Buckwheat, botanically called Fagopyrum esculentum, is a plant originally cultivated in China for the grains produced by it. Buckwheat has nothing to do with wheat, I what we all know. In fact, it is a pseudo cereal for it is neither a cereal nor a grain like wheat. Buck wheat is the seed of the plant.
It is a short duration crop grown in well-drained soil, even if acidic or non-fertile. The seeds are triangular in shape or sometimes irregular and brown in color.
Presently buckwheat is grown in many countries of the world with Russia leading in producing 0.7 million tons per year followed by China producing 0.66 million tons and Ukraine 0.17 million tons (top three producers).
Buckwheat is a high calorie diet stuffed with carbohydrates. In 100gm of the seed, we get 343 calories of energy, 71.5gm carbohydrates, 10gm dietary fiber, 3.4gm fat and 13.25gm protein.
Protein present in buckwheat is a high quality protein with all the eight essential amino acids like lysine contained in it. Vitamins present in it are, niacin 7.02 mg(49% Recommended Daily Amount- RDA), riboflavin 0.425 mg (35%), pantothenic acid 1.233 mg (25%), vitamin B(6) 0.21 MG(16%), thiamine 0.101 mg (9%) and folate 30 micrograms (8%).
Buckwheat contains a number of minerals too. Magnesium – 231mg (65%RDA), manganese -1.3 mg (62%), phosphorous – 347mg (50%), iron – 2.2mg (17%), potassium – 460 mg (10%), zinc – 2.4mg (25%) and small amounts of copper, selenium, calcium and sodium.
Buckwheat is a high protein and high fiber food. It is also Gluten free seed providing lot of health benefits. For those who do not eat meat, buckwheat provides the necessary protein.
Health benefits of Buckwheat
Being a pseudo-cereal, buckwheat with its high carbohydrate content is used as a substitute diet in the place of rice and wheat. In addition to that, it provides lot of health benefits which are briefly outlined here.
Protects cardiovascular system
Consumption of buckwheat as a substitute food for wheat and rice, is a better option for overall health. It lowers the harmful LDL cholesterol and increases the beneficial HDL cholesterol, thereby facilitate a healthy cholesterol ratio much needed for the cardiovascular health. Rutin and other flavonoids in buckwheat improves the lipid profile and regulate appropriate blood flow which in turn prevents heart diseases. Moreover, magnesium in buckwheat lowers blood pressure which is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. Being plant lignans – a class of dibenzylbutane derivatives which occurs in higher plants and in fluids – bile, serum, urine, etc; in man and other animals.
These compounds, which have a potential anti-cancer Role, can be synthesized In vitro by human fecal flora, which are converted into mammalian lignans with abundant phytonutrients. It also prevents heart diseases too.
Buckwheat is a good source of dietary fiber. It is a diet with low glycemic index due to which the blood sugar level increases slowly after a buckwheat meal. Blood sugar regulation is due to the particular type of soluble carbohydrate present in buckwheat called, D-chiroinositol, which increases the sensitivity of cells to insulin enabling absorption of sugar into the blood.
High dietary fiber in buckwheat hastens the food transmission through the digestive tract which consequently improves the bowel movements regularly. Consumption of buckwheat enhances the anti-oxidant activities in the liver. It increases appetite and strengthens the intestines. Even chronic diarrhea and dysentery can be cured by consuming buckwheat meal.
Prevents blood clotting disorders
Rutins, tannins and catechin in buckwheat are anti-oxidants with anti-inflammatory properties which are capable of preventing the platelet clot formation. Such clot formation in the blood vessels is a serious problem in many diseases like dengue. Moreover, rutin cures hemorrhoids and disorders due to clotting.
Helps weight reduction
Being a substitute food in place of rice or wheat, buckwheat with high dietary fiber and comparatively lower calories with no saturated fat and cholesterol is very helpful in reduction of body weight. As the blood sugar is controlled and digestion enhanced, it improves building of lean muscle much essential for weight loss.
Improves bone health
Buckwheat acts as co-enzyme and assists in metabolic functions of the body which ensures healthy bone structure. Magnesium present in buckwheat is helpful for bone and dental health by facilitating absorption of calcium and preventing osteoporosis.
Some of the other benefits of buckwheat are:
- Tryptophan in buckwheat enhances positive mood and prevents depression
- By strengthening the immune system it prevents cold and flu
- With rich minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc it is effective in improving hemoglobin level
- High magnesium content and presence of vitamin E can prevent childhood asthma
- High insoluble fiber lowers the secretion of bile acids, increases insulin and blood sugar which in turn prevents formation of gallstones.
- Prevents post-menopausal breast cancer due to high fiber content.
Buckwheat is used as grain and flour which needs to be appropriately stored, preferably in air tight containers, for optimum shelf life. Consumption of unpolished buckwheat is recommended as it contain higher dietary fiber. Flour is used all the purposes for which rice and wheat flours are used.
Buckwheat seeds need to be cleaned to remove dirt by rinsing in water before cooking. Since it is gluten free people with celiac disease (mal absorption syndrome due to indigestion) can happily consume it.