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Buckwheat: It’s so healthy!

by Josephine Andrews
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Although buckwheat has the word “wheat” in its name, it is not. It belongs to the so-called pseudo-cereals and is gluten-free. Read here whether buckwheat is healthy, what nutrients it contains and how best to prepare it.

How healthy is buckwheat?

Botanically, buckwheat is not a grain, but a knotweed plant – just like rhubarb or sorrel. Like quinoa and amaranth, buckwheat is one of the so-called pseudo-cereals because it has similar properties to real grain and can also be used in a similar way.

There are many important nutrients in the buckwheat grains. So many that it is now considered a local superfood – it came to Western Europe from China in the 14th century. Among other things, buckwheat as a food has the following effects on health:

Improves digestion

With a share of between five and eleven percent or 3.7 grams per 100 grams of hulled grain, buckwheat is not an outstanding source of fiber, but it is quite a good one. Above all, the soluble variant of the indigestible plant fibers provides the pseudo-grain, which serves as food for the bacteria in the intestine. As a result, buckwheat stimulates intestinal activity and keeps the intestinal flora healthy.

Keeps blood sugar under control

Buckwheat is a carbohydrate-rich food. It is therefore not suitable for a low-carb diet. But the glycemic index (GI) of buckwheat grain, at 50, is half that of glucose (grape sugar) and is in the middle of the GI range.

The GI indicates how much blood sugar rises after eating different foods. The lower the value, the longer it takes for the body to break down the carbohydrates in the food and get them into the blood.

Avoiding spikes in blood sugar is particularly important for people with type 2 diabetes, as they are sometimes unable to target the rise with medication as effectively as type 1 diabetics. If the blood sugar levels are permanently too high, this damages the blood vessels, among other things.

Studies have shown that the lower the glycemic index of the food they eat, the lower the average blood sugar level over the last two to three months (HbA1c) in diabetics.

So, buckwheat cannot help to treat diabetes. As part of a wholesome diet, however, it can probably help to control blood sugar spikes or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing in the first place.

Buckwheat as a medicinal plant

The positive effect of buckwheat on the veins is medically recognized. But in order to feel an effect, it is not enough to put the pseudo-grain on the menu. Instead, you have to drink buckwheat tea, for example, or take ready-made preparations with the medicinal plant.

There is also evidence that buckwheat positively affects blood pressure due to flavonoids (secondary plant substances). However, the study situation is still sparse.

Read more about buckwheat as a medicinal plant here .

Nutritional values ​​and ingredients at a glance

Shelled buckwheat grain provides around 336 calories (kcal) per 100 grams raw, cooked buckwheat has around 110 calories less energy. That’s because it absorbs zero-calorie water as it cooks.

However, this also affects the other nutrients. The protein content of cooked buckwheat is reduced from 9.1 to 3.2 grams, that of carbohydrates from 71 to 22 grams and the already low fat content from 1.7 to 0.6 grams.

Interesting: Even if buckwheat does not contain more protein than real grain at first glance, it is particularly easy to digest. Because buckwheat protein contains all the essential amino acids. These are the building blocks of proteins and the main components of most cell structures.

Buckwheat also contains the following vitamins and minerals (per 100 grams of peeled grain):

ingredient Crowd function
Calcium 21 mg Among other things, it is involved in blood clotting, the transmission of impulses in nerve cells and bone metabolism
Eisen 3,5 mg For example, jointly responsible for oxygen transport in the blood and oxygen storage in the muscles
Fluor 50 μg important for strong bones and healthy tooth enamel, for example
folic acid 50 μg among other things necessary for growth processes in the human body and the amino acid metabolism
Potassium 392 mg For example, it is involved in the transmission of signals between cells and the regulation of acidity in the body
copper 584 μg For example, it supports iron absorption and is important for cell metabolism
Magnesium 142 mg the body needs, among other things, to transmit electrical impulses in nerve and heart muscle cells and is involved in various metabolic processes
Mangan 1.500 μg is necessary for the development of bones, cartilage and connective tissue and for a functioning energy metabolism
Sodium 2 mg Among other things, the body needs it to regulate its water balance, acid-base balance, and blood pressure.
Niacin 2,9 mg is involved in cell division and muscle regeneration, among other things
pantothenic acid 1.200 μg as an enzyme component, for example, important for carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism
Phosphor 320 mg regulates, for example, the acid-base balance and is a component of teeth and bones
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 0,24 mg involved in many metabolic processes, for example, carbohydrate breakdown
Vitamin B2 ( Riboflavin ) 0,15 mg the body needs to generate energy from proteins, fats and carbohydrates
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxin) 0,58 mg As an elementary component of certain enzymes, it is involved, for example, in the amino acid metabolism, in the production of many messenger substances in the nervous system and in other blood formation
Zink 2,7 mg involved in cell division, immune defence, wound healing and blood sugar regulation, among other things

Is buckwheat gluten-free?

Buckwheat does not contain gluten. This is a gluten protein found in various grains, such as wheat. In people with gluten intolerance, the immune system considers the actually harmless protein to be dangerous and reacts with joint inflammation, skin reactions or gastrointestinal problems such as flatulence and diarrhea.

