Buckwheat is a pseudocereal, that is, it does not belong to the grass family (unlike wheat, rye, barley or oats). Many people don’t know what is buckwheat. It is a polygonaceous plant and, in fact, if you look at a grain of buckwheat, you will see that it is shaped like a miniature pyramid. It is a short-cycle pseudograin, sown in early summer and harvested in 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 its characteristics and health benefits are.
What is buckwheat
Buckwheat (Buckwheat is edible) it is a pseudograin. 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 contribution is quite high, mostly slow-absorbing complex carbohydrates, which means that buckwheat has a lower glycemic index. Buckwheat provides more fiber than quinoa or amaranth.
It has more fat than cereals and less than quinoa and amaranth, and it contains mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, whose main contribution is omega-6 essential fatty acids. The contribution of B vitamins is important, especially niacin or vitamin B3. It also contains some vitamin E. Its mineral content is wide, highlighting zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. It also provides some calcium and iron that are very low in sodium. It is important to eat organically grown buckwheat 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 has been 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 cause blood sugar to rise. In fact, some of the soluble carbohydrates in buckwheat (buckwheat alcohol and D-chiro-inositol) have a modulating effect on blood sugar levels after eating.
- 3,4% is protein with a fairly good amino acid profile, especially rich in lysine and arginine. However, the digestibility of this protein is relatively low because buckwheat also contains antinutrients (protease inhibitors and tannins) that interfere with its assimilation.
When we compare 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 our metabolism to work properly, 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: this 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 is fiber), mostly in the form of cellulose and lignin. The outermost layer of the grain contains resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic fiber (the healthy intestinal flora that feeds our colon).
Mineral absorption in cooked buckwheat is particularly good compared to other grains due to its relatively low content of phytic acid, a mineral absorption inhibitor found in most grains.
Other important compounds
Buckwheat contains more antioxidants than other cereals such as oats, wheat, rye or barley. These are the other compounds:
- The main polyphenolic antioxidant found in buckwheat. Studies with it seem to show that it reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, and improves the fat composition of the blood.
- The 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 control of sugar levels, improves blood circulation, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, reduces the risk of cancer, etc.
Improve blood sugar control
Long-term sustained high blood sugar levels can cause different chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is recommended to moderate the increase in blood sugar caused by food.
Buckwheat contains a lot of fiber, which causes blood sugar levels to rise slowly and gradually. 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 levels and better blood pressure and cholesterol values compared to people who They 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 believed 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 bringing sugar from the blood into the 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 with difficulty regulating blood sugar levels.
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 pseudocereal in rutin, an antioxidant that has many beneficial health effects. 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 lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and HDL ( “good”) higher. .
It appears that this effect is related to a protein in the digestive system that binds to cholesterol and prevents it from entering the bloodstream. Of all these signs, Regular consumption of buckwheat as part of a healthy diet appears to improve heart health.
Lowers 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 such as butyric acid) to nourish the lining of the intestine, 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.
While 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 grain and those containing gluten. The same risk exists when we buy in bulk: there can be cross contamination. So if you have celiac disease, it’s recommended that you only get certified gluten-free.
Buckwheat as an organic crop and in diets
One of the strangest things about buckwheat is that it has very poor tolerance to pesticides and other toxins commonly used in intensive farming. 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 make bread. However, beginning in the 1980s, it began to gain a reputation, especially 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 gluten-containing cereals should be substituted for gluten-free cereals in its natural state and processed and refined foods should be avoided.
As we have seen, buckwheat is a gluten-free cereal that you can add to your meals, but there is more. And, in addition to cereals, there are many other foods. Regardless, this has nothing to do with eating processed foods that are labeled “gluten-free.”
I hope that with this information you can learn more about what buckwheat is and its characteristics.