What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat is a seed not a grain and it is not related to wheat in any way. As a part of the Polygonaceae family, its closest cousin happens to be rhubarb.
Buckwheat has a long history of use in SouthEast Asia, Europe and the Middle East. From Russia to Israel, ‘Kasha’ or roasted Buckwheat groats, is a much loved staple food. In the 1800’s Buckwheat was introduced to the US agricultural scene. While it lost popularity for a time as wheat, corn and soy became our major staple crops, it is now experiencing a huge resurgence with the boom of the gluten-free movement. Buckwheat is currently grown in several states throughout the northern mid-west like Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and North Dakota as well as Oregon and Washington.
From an agricultural perspective, Buckwheat makes for an excellent cover crop that grows quickly (only 4-5 weeks from seed to flower) and provides essential nutrients, particularly phosphorous, to overworked, depleted soil. In addition to tolerating highly acidic environments, Buckwheat also attracts beneficial insects and helps to suppress noxious weeds and erosion. Even more, the Buckwheat plant is essentially free of all major pest insects and disease problems.
[Hector Valenzuela and Jody Smith, “Buckwheat” from the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii, Manoa; https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/234/78912/buckwheat.pdf]
- Rich in monounsaturated fats
- High in fiber
- Good source of vegetarian protein
- High in iron and potassium
Perhaps the most fascinating health benefits come from Buckwheat’s flavonoid content. In particular, Rutin. Flavonoids are what give plants their bright color (think red or orange bell pepper, purple cabbage, dark green leafy vegetables, or in the case of buckwheat groats – their dark brown color). These phytonutrients act as antioxidants in the body, fighting off free radicals and offering protection against oxidative stress. Flavonoids are also extremely helpful for reducing inflammation and supporting cellular activity.
Studies are beginning to show the vast potential for this powerful phytonutrient in almost all areas of the body, including nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and gastrointestinal systems. Researchers have also found Rutin to possess organ protective benefits, including the skin. As the largest organ in your body, its certainly one you will want to protect! Cosmetic companies have already started incorporating Rutin into sunscreen blends to help amplify the UVB protection and face creams and body lotions will often contain Rutin as an ingredient as it naturally helps to improve skin elasticity.
[A. N. Panche, A. D. Diwan and S. R. Chandra, “Flavonoids; an overview” from Journal of Nutritional Science 2016 : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25272572/] [Aditya Ganeshpurkar and Ajay K. Saluja, “Pharmacological Benefits of Rutin” from Saudi Pharmacological Journal 2017 :https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5355559/]
Want to incorporate more Buckwheat into your diet? Try some of the recipes below.
Apple Cinnamon Buckwheat Porridge
Buckwheat Banana Bread
Kale Salad with Buckwheat Groats and Cranberries
Buckwheat Soba Vegetable Stir Fry