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Buckwheat: Real benefits from a pseudocereal

There are times when it's better to be a fake! Buckwheat is a pseudo-cereal, which means that it is not a grass. However, we assure you that the benefits of buckwheat are realer than real.

Amaranth, quinoa, chia, and acacia seed are some other pseudo-cereals. The farming of these grains became less widespread in the 20th century because of the increased use of nitrogen fertiliser. This fertiliser, which consumes a great amount of natural gas, makes it cheap and profitable for farmers to grow wheat. Today, pseudo-cereals are making a return as people learn more about nutrition and the well-being of Earth.

It is particularly surprising that buckwheat was not a popular staple in the West for so long. It has a rich history including so many cultures and landscapes. The earliest sign of buckwheat, found in Japan, dates back to 4,000 BC. However, buckwheat has probably been grown since 6,000 BC, in Yunnan Province, China, among other places. This province is at the edge or on the Tibetan Plateau. The plateau, or the “Roof of the World”, is more than 4,500 metres above sea level, making buckwheat the domestic crop grown at the highest level. In ancient Chinese medicine, buckwheat is said to benefit Qi, or vital energy.

Where does buckwheat come from?

From ancient China, buckwheat stretches into the Americas. Europeans brought it to the continent earlier than most other crops. In India, buckwheat is the focus of the Navratri fesival. People celebrate this festival by eating only foods containing buckwheat.

Historically, Russia leads the world in buckwheat production, followed by China. Buckwheat cultivation in the United States may soon rise due to the speedily increasing interest in ancient grains, which often require less processing. Nutritionist Vandana Sheth of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says, “People might be more interested in trying these grains because of their place of origin, history and the culture”.(1)

Growing buckwheat

This crop only needs ten to twelve weeks to grow, and it is a reliable cover crop. This means that buckwheat is compatible with climate-smart agriculture and benefits the growing of other crops. Buckwheat is also easy to hull and can benefit wildlife and help control erosion. The flower of this plant produces a lovely, strong honey.

Eating buckwheat

We bet you never realised how many of your favourite dishes are based on buckwheat. Soba noodles? Polish kasha? Breton galettes? Polenta from Apulia in northern Italy? Yep, you’ve guessed it. Buckwheat is especially relevant to how people eat today because it does not contain gluten. Remember, wheat, wheat berries, barley, rye, kamut, farro, and spelt may all contain gluten.

Even if you do not suffer from a sensitivity to gluten, eating less of it is a wise choice.  Substituting in gluten-free grains from time to time may help prevent bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and leaky gut syndrome.

For this reason, buckwheat beer is becoming more widespread. Buckwheat porridge is another easy alternative.

Nutritional content of buckwheat

Rich in polyphenols and containing all the essential amino acids which help your body make protein, 18% of buckwheat is crude protein. Are you a vegan or vegetarian? As a result, your body will not be able to produce some of the amino acids it must have and will need to obtain them from the foods you eat. Although quinoa (a seed) has more protein, buckwheat leads all types of rice, wheat, millet, and corn in protein content. Moreover, lysine and arginine, the specific amino acids found in buckwheat, are difficult to find in other cereals and whole grains.

Buckwheat is also a source of important minerals including niacin, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and selenium.(2) Eating buckwheat will help provide you with the essential benefits of fibre and B vitamins. However, some people suffer allergic reactions to buckwheat.

Buckwheat: Real benefits from a pseudocereal
Buckwheat: Real benefits from a pseudocereal
Buckwheat: Real benefits from a pseudocereal
Buckwheat: Real benefits from a pseudocereal

"Ground buckwheat flour is abundant in flavonoids, useful for collagen formation."

Buck up your heart – and keep your blood sugar in balance

Aside from its direct nutritional content, buckwheat also has numerous benefits for your health. This grain has been directly associated with improving heart health because it lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol.(3)

Rutin, a phytonutrient, is a wonderful antioxidant for the heart.(4) Specifically, rutin helps your circulatory system function at its best, while assisting to prevent high blood pressure. Positive research into rutin as a natural therapy for Alzheimer’s disease has also been carried out.(5) Yet another benefit of this superstar phytonutrient, which is found in buckwheat, is that it helps diabetic patients keep blood sugar and insulin in proper balance.(6)

Quercetin is another valuable antioxidant for the heart which is contained in buckwheat.(7) Research has shown that quercetin has anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin has also been shown to decrease platelet aggregation. This means that it prevents blood clots and assists circulation. It may also have immune-boosting activities, although further research is needed.(8)

Flava-flavonoids

Confused about what flavonoids are? We could say so much about the benefits of these plant-based compounds. A simple way of explaining would be to say that flavonoids are one of the major reasons why fruits and vegetables are good for you. Flavonoids can be found in both buckwheat hulls and the seeds. Ground buckwheat flour is abundant in flavonoids, useful for collagen formation.

