Buckwheat belongs to a group of foods commonly called pseudocereals.
Pseudocereals are seeds that are consumed as cereal grains but don’t grow on grasses. Other common pseudocereals include quinoa and amaranth.
Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is thus gluten-free.
It’s used in buckwheat tea or processed into groats, flour, and noodles. The groats, used in much the same way as rice, are the main ingredient in many traditional European and Asian dishes.
Buckwheat has become popular as a health food due to its high mineral and antioxidant content. Its benefits may include improved blood sugar control.
Two types of buckwheat, common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and Tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tartaricum) are most widely grown for food.
Buckwheat is mainly harvested in the northern hemisphere, especially in Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Central and Eastern Europe.
This article tells you everything you need to know about buckwheat.
Nutrition facts of buckwheat
Carbs are the main dietary component of buckwheat. Protein and various minerals and antioxidants are also present.
The nutritional value of buckwheat is considerably higher than that of many other grains. The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw buckwheat are:
- Calories: 343
- Water: 10%
- Protein: 13.3 grams
- Carbs: 71.5 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fiber: 10 grams
- Fat: 3.4 grams
Buckwheat mainly consists of carbs, which make up about 20% of boiled groats by weight.
They come in the form of starch, which is carbs’ primary storage form in plants.
Buckwheat scores low to medium on the glycemic index (GI) — a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar after a meal — and should not cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels.
Some of the soluble carbs in buckwheat, such as fagopyritol and D-chiro-inositol, have been shown to help moderate the rise in blood sugar after meals.
Buckwheat contains a decent amount of fiber, which your body cannot digest. This nutrient is good for colon health.
By weight, fiber makes up 2.7% of boiled groats and is mainly composed of cellulose and lignin.
Fiber is concentrated in the husk, which coats the groat. The husk is kept in dark buckwheat flour, giving it a unique flavor.
Additionally, the husk contains resistant starch, which is resistant to digestion and is thus categorized as fiber.
Resistant starch is fermented by gut bacteria in your colon. These beneficial bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate.
Butyrate and other SCFAs serve as nutrition for the cells lining your colon, improving gut health and decreasing your risk of colon cancer.
Buckwheat contains small amounts of protein.
By weight, protein composes 3.4% of boiled buckwheat groats.
Because of its well-balanced amino acid profile, the protein in buckwheat is very high quality. It is particularly rich in the amino acids lysine and arginine.
However, the digestibility of these proteins is relatively low because of antinutrients like protease inhibitors and tannins.
In animals, buckwheat protein has proven effective at lowering blood cholesterol, suppressing gallstone formation, and reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Like other pseudocereals, buckwheat is gluten-free and therefore suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
Summary: Buckwheat is mainly composed of carbs. It also boasts a good amount of fiber and resistant starch, which may improve colon health. What’s more, it offers small amounts of high-quality protein.
Vitamins and minerals of buckwheat
Buckwheat is richer in minerals than many common kinds of cereal, such as rice, wheat, and corn.
However, buckwheat is not particularly high in vitamins.
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Of the two main varieties, Tartary buckwheat generally contains more nutrients than common buckwheat.
The most abundant minerals in common buckwheat are:
- Manganese. Found in high amounts in whole grains, manganese is essential for healthy metabolism, growth, development, and your body’s antioxidant defenses.
- Copper. Often lacking in the Western diet, copper is an essential trace element that may benefit heart health when eaten in small amounts.
- Magnesium. When present in sufficient amounts in your diet, this essential mineral may lower your risk of various chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Iron. Deficiency in this important mineral leads to anemia, a condition characterized by the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood.
- Phosphorus. This mineral plays an essential role in the growth and maintenance of body tissues.
Compared to other grains, the minerals in cooked buckwheat groats are particularly well absorbed.
This is because buckwheat is relatively low in phytic acid, a common inhibitor of mineral absorption found in grains and seeds.
