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Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), also known as common buckwheat, Japanese buckwheat, and silver hull buckwheat, 'kuttu' in hindi, is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds (also called groats) and as a cover crop to enrich soil quality. The name "buckwheat" originates from its resemblance to the seeds of the beech tree that also has triangle-shaped seeds. Buckwheat seeds are derived from the fruit of a plant that is related to Rhubarb or sorrel. The hulling process removes the hard outer husk of the fruit to obtain the grain-like seed inside. It is also called buck "wheat" because it is pretty much used in the same manner that traditional wheat is used. From an Ayurvedic perspective, Buckwheat is astringent, pungent, sweet, body warming and is used as “food medicine”. The seed is filled with fiber, antioxidants like Rutin and Vitexin, essential amino acids (like lysine) and aromatic compounds that can help with a number of disorders. It is highly rich in protein and can even be used as a substitute for meat, making it a great source of protein for vegetarians.
Buckwheat farming originated from Central and Southeast Asia dating back thousands of years when it was a staple crop, before rice and other cereal grains began to replace it. Over time, the cultivation of Buckwheat migrated west and eventually became a staple in many East European dishes. Today buckwheat is found in many cuisines like Japanese (soba noodles), Korean (naengmyeon), English (kasha) and French (the crepes of Brittany).
(per 100 grams)
Buckwheat is fairly diverse and can be used to bake bread and biscuits. The unground form of this seed, known as groats, is a great substitute for rice and can be used to create wholesome breakfast porridge. In India, buckwheat flour or Kuttu ka atta is used to prepare puri and pakoras.
Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, as it is not a grass and is therefore gluten-free. For the same reason, it is called a pseudo-cereal.
Health benefits include -
Prevents Cancer: Dietary fibre that is gained from buckwheat fruit has powerful anti-cancer properties. Buckwheat contains Lignan (a plant compound known for its anti-oxidizing properties), that have been clinically found to prevent hormone-based cancers, such as breast cancer.
Fights Heart Disease: One of the most important flavonoids present in buckwheat is Rutin that lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases good cholesterol (HDL) in our body. This inhibits platelets from clotting, thereby preventing stroke, heart attacks, and atherosclerosis
Manages Diabetes: Buckwheat contains fibres that lower the blood sugar level in the body, helping with diabetes management. It contains chiro-inositol, which essentially behaves like insulin especially benefiting patients with Type 1 diabetes.
Boosts the Immune System: Buckwheat contains flavonoids, tocopherols, selenium, and phenolic acid, all of which have been found to reduce contamination of microbial infections.
Source of Protein: A huge advantage of consuming buckwheat is that it has a lot of high-quality protein in it. As a result, it is a great source for all eight essential amino acids that lead to a host of benefits such as enhancing memory function, boosting overall energy and losing weight.
Reduces the risk of gallstones: Gallstones are caused by the excess acidic bile fluid in the body. The fibre content in buckwheat helps with smooth digestion and makes the body require less bile secretion to ingest the food, thereby preventing gallstones.
Prevents asthma: Buckwheat is rich in anti-inflammatory agents like vitamin E and magnesium that helps prevent asthma.
Improves Bone Health: Buckwheat is rich in zinc and selenium which slows down bone degradation.
Prevents Anaemia: Buckwheat has a very high amount of iron in it which can help prevent anemia.
Improves digestion: Buckwheat is filled with fiber that assists bowel movements and also stimulates contraction and release of the muscles responsible for the digestion of the food.
Buckwheat Hull Pillows to treat neck and spine pain: Buckwheat hulls are used as filling for a variety of household goods, including pillows and zafu cushions. The hulls are durable and do not conduct or reflect heat as much as the synthetic filling, hence works wonder on pressure points and can also be used to perform yoga on.
Side effects: Buckwheat is a known allergen and symptoms may include skin rashes, swelling, digestive distress and in worst case scenarios, a severe allergic shock. It’s always better to consult with your doctor before including it in your daily diet.
When purchasing buckwheat groats, it is helpful to remember that they should ideally be used within a shorter period of time since the oil-rich seeds can become rancid if stored for extended periods. However, if stored in a cool dry place, groats may last for a long time in fine condition.
By Sayani Chatterjee
Guest Author and M.Sc, Biotechnology
Buckwheat Health Benefits & Facts. Everything You Wanted To Know About Buckwheat, Living Safe | Benefits Of Buckwheat And Its Side Effects, Buckwheat 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits, Lybrate