If all you know about buckwheat is that it's pretty good in pancakes, it's time to take a new look at this under-used (and gluten-free!) grain.
Though the "wheat" portion of its name is misleading, buckwheat is actually a seed. (It's more closely related to rhubarb than wheat!) Although this "pseudo-cereal" is not a true cereal grain, it does fall under the whole grain umbrella. And it offers even more health benefits than many whole grains—including a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
This pyramid-shaped seed is not only higher in minerals like zinc, copper, and manganese than other grains, but also impressively high in protein. When it comes to protein, not all grains are created equal—many lack the amino acid lysine, but buckwheat has plenty.
This little grain is also chock full of rutin, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic compounds that helps control blood pressure. Rutin also has powerful anti-clotting abilities that can help prevent heart attacks and stroke. When you combine rutin with magnesium, which is also found in buckwheat, you get an even lower risk of heart disease.
And then there's fiber—buckwheat contains both soluble fiber and resistant starch, both of which are great for your health. Soluble fiber helps slow the rate of glucose absorption in the body, keeping blood sugar even after meals. Keeping blood sugar balanced not only means you’ll have more energy, a zippier metabolism, and better hormone regulation, but it also lowers your risk of developing heart disease and type II diabetes. In addition, resistant starch feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, helping burn fat, produce vitamins, detoxify the body, and reduce inflammation.
So how do you use it? As a flour, this nutty grain is great for gluten-free baking, and is the backbone of a traditional French savory crepe called a galette. Left whole, buckwheat can be used in place of rice or other grains. Soba noodles—a signature use of buckwheat—are the star of this gingery noodle dish.
It is even used to make gluten-free beer—buckwheat's toasty flavor adds malty notes to brews. Great nutrition and amazing flavor? Cheers to that!
Photo credit: Paul Delmont