‘Buckwheat’- this name might suggest that it is a type of cereal similar to wheat. But buckwheat has no connection with wheat whatsoever. In fact, it is a fruit seed that is closely related to rhubarb, sorrel and knotweed. These grain-like seeds have a unique triangular shape and have the same size as wheat kernels. In order to make them edible, their outer hull has to be removed with the help of special milling equipment. Its colour varies from tannish pink to brown (1).
Just like wheat, buckwheat also can be grounded into flour and can be a suitable substitute for wheat in case of those who are gluten intolerant as buckwheat is gluten free. The darker form of buckwheat is more nutritious. Buckwheat flowers attract bees which use them to produce a strongly flavoured dark honey. Buckwheat is available in roasted and unroasted forms. The roasted form is also known as ‘kasha’ which is widely used in traditional European dishes. In United States, it is commonly used in porridges and pancakes. The unroasted, whole buck wheat kernels are known as buckwheat grains or hulled buckwheat.
Buckwheat is also known as ‘Kootu’ in Hindi, ‘Kuttu’ in Telugu, ‘Kotu’ in Tamil, ‘Kootu’ in Malayalam, ‘Kuttu’ in Marathi, ‘Kutti-no Daro’ in Gujarati, and ‘Titaphapur’ in Bengali.
Health Benefits of Buckwheat:
Buckwheat is a powerhouse of nutrients. Being gluten free, it can be an excellent substitute for wheat, rye, barley and oats. It is thus considered suitable for those who are allergic to wheat and celiac patients. It has a high content of fiber and protein, and significant amounts of iron and magnesium. Besides, it contains all the eight essential amino acids. Buckwheat is also packed with phyto nutrients which are amazing disease fighting organic components. The several health benefits of buckwheat can be attributed to its amazing nutritional profile.
1. Aids in Weight Loss:
Whole grain buckwheat can be very helpful in weight loss. Buckwheat has fewer calories in comparison to wheat or barley. It is free of saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in dietary fiber and protein (2). This combination plays an important role in suppressing appetite, controlling blood sugar, facilitating proper digestion and building lean muscle mass.
2. Diabetic friendly:
Being low in calories and fat free, buckwheat is an ideal food for diabetic patients. Buckwheat contains a medicinal chemical which strengthens capillary walls and reduces haemorrhage, thus lowering the risk of fatal strokes and heart attacks in people with high blood pressure and diabetes (3). It improves micro vascular integrity and circulation in diabetics, thus preventing the damage of nerves and muscle cells and loss of kidney function. D-chiro-inositol is a compound that is deficient in type II diabetic patients. This compound is required for proper conduction of insulin for controlling and treating type II diabetes. Buckwheat also contains D-chiro-inositol.
3. Reduces Blood Pressure:
Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium which is instrumental in improving blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure naturally without the use of harmful chemicals (4).
4. Cardiovascular Health:
Being rich in B vitamins, particularly niacin, folate and vitamin B6, buckwheat is highly beneficial for the cardiovascular health. These vitamins reduce the concentration of cholesterol in the blood. Niacin causes an increase in high density lipoproteins (HDL) which further enhance the blood vessel strength and cholesterol removal. The minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese help in reducing blood pressure and improving blood oxygenation. Buckwheat contains high quality proteins which remove the plaque forming triglycerides and low density lipoproteins (LDL). Thus buckwheat is highly beneficial for people with weak heart functions and other cardiovascular problems (5).
5. Protection against Breast cancer:
Research has proved that eating a diet rich in fiber from whole grains such as buckwheat reduces the risk of breast cancer. In fact, pre-menopausal women eating wholegrain fiber are at a lower risk of developing breast cancer. The antioxidant properties of buckwheat are often used as an antidote for x-ray irradiators. The antioxidants, lignans play an important role in estrogen reception and hence are beneficial for women during or after their menopause. The plant lignans are converted into mammalian lignans in the intestines. One of these called enterolactone is believed to protect against breast cancer and other forms of cancer related to hormones (6).
6. Protection against Childhood Asthma:
As per research, consumption of whole grains such as buckwheat can reduce the risk of childhood asthma by around 50 percent. Due to its high content of magnesium and vitamin E, buckwheat can help in reducing the incidence of childhood asthma (7).
7. Prevents Gallstones:
Being high in insoluble fiber, buckwheat can help in preventing gallstones (8). Insoluble fiber speeds up the movement of food through the intestines, increases insulin sensitivity but lowers the secretion of bile acids and blood sugar.
8. Health Benefits of Buckwheat Protein:
Buckwheat contains proteins of a very high quality which offers several health benefits. This protein in combination with amino acids helps in lowering cholesterol levels besides being a key factor in preventing diabetes and obesity. In addition, buckwheat proteins reduce hypertension by reducing the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (9).