Keep your motor running

The digestive system is the motor of the human body, so it is especially important to keep it running smoothly. The benefits of buckwheat include preventing oxidative stress in your colon and digestive system.(9) Korean scientists who studied the liver, colon and rectums of animals consuming buckwheat found that they exhibited higher antioxidant life.(10)

Sprout, buckwheat, sprout!

Buckwheat comes in many forms, including but not limited to flour, creamy buckwheat, raw buckwheat groats (buckwheat hulls), or hulled buckwheat grains. However, to make buckwheat as easily digestible as possible and to maximise the benefits of all of the valuable minerals and nutrients contained in it, we suggest sprouting it. Through sprouting, buckwheat will become further enriched with phytonutrients and live enzymes, including co-enzyme Q-10! Erbology Garam Masala Crackers contain all the benefits of sprouted buckwheat for a quick, healthy snack infused with warm Indian spices.

But how?

Once you get into the habit of sprouting buckwheat, it will become an easy part of your daily routine in the kitchen and you will be able to add sprouted buckwheat to all manner of dishes.

Just leave your buckwheat groats to soak in a bowl of water for up to 6 hours. We like to do this in the mornings on weekends. After you wash and drain the hulls, leave them out for a bit. You need to keep the hulls just a bit damp, so add a tiny amount of water – a spoonful or two. After two to three days, small, green sprouts will come out. It’s better than watching the daffodils come out in spring! Rinse your sprouts again, drain, and put in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a week, rinsing everyday so that mould and bacteria don’t grow on your sprouts.

We love adding our sprouts to granolas, salads and stews.

Key buckwheat benefits

  • Healthy heart
  • Boost your circulatory system
  • Aid digestion
  • Supply your body with all of the essential amino acids
  • Rich in valuable minerals including iron and B vitamins

Buckwheat recipes

As big fans of sprouted buckwheat, we have included it in a few of our favourite products; the Garam Masala crackers have been mentioned. Erbology Tkemali Buckwheat Crackers are a wonderful mixture of tart and savoury, while our Greek Olive Crackers are subtle and versatile. You could also mine all the benefits of buckwheat by adding our Tigernut Granola to your breakfast repertoire. Made with sea buckthorn, aronia berries, tigernut (a tuber), and sprouted buckwheat, this granola has a wonderfully satisfying texture.

On its own as a snack, buckwheat is gently crunchy but with a pleasurably chewable consistency. Add your favourite milk, porridge, or yogurt if you prefer a softer cereal.

This tigernut and buckwheat granola is packed with sprouted energy without any added sugar or preservatives. Tigernuts are natural prebiotics, and although buckwheat flies under the radar in the product name, you will reap all of its numerous benefits. The granola is so dense with the good stuff that a small amount contains all you need to feel sated and nourished.

Erbology snacks are certified organic, gluten-free, raw and free from added sugar.

References

(1) Jolly, Joanna, “Why do Americans love ancient grains?”, BBC News, 16 December 2014, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30458761.

(2) Food Composition Databases, United States Department of Agriculture, https://bit.ly/2CzkFnU.

(3) He et al, “Oats and buckwheat intakes and cardiovascular disease risk factors in an ethnic minority of China.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 1995, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7840076.

(4) Wieslander et al, “Eating buckwheat cookies is associated with the reduction in serum levels of myeloperoxidase and cholesterol: a double blind crossover  study in day-care centre staffs.” The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, October 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21931228.

(5) Habtemariam, S., “Rutin as a Natural Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease: Insights into its Mechanisms of Action.” Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26898570.

(6) Qiu et al, “Dietary tartary buckwheat intake attenuates insulin resistance and improves lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial.” Nutrition Research, December 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27919453.

(7) Kreft, M., “Buckwheat phenolic metabolites in health and disease.” Nutrition Research Reviews, June 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27046048.

(8) Yao et al, “Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity” Nutrients, March 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808895/

(9) Gimenez-Bastida et al, “Buckwheat and buckwheat enriched products exert an anti-inflammatory effect on the myofibroblasts of colon CCD-18Co.” Food & Function, June 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29870039.

(10) Yun Kim et al, “Effects of adlay, buckwheat, and barley on transit time and the antioxidative system in obesity induced rats,” Nutrition Research and Practice, June 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395785/.

Tags

  • Buckwheat
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Co-enzyme Q10
  • CoQ10
  • Essential amino acids
  • Gut health
  • Kasha
  • Plant-based protein
  • Pseudocereal

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