What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat is a plant that originally comes from Asia, widely cultivated in China in the 13 th and 14 th centuries. It spread to Europe and Russia in the 14 th and 15 th centuries, and was introduced in the United States, by the Dutch, in the 17 th century. It is a working-man’s crop that thrives in poor soil conditions, freezing temperatures, droughts, as well as excess rains. Buckwheat is resistant to damage and is therefore, relatively inexpensive and easy to grow.
Many consider buckwheat to be a cereal grain, but it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel, making suitable for people who are sensitive to wheat or gluten. Buckwheat flowers are very fragrant and attract bees, who in turn produce a special, strongly flavoured, dark honey.
Buckwheat features a unique triangular shape, but is similar size to wheat kernels. In order for it to be edible, the outer hull must be removed. Buckwheat is sold either unroasted or roasted, often called “kasha”. Unroasted buckwheat has a soft, subtle flavor, while roasted buckwheat has more of an earthy, nutty taste.
Buckwheat is a popular flour. It is available in either light or dark forms, with the darker variety being more nutritious, as small parts of the hull are ground into it, giving the darker colour. Too much hull does make it bitter.
Top Ten Facts about Buckwheat
- Low GI
- High levels of anti-oxidants, which support cellular function and help fight the effects of stress. Buckwheat has a certain kind of antioxidants that support the circulatory system and helps reduce high blood pressure.
- High in protein. More than rice, wheat, millet or corn.
- Contains essential amino acids, in particular lysine and arginine
- Gluten Free
- Cholesterol lowering food
- Reduces and regulates blood sugar levels after meals, this is key to preventing diabetes and obesity.
- Higher levels of minerals than other grains, esp. zinc, copper, manganese and magnesium.
- Contains mono and saturated fats, which are heart healthy (like olive oil)
- Contains soluble fibre, which is healthy for the heart and helps prevent colon cancer.
Health Benefits of Buckwheat
A Grain That’s Good for Your Cardiovascular System
Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Research shows that buckwheat intake was associated with lower total serum cholesterol, lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-the form linked to cardiovascular disease), and a high ratio of HDL (health-promoting cholesterol) to total cholesterol.
Buckwheat’s beneficial effects are due in part to its rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin . Flavonoids are phytonutrients that protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C and acting as antioxidants. Buckwheat’s lipid-lowering activity is largely due to rutin and other flavonoid compounds. These compounds help maintain blood flow, keep platelets from clotting excessively (platelets are compounds in blood that, when triggered, clump together), thus preventing excessive blood loss, and protect LDL from free radical oxidation into potentially harmful cholesterol oxides. All these actions help to protect against heart disease.
Buckwheat also contains almost 86 milligrams of magnesium in a one-cup serving. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure-the perfect combination for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Better Blood Sugar Control and a Lowered Risk of Diabetes
The nutrients in buckwheat may contribute to blood sugar control. In a test that compared the effect on blood sugar of whole buckwheat groats to bread made from refined wheat flour, buckwheat groats significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses. Whole buckwheat also scored highest on their ability to satisfy hunger.
When researchers followed almost 36,000 women in Iowa during a six-year long study of the effects of whole grains and the incidence of diabetes, they found that women who consumed an average of 3 servings of whole grains daily had a 21% lower risk of diabetes compared to those who ate one serving per week. Because buckwheat is a good source of magnesium, it is also important to note that women who ate the most foods high in magnesium had a 24% lower risk of diabetes compared to women who ate the least.
Helps Prevent Gallstones
Eating foods high in insoluble fibre, such as buckwheat, can help women avoid gallstones, shows a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology .
How do foods rich in insoluble fibre help prevent gallstones? Researchers think insoluble fibre not only speeds intestinal transit time (how quickly food moves through the intestines), but reduces the secretion of bile acids (excessive amounts contribute to gallstone formation), increases insulin sensitivity and lowers triglycerides (blood fats).
Nutritional benefits of Buckwheat
Buckwheat is a very nutritious food, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, B vitamins, phosphorus, minerals, and essential amino acids and can truly be denominated as ‘king of the healing grains’.
A nutritional uniqueness of buckwheat is the quality of protein it contains. The proteins in buckwheat are the best known source of high biological value proteins in the plant kingdom. Buckwheat contains all essential amino acids (eight proteins that the body cannot manufacture) in good proportions, making it closer to being a “complete” protein than any other plant source, even soybeans.
Buckwheat is composed of 75% “complex” carbohydrates, which satisfy our appetites and fuel our cells. It has plenty of protein and B vitamins and is rich in phosphorus, potassium, iron, and calcium.
Sprouted Grain: Benefits
Buckwheat can also be sprouted. Soak the seeds overnight, then rinse daily for 2 to 3 days.
Sprouted grain differs from whole grain in three fundamental aspects:
1) Sprouting activates food enzymes;
2) Sprouting increases vitamin content, and
3) Sprouting neutralizes anti-nutrients like phytic acid which bind up minerals preventing your ability to fully absorb them.
Furthermore, sprouted grain and sprouted flours – having been effectively “pre-soaked” do not need to undergo further soaking or souring and are therefore suitable for quick breads, cookies and cakes in a way that sourdoughs and soaked flours are not.
How to Sprout Grain
- Start with clean grain, so take care in sorting through it to make sure all pebbles and grains with poor appearance are adequately removed.
- Rinse grains thoroughly.
- Add grain to a ceramic or stainless steel crock, pouring filtered water over the grain until the grain is completely submersed under several inches of water.
- Soak the grains overnight in warm water.
- In the morning, pour the grains into a fine mesh sieve and rinse them well.
- Throughout the day, rinse the grains multiple times taking care to stir them so all grains are rinsed evenly.
- Continue rinsing the grains for two to three days until the grains have sprouted to your liking.
- Rinse the grains one last time, drain them and either refrigerate them or dehydrate them to grind into flour.
How to Make Sprouted Flour
- Start with grain that has been sprouted for only a day or two – until the sprout barely emerges from the end of the kernel. The longer it sprouts, the more difficult it is to grind and use in baking.
- Pour the grain into a thin layer on a mesh screen for your dehydrator and dehydrate at about 105 ° – 110 ° F until thoroughly dry. Alternatively, spread it on a baking sheet and set it in an oven set to the lowest setting you can manage. Note that sprouted grain dried in an oven has inferior baking qualities as compared to that which is dried through the more reliably low temperatures of a dehydrator.
- Once the grain is thoroughly dry, simply add it to the hopper of your grain mill and grind as you normally would.
Sprouted Grain: Uses
Sprouted grains and sprouted seeds can be delicious when eaten raw and otherwise unprocessed. Try serving it raw as a salad and gently seasoned with salt, pepper, unrefined olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. It’s also tasty mixed in with other vegetables in salads or served on sandwiches.
You can also eat sprouted grain cooked or baked in addition to raw. While cooking it kills live food enzymes, it is still easier to digest than un-sprouted grain and many of grains inherent anti-nutrients like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that our largely neutralized by the soaking and sprouting process. Sprouted flour can be used in a 1:1 ratio for white flour or whole grain flour. Sprouted grain is also well-suited to porridges and warm breakfast cereals.
The information above has been sourced from the following websites.