Gluten-free buckwheat is therefore a suitable alternative to grain products containing gluten, such as bread, muesli or flour. Because gluten binds and keeps dough elastic during baking, baked goods made with buckwheat flour tend to be crumbly.

This can be counteracted by adding other binding ingredients such as eggs, potato starch, locust bean gum or rice flour.

This is to be considered with buckwheat!

If you have buckwheat on your menu, you should consider a few things:

Buckwheat is basic

Due to its mineral content such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, the body metabolises buckwheat in an alkaline manner.

Incorporating enough alkaline foods into your daily diet can support the body’s own buffer systems and reduce the acid load on the kidneys.

However, it has not yet been scientifically proven whether foods with an alkaline effect can prevent certain diseases that are said to promote excessive acidity in the body, such as osteoporosis or gout.

Speaking of gout: Alkaline or not, anyone suffering from the inflammatory joint disease should not consume buckwheat or only in moderation. The reason: buckwheat forms a lot of uric acid with 156 milligrams per 100 grams of grain.

This occurs when the body breaks down purine – the more the more purine you consume. The uric acid concentration increases, uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints and inflammation occurs.

Does buckwheat cause allergies?

The pseudo-grain contains few proteins that could potentially trigger an allergy. But a little doesn’t mean none – it can happen that sensitive people have an allergic reaction to buckwheat. This manifests itself, among other things, in swelling in the mouth or skin rashes.

People with histamine intolerance, on the other hand, may benefit from buckwheat. Especially in germinated form, it contains the secondary plant pigment rutin – and this is said to have a histamine-inhibiting effect, among other things. To be on the safe side, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist before consuming.

Is buckwheat okay for babies, pregnant and breastfeeding women?

There are only a few studies dealing with this topic. To be on the safe side, expectant and breastfeeding mothers should limit their intake of buckwheat and/or speak to their doctor beforehand – even though whole grains are generally considered a healthy dietary component.

Babies and small children can eat buckwheat porridge, and there are also various supplementary food products with the pseudo-grain that can be bought. However, you should only feed buckwheat in moderation and make sure that it is peeled buckwheat or wash it well.

The peel contains the red dye fagopyrin, which in turn can cause skin irritation and headaches. In addition, it should be proven to be buckwheat that does not contain any harmful ingredients such as saponins and tannins.

The German Society for Nutrition and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment nevertheless point out that no reliable statement can be made as to whether pseudocereals are also suitable for infants and small children.

Antinutrients in buckwheat

Another disadvantage of buckwheat: it contains phytic acid. In nature, this is there to protect the plant from predators. However, too much of the human body acts as a so-called antinutrient.

This means that the phytic acid binds minerals such as zinc, iron or magnesium in the gastrointestinal tract, which the body lacks. However, soaking the buckwheat grains overnight activates a specific enzyme that breaks down the phytic acid.

Does buckwheat help you lose weight?

Regarding caloric content, buckwheat is no more conducive to weight loss than wheat or other real grains. However, its dietary fibers and the easily digestible protein content ensure that buckwheat fills you up faster and stays full longer.

In addition, the pseudo-grain increases and lowers the blood sugar level only slowly, which prevents food cravings. So, buckwheat can help you lose weight by reducing the total amount of calories you take in.

But he doesn’t work miracles. It is still true that you will only lose weight if your calorie expenditure is higher than your calorie intake.

Preparation and storage of buckwheat

Buckwheat intended for human consumption is hulled. There are various buckwheat products on the market, including flour, groats, flakes or grains. In principle, you can also eat peeled buckwheat raw.

It is best to let it germinate in water, which reduces the content of potentially harmful phytic acid, increases the content of valuable ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids and ensures that the body can better absorb some of the minerals it contains.

Preparation of buckwheat

You can use the raw or sprouted kernels as a topping on salad , muesli or yoghurt or use them to refine soups. You can blend them into a smoothie or blend them with other ingredients into a pesto.

Roasted in the pan or in the oven, buckwheat tastes good in salads or in muesli – or you can make your own muesli out of buckwheat groats or buckwheat flakes.

Boiled in water, the buckwheat grains become a nutty-tasting accompaniment and basis for vegetable and meat dishes. Patties can also be made from buckwheat – and Japanese soba noodles are also made from buckwheat.

Buckwheat flour is suitable for baking bread and cakes or as an ingredient in gluten-free pancakes.

Store buckwheat properly

In sealed packaging, at temperatures below 25 degrees Celsius and stored in a dry place, unground buckwheat can be kept for more than a year. Once opened, you should consume the buckwheat within a few months and check regularly that it is still intact.

A musty smell, a whitish color of the grains, a bitter taste or lumps indicate that the buckwheat has gone bad in the case of groats. For commercially purchased packaging, always follow the storage recommendations and best-before date that the manufacturer states on the packaging.

Cooked buckwheat will keep in the fridge for up to three days, and much longer in the freezer. Keep it in a sealable container as it tends to absorb odors and don’t leave it at room temperature for more than four hours.

The longer it is open, the higher the risk that harmful microorganisms will form on the buckwheat.

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