Buckwheat is a pseudocereal, that is, it does not belong to the grass family (unlike wheat, rye, barley or oats). A lot of people don’t know what is buckwheat. It is a polygonal plant and, in fact, if you look at a grain of buckwheat, you will see that it has the shape of a miniature pyramid. It is a short-cycle pseudo-grain, sown in early summer and harvested in the fall. It has a low yield compared to the grains mentioned above, which is why it is more expensive in stores.
For this reason, we are going to dedicate this article to telling you what buckwheat is, what are its characteristics and health benefits.
What is buckwheat
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) it is a pseudo-grain. Its origin is in Central Asia. Like other fake grains like quinoa or amaranth, buckwheat contains high quality protein because it contains all the essential amino acids without being deficient in lysine or methionine. Buckwheat is gluten free. The carbohydrate intake is quite high, mostly slow-absorbing complex carbohydrates, which means buckwheat has a lower glycemic index. Buckwheat provides more fiber than quinoa or amaranth.
It contains more fat than cereals and less than quinoa and amaranth, and it contains mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the main contribution of which is omega-6 essential fatty acids. The intake of B vitamins is important, especially niacin or vitamin B3. It also contains vitamin E. Its mineral content is wide, highlighting zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. It also provides very low sodium calcium and iron. It is important to eat buckwheat from organic farming to avoid consuming contaminants or genetically modified organisms.
Generally speaking, the nutritional value of buckwheat is much higher than that of cereals. Carbohydrates are its main ingredient, but it also contains proteins and different minerals and antioxidants. data was extracted from the USDA database).
The nutritional content of buckwheat after cooking is as follows:
- 20% are carbohydrates in the form of starch, which produce a low to moderate glycemic index. That is, it does not raise blood sugar. Indeed, some of the soluble carbohydrates in buckwheat (buckwheat alcohol and D-chiro-inositol) have a modulating effect on blood sugar after eating.
- 3.4% is a protein with a fairly good amino acid profile, particularly rich in lysine and arginine. However, the digestibility of this protein is relatively low because buckwheat also contains antinutrients (protease inhibitors and tannins) which interfere with its assimilation.
When comparing buckwheat to rice, wheat or corn, it is rich in minerals. A plate of about 170 grams of cooked buckwheat can cover our daily needs in the following proportions:
- 34% Manganese: Mineral necessary for the proper functioning of our metabolism, for our body to develop and grow, and antioxidant for our defenses.
- 28% Copper: often deficient in Western diets, it is a trace mineral with positive effects on heart health.
- 21% magnesium: it is an essential mineral that reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- 17% Phosphorus: This mineral plays a key role in the growth and maintenance of body tissues.
- 18% Fiber: Buckwheat has an interesting content (2.7% of cooked buckwheat consists of fibres), mainly in the form of cellulose and lignin. The outermost layer of the grain contains resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic fiber (the healthy gut flora that fuels our colon).
Mineral absorption in cooked buckwheat is particularly good compared to other cereals due to its relatively low content of phytic acid, a mineral absorption inhibitor found in most cereals.
Other Important Compounds
Buckwheat contains more antioxidants than other grains such as oats, wheat, rye or barley. Here are the other compounds:
- The main polyphenolic antioxidant found in buckwheat. Studies seem to show that it reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure and improves blood fat composition.
- antioxidants that we find in many vegetables appear to have a variety of beneficial effects on our health, including reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease.
Effects on the body of buckwheat
Buckwheat has many health benefits; improves sugar control, improves blood circulation, cardiovascular disease prevention, reduces cancer risk, etc.
Improve blood sugar control
Long-term sustained high blood sugar levels can cause various chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is recommended to moderate the increase in blood sugar caused by food.
Buckwheat is high in fiber, which slowly and gradually raises blood sugar. In fact, there have been observational studies in humans, in which buckwheat consumption has been found to be associated with smaller increases in blood sugar and better blood pressure and cholesterol values compared to people who don’t eat buckwheat.
There are also animal studies (diabetic rats) where the administration of buckwheat concentrate helped lower blood sugar levels by 12-19%.
The effect is thought to be caused by the unique component of buckwheat in a hydrate (D-chiro-inositol), which appears to make cells more sensitive to insulin (the hormone responsible for moving sugar from blood to cells). Buckwheat is one of the richest natural sources of this compound (research).
For all of these reasons, a moderate amount of buckwheat appears to be a healthy option for people with diabetes or those who have trouble regulating their blood sugar.
Good for the heart and circulation
Buckwheat contains substances that improve heart health, such as rutin, magnesium, copper, fiber and certain proteins.
Buckwheat is the most abundant pseudo-cereal in rutin, an antioxidant that has many health benefits. Rutin appears to reduce the risk of heart attack by preventing blood clots, reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure.
An observational study of ethnic Chinese who ate large amounts of buckwheat appeared to link buckwheat consumption to lower blood pressure and better lipid profiles, including higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. low and higher (“good”) HDL levels. .
This effect appears to be linked to a protein in the digestive system that binds to cholesterol and prevents it from entering the bloodstream. Of all these signs, Eating buckwheat regularly as part of a healthy diet appears to improve heart health.
Reduces the risk of colon cancer
Buckwheat contains a fiber (resistant starch) that we cannot digest, so it reaches the colon, where it is fermented by our microbiota (intestinal flora) and produces a substance (short chain fatty acids like butyric acid) to nourish the lining of the intestine, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Special considerations for allergies and celiac disease
Buckwheat allergy is more common in people who are already allergic to latex and rice due to cross-reactivity.
Although buckwheat is gluten-free, you should be careful when buying it and make sure it’s certified gluten-free. The reason is that the balers share facilities for this type of cereal and those containing gluten. The same risk exists when we buy in bulk: there may be cross-contamination. So, if you have celiac disease, it is recommended that you only get certified gluten-free foods.
Buckwheat as an organic crop and in diets
One of the weirdest things about buckwheat is that it has a very low tolerance to pesticides and other toxins commonly used in intensive agriculture. More commonly, if it has been treated with chemicals, it will die.
In Spain, the plant is traditionally used as fodder for animals, and in times of famine people bake bread. However, from the 1980s, it began to make a name for itself, particularly for the quality of the flour.
Regular consumption of buckwheat as part of a healthy diet can improve our health, such as more adequate blood sugar levels and protection against heart disease and certain types of cancer.
A healthy gluten-free diet should follow the same guidelines as a healthy diet, except that cereals containing gluten must be replaced by gluten-free cereals in their natural state and processed and refined foods should be avoided.
As we have seen, buckwheat is a gluten-free grain that you can add to your meals, but there is more. And, in addition to cereals, there are many other foods. Either way, it has nothing to do with eating processed foods labeled “gluten-free.”
I hope that with this information you can learn more about what buckwheat is and its characteristics.