Bang for your Buck(wheat)
Let's talk about buckwheat. We love it, but it’s a bit of a sneak. It’s often referred to as a pseudo-grain or pseudo-cereal because it comes in playing like one of your traditional whole grains. It’s called buck ‘wheat’ because it’s used in the same manner that regular wheat is used. But it’s actually part of another family. It is a seed related to the rhubarb and sorrel fruit, and it contains no wheat at all.
These days, buckwheat is mostly known for being a gluten-free substitute. Those of which commonly get referred to as 'cardboard.' Though with its ancient history and impressive nutritional profile, buckwheat deserves a far better wrap than a substitute that tastes like tree bark.
Once upon a time, way back in 60000 BC, buckwheat lived in the spotlight as a staple food. It was the rice of Southeast Asia before any other grains came along. Then it began to parade itself throughout the world. The Polish immigrants brought it to America and introduced it as porridge. France started making sweet buckwheat crepes, then Nepal started making savoury ones. Russia created a varnish with it out of onions, noodles and poultry fat. In Ukraine, it lorded itself as the most common dumpling filling. Tibet, Japan and China still use it to make soba noodles. And in India, they have a 9-day celebration where they fast and consume nothing but buckwheat in the form of roti or cereal — all because of its nutritional value.
Believe it or not, there’s even a thing called ‘The Buckwheat Diet.’ And while we’re not going to go recommending it, the fact it exists says something.
The humble little seed has such a history, because it is versatile, cheap, and packs a hefty nutritional punch. Here’s how it’s good for you:
- It is an excellent source of plant-based protein and contains all essential amino acids. Just one cup provides 23 grams of protein.
- It contains high amounts of iron, helping to increase energy levels and prevent anaemia.
- It is rich in anti-inflammatory agents like vitamin E and magnesium.
- It contains rutin, a nutrient and antioxidant that helps stabilise blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
- It is very low on the glycemic index (especially compared to many other grains), meaning it absorbs slowly into the blood and provides your body with a steady flow of energy.
- It improves bone health and strong immunity with its high profile of zinc, selenium and magnesium. This also helps to maintain good texture of hair and skin.
- It is rich in dietary fibre which keeps food moving smoothly through the digestive tract and keeps you full longer.
- It is low in fat, but the little it does contain is monounsaturated — the kind that is good for the heart.
Like we said, buckwheat is a great replacement for anyone with gluten intolerances or sensitivities. But it’s so much more than that.
It’s easy to like from the first spoonful. On its own — un-ground, not as a garnish or a noodle — it has a full-bodied nutty, earthy flavour. And as we’ve learnt, it can be crafted into a potpourri of main and side dishes or made into sweets.
We like to activate it to get the most goodness from it as possible. When activated and dehydrated, buckwheat is extra crispy, kind of like popping candy. Like this, you can add it to granola, nut mixes, chia pudding, make it into biscuits or just eat it by the spoonful.
So don’t forsake this wonderful non-wheat ancient grain. It’s proven itself worthy and carried itself a mighty long way to get here.