‘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.
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