Buckwheat, Fagopyrum Esculentum, is an extremely healthy and nutritious plant. It is almost always classified as a cereal, because of the grain which is rich in nutrients and which is used in the diet, but, botanically speaking, it is a herbaceous vegetable.
What is Buckwheat and Why it’s Important to Use It in the Diet
It is an easily digestible food, which is ideal for everyone who has problems with digestion, gluten intolerance, or diabetes. It is especially recommended in the vegetarian diet because it contains higher levels of protein than other cereals. Buckwheat occupies a high place on the list of the healthiest foods, and it’s also very useful in diets, where it has shown remarkable effects and helped many to lose excess weight.
A Brief History
Buckwheat is a mountain plant, which likes a slightly colder climate, but does not tolerate frequent rains. It thrives even where people can’t grow wheat. Traditionally, it can most often be found in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Japanese cuisine.
In Russia, it is used both as food and as a medicine to strengthen the body. Buckwheat has been the number one food here since the seventh century when it was imported from Greece. It is also called the food of pupils and students because it strengthens memory and encourages concentration. Since buckwheat attracts bees with its flowers, in some countries it is grown because of the honey, which is of very high quality.
Where Does Buckwheat Come From?
Buckwheat Fagopyrum Esculentum is named after the Greek word Fagus, meaning beech, and pyros meaning wheat. Its homeland is Central Asia, where it was used since 6,000 BC and from there it spread to Tibet, Japan, and Europe. Today it’s mostly grown in Russia, Ukraine, China, Japan, India, and Poland. It arrived in Europe in the 15th century, and to the eastern parts (Russia, Ukraine, Poland) it arrived from Greece.
When did Buckwheat Start to be Grown?
Buckwheat is a very old field crop. Wild buckwheat originates from China, from where it has spread to the west. The area around Lake Baikal is the first area where buckwheat was regularly grown. In India and Nepal, it was started to be grown about 4,000 years ago. In the western part of the Himalayan Mountains, the wild ancestors of today’s buckwheat are still preserved. Buckwheat has always been used in the diet in Asia, most often for making dumplings. In Europe, buckwheat meals are prepared by first frying the grains, then cooking them in water and eating them as porridge or side dish.
What Does Buckwheat Look Like?
Buckwheat is an annual herbaceous plant, with a stem that reaches a height of 60 to 150 cm. The stem is richly branched and hollow, and it develops flowers that are arranged in clusters. Buckwheat grows quickly, and it takes about three months to ripen. At the same time, it prevents weeds from developing due to its fast growth. It is extremely resistant to all conditions, diseases, and pests.
Growing buckwheat can be a very lucrative business because it doesn’t require large investments. It grows even on infertile soil, doesn’t require fertilization, and suppresses weeds on its own. Buckwheat is an ecologically clean plant because it’s grown without pesticides and nitrates. They are not used because they do not affect the amount of yield. Also, this plant is not subject to genetic modification.
Conditions for Growing Buckwheat
The minimum temperature required for sowing ranges from 4-9 °C. The optimum temperature for germination is around 17 °C, and for flowering 17-19 °C. Plants can’t survive if the temperature drops below -1 °C.
Buckwheat leaves are heart-shaped. Green leaves and buckwheat flowers are a great source of rutin. Fresh buckwheat leaves can be placed directly on the wound or cut because they have a pronounced bactericidal effect. Tea for the treatment of arteriosclerosis can be prepared from dried buckwheat leaves. This tea is prepared by pouring two dl of boiled water onto two teaspoons of dried buckwheat leaves, cover it, leave it to sit for 15 minutes, then strain it. Drink 2-3 cups a day for 4-8 weeks.
Up to 2,000 tiny flowers gathered on flower twigs, can develop on a buckwheat stem. They can be white, pink or red, and are extremely rich in nectar and pollen. Flowering time is up to 30 days, and due to such a long flowering period, bees can collect and produce a large amount of honey. Under favorable conditions, 80-100 kg of honey from 1 hectare can be obtained. Buckwheat flower is good as a remedy for coughs and mucus in the upper respiratory tract. For this purpose, tea is prepared from dried buckwheat flowers.