9. Healthy Bone Structure:
Manganese present in buckwheat ensures healthy bone structure by forming essential enzymes for building bones and acting as a co-enzyme for assisting metabolic progression in the human body. It is also actively involved in the formation of connective tissues, absorption of calcium and metabolism of fat and sugar. Magnesium is also beneficial for bone and dental health. It trans- misses nerve impulses and helps in the production of energy. It facilitates the absorption of calcium by the body and prevents the development of osteoporosis. Thus, buckwheat has a lot to contribute to a healthy bone structure (10).
10. Mental Health:
Buckwheat also contributes to mental health. It contains tryptophan which influences the mood in a positive manner, thus making happy and preventing depression (11).
11. Other Benefits:
Being rich in minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and manganese and having high flavonoids content, buckwheat is very effective in curing low hemoglobin and frequent colds and flu. Due to its high content of vitamin B complex, buckwheat is often recommended to people suffering from liver disorders and illnesses which require them to restrict their consumption of sugary substances (12).
[ Read: White Poppy Seeds ]
Skin Benefits of Buckwheat:
Skin problems are a major cause of concern in the present scenario. Proper supply of nutrients to the body is essential for healthy and radiant skin. The quality of skin largely depends upon genetic factors, but it is also influenced by environmental factors to a significant extent such as exposure to pollution, level of stress, lifestyle etc. Being a powerhouse of nutrients, buckwheat has an important role to play in skin health.
12. Natural Suntan:
Buckwheat helps greatly in skincare. It contains large amounts of rutin which is beneficial in protecting against skin damage caused by the sun. Hence, it can be regarded as a natural suntan lotion as it provides protection against the harmful rays of the sun (13).
13. Prevents Ageing:
The powerful antioxidants and flavonoids present in buckwheat prevent premature skin ageing (14).
14. Makes Skin Glow:
Magnesium contained in buckwheat has a relaxing effect on the blood vessels, thus improving blood circulation. This results in a glowing and youthful looking skin (15).
[ Read: Moringa Leaves ]
Hair Benefits of Buckwheat:
Healthy hair greatly enhances the appearance of an individual and is often a source of admiration. But in the present scenario, there are several hair problems ranging from hair loss, split ends, dandruff, hair thinning and alopecia. Just like skin, proper supply of essential nutrients is extremely important for strengthening the hair follicles and maintaining healthy and damage free hair. Buckwheat contains some of the essential nutrients that are beneficial for hair health.
15. Helps Hair Growth:
Buckwheat contains 75% of complex carbohydrates. Whole grain-carbohydrates are good for proper growth of hair. Buckwheat is rich in vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and zinc, making it highly conducive for hair growth (16).
16. Improves Hair Health:
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is vital for hair growth and health. Being soluble in water, this vitamin cannot be stored in the body. It has to be replenished from some food source or supplement. Buckwheat is a great source of vitamin B6.
[ Read: Ugly Fruit ]
Buckwheat Nutritional Value:
Buckwheat is a powerhouse of nutrients. It contains a range of nutrients comprising of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium and amino acids. It contains minerals like manganese, magnesium and copper. Moreover, it has two health-promoting flavonoids-rutin and quercitin and all the eight essential amino-acids. Buckwheat is also a great source of an essential fatty acid called Alpha-Linolenic acid which is important for overall health. Its nutritional profile is explained below.
|Calories 36||(152 kJ)|
|Calories from fat 3|
|% Daily Value 1|
- Vitamins: Buckwheat provides 8% of daily value (DV) of niacin which aids in the release of energy from carbohydrates, protein and fat during metabolism. They provide 6% of daily requirement of vitamin B-6, folate and choline and small amounts of vitamin K, riboflavin and thiamine.
- Minerals: One cup serving of buckwheat grains provides 21% DV of magnesium and 12% DV of phosphorus and copper. Thus, they are an important source of these minerals.
- Calories: One cup of cooked and roasted buckwheat provides around 155 calories. Carbohydrate is the primary energy source. Around 33 grams of carbohydrates are available in the form of starch. It contains just 1.5 grams of sugar.
- Dietary Fiber: Buckwheat grains contain 4.5 grams or 18% of the daily value (DV) of total fiber. Fiber aids in weight loss by lowering cholesterol and glucose levels and promoting proper digestion.
- Proteins: One serving of buckwheat grains contains about 6 grams of protein. Protein is vital for building and repairing body tissue.
- Fat: Calories in Buckwheat grains are low. They contain just 1 gram of total fat and less than ½ gram of saturated fat.