By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Buckwheat is an annual plant of Polygonaceae family with no relation between grains. It belongs to the group of buckwheat pseudo-cereals, that has different and identical characteristics like grains such as wheat, rice and barley. Because of the main structural difference and ability to adapt to the development in a short time in highly agricultural areas, it is distinguished from other grains.
Buckwheat is recognized as a good food source which is nutritionally valuable due to the content of protein, lipid, dietary fiber, and minerals, and in combination with other health-promoting components. Therefore, it has received increasing attention as a potential functional food. The amino acid composition and nutritional value of buckwheat are superior from other grains, also one of the protein sources having high biological value. At the same time, buckwheat contains minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium, also it contains vitamins such as B1, B2, B3 and B6; flavonoids, polyphenols, inositol, organic acid, and high dietary fiber. (1)
Two types of buckwheat, common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and Tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tartaricum), are most widely grown for food. It is used in buckwheat tea or processed into groats, flour, and noodles. The groats, used in much the same way as rice, are the main ingredient in many traditional European and Asian dishes. It is gluten-free, a good source of fiber, and rich in minerals and various plant compounds, especially rutin. As a result, buckwheat consumption is linked to several health benefits, including improved blood sugar control and heart health. (2)
- Best source of high-quality, easily digestible proteins: This makes it an excellent meat substitute. High protein buckwheat flour is being studied for possible use in foods to reduce plasma cholesterol, body fat, and cholesterol gallstones.
- Fat alternative: Buckwheat starch can also act as a fat alternative in processed foods.
- Fights high blood pressure: The high level of rutin is extracted from the leaves for medicine to treat high blood pressure.
- Non allergenic: Buckwheat hulls are used as pillow stuffing for those allergic to feathers, dust, and pollen.
- May help diabetes: New evidence has found that buckwheat may be helpful in the management of diabetes. With a glycemic index of 54, it lowers blood sugars more slowly than rice or wheat products.
- Great for the digestion: The properties of buckwheat are: Neutral thermal nature; sweet flavor; cleans and strengthens the intestines and improves appetite. Is effective for treating dysentery and chronic diarrhea.
- Chemical free: Buckwheat grows so quickly that it does not usually require a lot of pesticides or other chemicals to grow well.
- Retained Water: Buckwheat is good at drawing out retained water and excess fluid from swollen areas of the body.
- Gluten Free: Buckwheat contains no gluten and is not a grain. It is therefore great for celiacs and those on grain free and gluten sensitive diets. (3)
Healthful ways to eat buckwheat
Buckwheat is easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. People can buy buckwheat groats in health stores or choose between brands online. Buckwheat flour is also available in stores and online for making bread, pancakes, and baked goods.
People can eat raw buckwheat groats after soaking and draining the raw groats to make them easier to digest. Otherwise, boil the groats in water before adding them to salads, sides, or mains. (4)