Don't let the name fool you. Buckwheat is anything but wheat. It is much more nutritious than wheat and, in spite of the name, is completely gluten-free.
Buckwheat has been grown in America since colonial days. Buckwheat was once very common on farms in the northeastern and northcentral United States. Production of buckwheat reached a peak in 1860s at which time the grain was a common livestock-feed and was in demand for making flour. Buckwheat enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the mid 1970's that was brought on by the demand for commercially prepared breakfast cereal and by exports to Japan for making buckwheat noodles. This boom was due to the nutritional excellence of buckwheat.(1)
Buckwheat Dietary Uses
Buckwheat flour has a strong, distinctive flavor and is often mixed with other flours to lend its distinctive taste to many baked goods. Buckwheat comes in a few different forms for dietary consumption:
Buckwheat groats are the hulled grains of buckwheat; they are three-sided in shape and resemble grains of wheat, oats, or rye. Kasha is a traditional porridge made from buckwheat groats.
Buckwheat groats are used whole in hot cereals and soups. The triangular seeds from buckwheat can be used to make flour after being removed from the husk.
Buckwheat Flour is commonly used to make buckwheat pancakes, hot cereals, and soups.(1)
Health Benefits of Buckwheat
The protein found in buckwheat contains the eight essential amino acids.
Buckwheat is rich in B vitamins as well as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese.
Buckwheat is a good oil source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid, which is one of the two essential fatty acids we must have to be healthy.
Buckwheat is high in fiber. A single cup of cooked buckwheat groats contains over 4 grams of dietary fiber.
Buckwheat contains a rich supply of flavonoids.
Buckwheat lowers glucose levels and is beneficial for managing diabetes.
Buckwheat has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
Buckwheat is a fruit seed and is a gluten-free alternative to grains.(1)
Ways Buckwheat Trumps Regular Wheat
A 1994 study on the characteristics of buckwheat flour compared to wheat flour concluded: Buckwheat does not contain gluten. Buckwheat flour contains the essential amino acids methionine and cystine followed by threonine. Essential means they must be in the food we eat. Buckwheat flour contains a higher content of lysine amino acids than wheat flour. Buckwheat flour is superior to wheat flour regarding iron, copper, and magnesium minerals. Buckwheat has negligible tannin content.(2)
More Ways Buckwheat Trumps Regular Wheat!
Buckwheat has...more protein, almost 4 times the fiber, more calcium, about twice the iron, 10 times the magnesium, 3 times the phosphorous, 4 times the potassium, half the sodium, 3 times the zinc, more copper, more manganese, more riboflavin, more niacin, more pantothenic acid, more vitamin B6, more mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids...(3)
As you can see, buckwheat is good for you. It also makes a great oatmeal type cereal and yummy pancakes. So, if you are looking for a good food to add to your gluten-free diet, consider gluten-free buckwheat.
Remember, always buy "gluten-free" to avoid flour that has been contaminated in transport, processing or packaging. When in doubt, call the manufacturer.
Find out more about buckwheat and other popular non-gluten flours in "Recognizing Celiac Disease." The handy chart on page 6 compares all the nutrient information in rice, brown rice, corn, Quinoa, amaranth, soy, peanut, sorghum, corn and chick pea flour to wheat flour. Knowledge is the power to best manage your gluten-free lifestyle.
For recipes using buckwheat, visit Glutenfreeworks.com Recipes.
(1) Buckwheathealth.com (2) "Chemical,nutritional and technological characteristics of buckwheat and non-prolamine buckwheat flours in comparison of wheat flour" by ML de Francischi , JM Salgado and RF Leitao. (3) "Recognizing Celiac Disease," page 6, chart 1.2.