BUCKWHEAT: Nutrition Facts of the Gluten Free Superfood
When you hear the word “buckwheat,” what do you immediately think of? If you’re of a particular age, you might be reminded of a character on the TV show “The Little Rascals,” or you may think it’s just an odd nickname someone might give their child! Buckwheat is actually a plant that has grain-like seeds that are milled to create the flour, used for breads and muffins. Raw buckwheat seed is also used in cooking, similar to quinoa or rice.
It’s unfortunate that this little seed isn’t found in everyone’s diet, as it might rightly be called a “super food.” Buckwheat in all its forms is packed with nutritious elements that are needed for everyone’s good health, and it’s very versatile and easy to use when cooking. Let’s take a closer look at buckwheat, why it’s so good for you, and how you can use it more often in your diet.
What is buckwheat?
Many people think that it is a cereal grain since it may resemble rolled oats, whole wheat, or rice, as mentioned above. In truth, buckwheat groats are a fruit seed that may more closely resemble rhubarb. The flowers themselves are very sweet, and produce a very strong fragrance that attracts bees, who then make a dark and flavorful honey from the flower. Buckwheat groats may then also have a sweeter flavor than other grains that are similar in texture. Because of the texture of the seeds, you may find them sold raw at your favorite supermarket or health food store, or they may be milled and then used to make pasta and even buckwheat cereal.
What are the health advantages of using buckwheat?
Buckwheat groats are packed with essential trace minerals that are often missing from your diet. One cup of them has about 20% of your daily recommended iron, which makes it a good choice for vegans and vegetarians who may suffer an iron deficiency after cutting meat from their diet. This same serving also provides 20% of your recommended dose of B12, a vitamin needed for energy and for controlling your blood glucose levels. Vitamin B12 also supports strong and healthy blood circulation, so it’s good for those who are anemic or who have naturally low blood pressure.
Buckwheat is also a good source of magnesium. This trace element is also linked to healthy blood production and circulation, and is thought to help protect you from an increased risk of high blood pressure. A cup of buckwheat groats packs some 98% of your daily recommended dose of this element! Along with these elements, you’re also getting close to 70% of your recommended daily fiber intake with a cup of these seeds. Healthy fiber not only fills you up but it also breaks down other foods in your system so your body can better absorb their vitamins and minerals. Note, too, that buckwheat in its raw form is gluten-free. For those who have celiac disease or who are simply looking to cut gluten from your diet, you can rest easy when you shop for buckwheat groats.
If you need more foods that keep your blood and circulatory system healthy, makes you feel full, and keeps you healthy overall, buckwheat hulls and seed and other parts of this plant may be just what you’re looking for!
How do you shop for and store buckwheat?
If you’ve never purchased buckwheat flour or seeds before, be sure to get an airtight container for home storage. The flour should also be stored in the refrigerator to keep it fresh, and especially if you live in a warm and humid climate. It may become sticky and unusable if exposed to moisture, more so than white or whole wheat flour, so don’t assume you can store it in a metal can on your counter.
When shopping for buckwheat seeds or groats in bulk, be sure you choose a store that has them stored in airtight containers. It’s also good to find a store that is busy and has good product turnover so you know the buckwheat you buy will be fresh. If the seeds seem a bit sticky, this can mean they’ve been exposed to moisture and aren’t of the best quality.
If you’re not one to cook from scratch with seeds or flour, look for buckwheat pasta. You can simply cook this according to the package directions, and this makes for a healthier dish than pasta made from white or even whole wheat flour. There are also many types of buckwheat cereal on the market that can be a good alternative to your standard raisin bran and puffed rice!
When baking bread or muffins with buckwheat flour, because the flavor and texture is so strong, you might cut it or combine it in a 50-50 ratio with white or whole wheat flour. If you want something sweet but healthy for brunch, substitute 1/3 of your pancake batter for buckwheat flour and use just a touch of honey rather than syrup after cooking.
You can also find buckwheat recipes that include cooking just the seeds, the way you would cook rice. Be sure you rinse the seeds thoroughly before using them and remove any root or other debris, and especially if you’ve purchased them at a bulk food store. Boiling the seeds also makes for a great substitute for oatmeal in the morning when you need a hot, high-fiber dish to get you going before you head out the door. You can also add a scoop of buckwheat groats to soups or stews to bulk them up and make them extra filling. For a healthy stir-fry with chicken or scallions, stir in some groats and they’ll give your dish a bit of added flavor and just a touch of sweetness.
With all this information at your fingertips, are you ready to try buckwheat? This little seed can give you the fiber your body is missing and keep your heart and blood circulation healthy, and also sweeten the flavor of just about anything you cook. With everything it has to offer, no wonder it can rightly be called a “super food” and one that everyone should be eating!