, folate, and vitamin B6. This grain-like seed has similar culinary applications to other pseudocereals, like amaranth and quinoa. It can be made into noodles, pancakes, porridge, and a variety of baked goods.
What are the Nutritional Benefits of Buckwheat?
The antioxidant and fiber content of this food lends itself to a number of significant health benefits. Here is an overview of the top 6 nutritional benefits of this pseudocereal:
1. Improved Heart Health
This grain-like seed helps to reduce inflammation and lower LDL, or “bad cholesterol” levels, both of which are important for maintaining heart health. The primary nutrient that provides these cardiovascular benefits is rutin, a type of phytonutrient and antioxidant which helps stabilize blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
2. Reduced Blood Sugar
In comparison to many whole grains, this pseudocereal is very low on the glycemic index – this means that the carbohydrate content is absorbed slowly into the blood stream, providing your body with a steady flow of energy. By preventing a sudden spike in blood sugar, this nutritious seed helps with diabetes management and may improve insulin resistance.
3. Gluten Free and Non-Allergenic
Though it can be used in the same way as whole grains like wheat and barley, this seed is naturally gluten free, which makes it a great choice for people with celiac disease or grain sensitivities. Swapping this seed with typical grains containing gluten may also be helpful for people suffering from digestive disturbances like leaky gut syndrome. Learn more about other ancient grains (including a variety of gluten free options) here.
4. Rich in Dietary Fiber
For every one cup serving of cooked groats, this food provides 6 grams of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps to keep food moving smoothly through the digestive tract, and may help you feel fuller longer – this can be a benefit if you’re trying to lose weight.
5. Protects Against Cancer
This pseudocereal contains antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which may help to fight certain types of cancer. Some of the antioxidants found in this food include flavonoids like oligomeric proanthocyanidins, which protect your cells against free radical damage and prevent the kind of dangerous inflammation that can contribute to the spread of cancer.
6. Source of Vegetarian Protein
Not only is this food rich in vitamins and minerals, but it is an excellent source of digestible plant protein. For every 100 gram serving, this food contains as much as 14 grams of protein, and 12 different amino acids to support growth and muscle synthesis. The protein content isn’t quite as high as certain beans and legumes, but it is higher than most whole grains.
To harness the power of this pseudocereal for yourself, cook whole groats at a ratio of 1:2 with water, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the grains are tender. You can also grind raw groats into flour for use in pancakes and other breakfast foods, as well as your favorite baked goods!
Check out the following Nature’s Path products to incorporate even more buckwheat into your diet:
- Buckwheat Wildberry Frozen Waffles
- Qi’a Superfood (available in Original, Apple Cinnamon, and Cranberry Vanilla)
- Sunrise Crunchy Honey
- Sunrise Crunchy Cinnamon
- Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise
- Crunchy Maple Sunrise
- Mesa Sunrise Flakes (also with Raisins)
- Qi’a Superfood Gluten Free Oatmeal (available in Cinnamon Pumpkin Seed, Creamy Coconut, and Superseed & Grains)