Summary: Buckwheat is richer in minerals than many other pseudocereals and cereals. It’s high in manganese, copper, and magnesium but low in most vitamins.
Other plant compounds of buckwheat
Buckwheat is rich in various antioxidant plant compounds, which are responsible for many of its health benefits. It provides more antioxidants than many other cereal grains, such as barley, oats, wheat, and rye.
Tartary buckwheat has a higher antioxidant content than common buckwheat.
Here are some of the buckwheat’s main plant compounds:
- Rutin. The main antioxidant polyphenol in buckwheat, rutin may lower your risk of cancer and improve inflammation, blood pressure, and your blood lipid profile.
- Quercetin. Found in many plant foods, quercetin is an antioxidant that may have a variety of beneficial health effects, including lowering your risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Vitexin. Animal studies indicate that vitexin may have several health benefits. However, excessive intake may contribute to an enlarged thyroid.
- D-chiro-inositol. This is a unique type of soluble carb that reduces blood sugar levels and may benefit diabetes management. Buckwheat is the richest food source of this plant compound.
Summary: Buckwheat is richer in antioxidants than many common cereal grains. Its plant compounds include rutin, quercetin, vitexin, and D-chiro-inositol.
Health benefits of buckwheat
Like other whole-grain pseudocereals, buckwheat is linked to many benefits.
Suggested read: Wheat: Nutrition, benefits, downsides, and more
Improved blood sugar control
Over time, high levels of blood sugar may lead to various chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Thus, moderating the rise in blood sugar after meals is important for maintaining good health.
As a good source of fiber, buckwheat has a low to medium GI. This means that it should be safe to eat for most people with type 2 diabetes.
Studies link buckwheat intake to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
This is supported by a study of rats with diabetes, in which buckwheat concentrate was shown to lower blood sugar levels by 12–19%.
This effect is thought to be due to the unique compound D-chiro-inositol. Studies indicate that this soluble carb makes cells more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that causes cells to absorb sugar from your blood.
In addition, some components of buckwheat seem to prevent or delay the digestion of table sugar.
Overall, these properties make buckwheat a healthy choice for people with type 2 diabetes or those who want to improve their blood sugar balance.
Buckwheat may also promote heart health.
It boasts many heart-healthy compounds, such as rutin, magnesium, copper, fiber, and certain proteins.
Among cereals and pseudocereals, buckwheat is the richest source of rutin, an antioxidant that may have several benefits.
Rutin may cut your risk of heart disease by preventing the formation of blood clots and decreasing inflammation and blood pressure.
Buckwheat has also been found to improve your blood lipid profile. A poor profile is a well-known risk factor for heart disease.
A study in 850 Chinese adults linked buckwheat intake to lower blood pressure and an improved blood lipid profile, including lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
This effect is believed to be caused by a type of protein that binds cholesterol in your digestive system, preventing its absorption into your bloodstream.
Summary: Buckwheat may moderate blood sugar levels, making it a healthy choice for people with type 2 diabetes. What’s more, it may boost heart health by improving blood pressure and your blood lipid profile.
Potential downsides of buckwheat
Apart from causing allergic reactions in some people, buckwheat does not have any known adverse effects when eaten in moderation.
A buckwheat allergy is more likely to develop in those who consume buckwheat often and in large amounts.
A phenomenon known as allergic cross-reactivity makes this allergy more common in those already allergic to latex or rice.
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Symptoms may include skin rashes, swelling, digestive distress, and — in worst-case scenarios — severe allergic shock.
Summary: Consumption of buckwheat is not associated with many adverse health effects. However, some people may be allergic.
Buckwheat is a pseudocereal, which is a type of grain that doesn’t grow on grasses but is used similarly to other cereals.
It is gluten-free, a good source of fiber, and rich in minerals and various plant compounds, especially rutin.
As a result, buckwheat consumption is linked to several health benefits, including improved blood sugar control and heart health.