Now as most of you know I am not a big fan of wheat. I prefer sprouted grain versions to decrease anti-nutrients and allow for much better vitamin and mineral absorption. Unfortunately, a great food seems to have been lumped into the wheat category, when in reality it stands far apart, especially since it is a seed and is related to rhubarb, not too wheat. Today I am taking about buckwheat, also sometimes known as kasha. Like quinoa, buckwheat is not a grain but a seed. Though it is treated like a grain for culinary purposes, it’s health benefits far exceed that of ordinary grains.
Buckwheat used to be widely grown in the Northeast as a popular and healthy crop in the 18th and 19th centuries. Due to the rise of nitrogen fertilizers, it was replaced by wheat and corn, which thrive in that nitrogen rich environment, and where buckwheat falters. Again showing how far our agriculture has fallen (for more info on why that is a terrible trade-off, check out The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I blogged about here).
Also like quinoa, buckwheat is high in fiber, has a very low impact on blood sugar, and is a complete protein. Most cereal grains like wheat, rice, millet and corn are lacking in a few essential amino acids. Buckwheat is also beneficial in the fact that again unlike wheat and other cereal grasses, it contains no gluten, making it safe to consume for people with gluten sensitivities.
Buckwheat has been studied quite extensively for it’s ability to lower cholesterol. Now I still don’t believe in the lipid hypothesis of cholesterol causing heart disease, but I do believe that oxidized cholesterol is a major problem, so anything that can help lower that is awesome. The proteins in buckwheat also help to stabilize blood sugars, very important for people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome. The benefits don’t stop there either. It’s proteins also reduce the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme, reducing blood pressure and hypertension. Pretty buckwheat is just full of kickassery.
Buckwheat is also high in zinc, copper, manganese, iron and selenium. It is also high in rutin, an antioxidant that supports the circulatory system by strengthening capillary walls, reduces recurrent bleeding in people with high blood pressure and weakened blood vessels and can increase microcirculation in people with chronic venous insufficiency.
An interesting aside, buckwheat is the common source of the malt in gluten free beer. Just thought I would throw that out there. Now go enjoy some buckwheat pancakes, filled with some delicious Maine blueberries.
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