Would it surprise you to learn that buckwheat is not actually a cereal grain, but a fruit seed? The buckwheat plant has a flower and seeds, and the buckwheat groats—small, somewhat round in shape, and covered by a hard shell—are those grain-like seeds. In the United States there are two buckwheat varieties, the common and the Tartary types, the colors of which can range from a tan color to brown. Buckwheat in the United States is also sold in a roasted buckwheat form, which has a nutty flavor and is called kasha. Unhulled can also be ground to a dark and highly nutritious flour. Flour made from hulled buckwheat is lighter in color and has less nutrient density.
Buckwheat is native to Central Asia and was originally cultivated in China and other surrounding countries starting around the thirteenth century. From there, it was taken to Europe by explorers and was later brought to the United States by the Dutch explorers in the 1600s. Today the main commercial producers of buckwheat include Canada, the United States, and France. (France is actually famous for their buckwheat crepes!) Buckwheat is naturally gluten free and is therefore a great “grain” for those who are sensitive to gluten or to grains.
There are two flavonoids found in buckwheat that are very significant in promoting health, rutin and quercetin. These flavonoids are two of the main reasons for buckwheat's great health benefit. These flavonoids are not only powerful antioxidants, but they also help to lengthen and strengthen the function of vitamin C, an important vitamin for immunity and a strong antioxidant itself. Furthermore, these flavonoids help prevent the development of cancer by making it hard for hormones that promote cancer to attach to healthy cells, which means they can literally stop cancer before it starts! But if, or when, substances that can cause cancer get into healthy cells, these two flavonoids help reduce damage to the DNA, which is responsible for normal cell division.Rutin and quercitin also help make buckwheat a great “heart healthy” food. These flavonoid compounds help to maintain a healthy blood flow by keeping blood platelets from clotting too much. Furthermore, the strong antioxidant activity they provide helps protect the bad and harmful LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized by free radicals. Studies done in China showed that regularly eating buckwheat was associated with lower total cholesterol levels, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and a high ratio of the healthy HDL cholesterol to total cholesterol. And when it comes to blood pressure, rutin helps normalize blood vessels, checks for too much fluid accumulation in the body, and aids in keeping the fluid retention at a healthy level, an important part in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Therefore, buckwheat consumption can help to lower risk of developing heart disease, currently the number one cause of death in America.
Research has also indicated that when these two flavonoids are combined with vitamin E, the health benefits are even greater. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and strong antioxidant that helps fight the dangerous free radicals. Because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, is helps protect the fatty portions of the cells. Flavonoids are water-soluble, so they help to protect the watery parts of the cells. Thus, when these flavonoids and vitamin E are combined, the entire cell is able to receive protection from free radical damage.
Even though buckwheat does not have bran or germ, is still is a very good source of fiber. The two carbohydrates in buckwheat, amylose and amylopectin, are digested slower than other types of carbohydrates, which causes blood sugar levels to rise more steadily, so that spikes do not occur. This is important for everyone, but is especially so for those with diabetes. Keeping blood sugar levels steady and under control helps to reduce or prevent many of the complications that are associated with diabetes, including kidney damage. High fiber also helps people stay fuller for longer, which can help with weight loss efforts.
Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, fiber, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, and protein. The protein in buckwheat is very high quality because it is a complete protein, one that naturally contains all of the essential amino acids. These essential amino acids are required by the body, but the body is not able to make these ones on its own, and therefore must rely on the food we eat. Buckwheat naturally contains all these essential amino acids, which makes it a great complimentary food to other grains. This makes buckwheat a great way for vegetarians and those trying to cut back on meat to get adequate protein.
When buying buckwheat, particularly in bulk, it is important to make sure there is no moisture in the food and that bins are completely covered. Buckwheat should be kept in an airtight container and stored in a dry, cool place. When using buckwheat flour, it is ideal to keep it in the fridge, especially during times of warmer weather. Buckwheat flour should remain fresh for several months, especially when stored in the fridge, while buckwheat groats should remain fresh for approximately a year.
Raw Superfood Cacao Granola
Makes about 8 cups
- 2 cups raw buckwheat
- 1 1/2 cups dried large coconut flakes
- 2 cups raw walnuts, soaked for 6 hours and drained
- 1/2 cup raw coconut nectar, agave nectar or raw honey (or more if you prefer sweeter)
- 1/4 cup raw almond butter
- 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup filtered water
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 6 Tbsp filtered water
- 1 cup cacao nibs
- 1 cup goji berries
- 1 cup dried blueberries
- 1 cup dried cherries
Get the full recipe at FragrantVanillaCake.blogspot.com