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What is Buckwheat?

Buckwheat is a gluten-free cereal that is known to provide significant health benefits. It is small but mighty: plant-powered, full of nutrients and easily digestible. Due to its controversial name, buckwheat is largely misunderstood. Many also don’t quite understand what it is, how it’s used, or why it has received so much hype. 

If you’re one of those people, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we explain what buckwheat is, how it’s commonly used and why it is one of the best fuels for your body.

 

Buckwheat doesn’t actually contain wheat

Despite its name, buckwheat is actually not a wheat product! It’s a seed rather than a grain, meaning it is gluten-free and safe for those with gluten intolerances, allergies or celiac disease. 

Like quinoa, amaranth and chia seeds, the triangular groats of buckwheat are considered a “pseudocereal”. Pseudocereals are non-grass plants that are used the same way as cereals or grains. Buckwheat can be bought as whole groats, either raw or toasted, or as a flour. 

What does Buckwheat taste like?

Buckwheat has a nutty, earthy and robust flavour, pairing well with dried fruit, dark spices, nuts and earth vegetables. It has a stronger flavour than other popular grains like wheat and rice but has a similar texture and consistency. 

Another thing to consider – toasting! Raw buckwheat has a much milder taste than its toasted counterpart, helping to bring even more dimension to this super versatile seed!

How to use Buckwheat

If you’ve ever tried a raw food or gluten-free diet, you’ve probably already tried buckwheat! It is an ingredient that can be used in almost any dish, from savoury to sweet. As a rule of thumb, buckwheat can be prepared like any other wheat grain using the same cooking methods.

Buckwheat groats are often used in place of other carbs such as rice, couscous, potatoes or pasta. As mentioned before, buckwheat can also be ground and used as a flour. Buckwheat flour has become a very popular pantry staple, used instead of, or as a compliment to, regular flour in quick breads, baked goods, crepes and pancakes. Unlike many grains, whole buckwheat groats are delicate enough to eat. They make a delicious, crunchy salad-topper, and a great addition to granola.

Buckwheat is also a common ingredient in several traditional dishes. It is the star in Japanese soba noodles, traditional Jewish Kasha, Japanese dumplings, Dutch pancakes and many variations of French Crepes.

raw buckwheat

 

Health Benefits of Buckwheat

Buckwheat has made its way into more and more shopping carts due to its rumoured health benefits. But does it live up to the hype? 

Absolutely! Buckwheat is considered a functional food, which means that it provides health benefits beyond just basic nutrition. It is known to optimize health and reduce the risk of certain diseases. 

Buckwheat has an impressive nutritional profile, providing key nutrients, vitamins and minerals – including magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and calcium. It is also jammed with health-promoting phytonutrients, like quercetin and rutin. These nutrients contribute to the laundry list of health benefits associated with buckwheat. To list a few: 

Buckwheat is a complete protein

Buckwheat is one of the few plant-based sources of complete protein – meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids in balanced amounts. Look no further for that plant-based punch of protein!

Stabilizes Blood Sugar

Research has shown that buckwheat can stabilize blood sugar levels and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Buckwheat has high levels of resistant starch, which lowers the glycemic index response (GI= 34.7). This allows for carbohydrates to be absorbed slowly into the bloodstream, providing a steady amount of energy and preventing spikes in insulin.

Anti-inflammatory

Buckwheat contains phytochemicals, rutin and quercetin, which have antioxidant effects and reduce inflammation. These chemicals protect your cells against free radicals and prevent inflammation that can contribute to chronic diseases like cancer. 

Heart Healthy 

Several studies show that buckwheat can stabilize blood pressure and support healthy blood cholesterol levels, vascular health and proper blood flow. All of which are important for maintaining a healthy heart and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Buckwheat Contributes to Gut Health (… and mental health!)

Whole buckwheat is a great source of insoluble fiber and resistant starch. It has prebiotic properties, meaning it nourishes the good bacteria in the gut. Also, buckwheat is a great choice for people with functional gut disorders (such as IBS) because it is low in FODMAPs. 

Dietary fibers are essential to promoting good gut bacteria and maintaining good digestive health. However, emerging research shows that the benefits of fiber can extend beyond just promoting gut health and nurture your mind too! Learn more about the mind gut connection

 

All in all… 

Buckwheat goes beyond just satisfying basic nutritional needs. Emerging research shows that buckwheat does more than simply provide essential proteins, minerals and fiber, it can prevent spikes in insulin and reduce inflammation while promoting heart and gut health. 

Not to mention, it’s easy to add into your diet and can be incorporated into any meal. We may be biased, but our favourite buckwheat-containing products are Holy Crap Cereals

Holy Crap cereals promote a healthy gut and a happy mind. These gluten-free cereals have three main ingredients: chia seeds, buckwheat and hulled hemp hearts. Check out some of these gluten-free recipes using Holy Crap cereal and feel the benefits of buckwheat for yourself! 

Two Ingredient Crackers

Mega Berry Homemade Jam 

Ultimate Granola 

Holy Crap with Almond Milk 

 



References 

Giménez-Bastida, J. A., & Zieliński, H. (2015). Buckwheat as a Functional Food and Its Effects on Health. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,63(36), 7896–7913. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.5b02498

Huda, M. N., Lu, S., Jahan, T., Ding, M., Jha, R., Zhang, K., Zhang, W., Georgiev, M. I., Park, S. U., & Zhou, M. (2021). Treasure from garden: Bioactive compounds of buckwheat. Food chemistry,335, 127653. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.127653

Kumari, A., & Chaudhary, H. K. (2020). Nutraceutical crop buckwheat: a concealed wealth in the lap of Himalayas. Critical reviews in biotechnology,40(4), 539–554. https://doi.org/10.1080/07388551.2020.1747387

Préstamo, G. & Pedrazuela, A. & Peñas, Elena & Lasunción, M. & Arroyo, Glover. (2003). Role of buckwheat diet on rats as prebiotic and healthy food. Nutrition Research, 23, 803-814. 10.1016/S0271-5317(03)00074-5.