Buckwheat seeds have a very specific triangular shape. They consist of two parts: the inner, which is used in nutrition, and the outer shell, which has also found its application and serves as a filling for pillows. Buckwheat grains can be found in stores raw or fried. Raw buckwheat is greenish, and it is much more healing. Also, they differ in taste — baked has a nutty flavor. The seeds should be stored in an airtight container, in a dry and cool place, and they can also be ground to make flour.
Peeled grain contains about 80% starch, 10-15% protein, 1-2% fiber, 2-3% fat and 1-2% minerals.
Due to a large amount of folic acid, iron, and magnesium, green buckwheat improves the work of the cardiovascular system, prevents anemia, thrombosis, and arteriosclerosis. Also, buckwheat acts as an antioxidant.
Buckwheat grains are extremely rich in a plant flavonoid called quercetin. It slows tumor growth and is therefore used for prevention and treatment. Russian doctor Wolf Laskin has devised a special buckwheat diet that helps patients cope with the disease.
Who Can Greatly Benefit From Buckwheat?
Buckwheat is easily digested and is therefore especially recommended to:
- all who have problems with digestion,
- persons who are gluten-intolerant
- vegans and vegetarians
- people on a diet
Buckwheat – Nutritional Value
Buckwheat contains a lot of nutrients. It is an excellent source of fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Contains magnesium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin.
Nutritional Value of 100 grams of Buckwheat in the Raw State:
- energy 343kcal
- protein 13.3 g
- carbohydrates 71.5g
- dietary fiber 10g
- fat 3.4g
- saturated fat 0.74 g
- omega 3 fatty acids 0.08g
- omega 6 fatty acids 0.96g
Buckwheat does not contain gluten, and that is why it is great for everyone sensitive to gluten.
It is rich in the essential amino acid lysine, which is mostly not present in cereals and is important for bone growth. Buckwheat also contains other amino acids important for human health, such as valine, lysine, and methionine. Also, it is rich in malic and citric acid, and it contains organic acids that improve digestion.
Buckwheat contains the following minerals:
- potassium 218 mg
- phosphorus 254mg
- iron 3.2mg
- then sodium, selenium 8.3 mcg, fluorine, iodine, zinc, and bromine.
Buckwheat has almost all B vitamins:
- B1 (thiamine) 0.101mg
- B2 (riboflavin) 0.425 mg
- niacin 7.020 mg
- B5 (pantothenic acid) 1.233 mg
- B6 (pyridoxine) 0.210mg
- B9 (folate) 30 mcg
Rutin is extracted from the leafy tops of flowering buckwheat, which is present in flowers in up to 4%. It is used to treat blood vessel diseases.
100 g of buckwheat contains about 8 mg of zinc, which is extremely important for a strong immune system, and most adults do not take it in sufficient quantities.
Antioxidants from buckwheat are resistant to the heat of cooking and that is why all the ingredients needed by our body are preserved.
Buckwheat and Proteins
Buckwheat has a lot of protein in its composition and therefore is an excellent substitute for meat, milk, and eggs. Buckwheat proteins are of better quality than cereal proteins. It is most loved by professional athletes, because it gives strength to the body, increases endurance, and improves muscle tone.
Buckwheat As a Medicine and It’s Influence on Health
There are numerous health benefits that buckwheat has on our bodies. By consuming it regularly, we can significantly improve our health. Here’s how buckwheat affects our health:
- Strengthens the body
- Rejuvenates blood vessels
- eliminates fatigue
- increases circulation in the arms and legs
- increases urine output
- increases concentration and memory
- lowers blood pressure
- treats arteriosclerosis
- helps in obstipation
- helps with depression
- has anti-cancer properties
- suitable for a vegetarian diet
Buckwheat Helps with Hypertension
Green buckwheat grains are used as a natural remedy for hypertension. It is recommended to pour 100 ml of cold water over 1 tablespoon of ground green buckwheat, and then cook for 10 minutes. Take 50 ml of the concoction twice a day.
Unpeeled buckwheat bean tea is used against insomnia and nervous tension.
Buckwheat Helps with Varicose Veins Problems
Buckwheat tea can help with varicose veins. Buckwheat contains ingredients that improve circulation and strengthen blood vessels, which reduces the appearance of blood clots. Buckwheat is recommended for chronic venous insufficiency (due to the richness of routines). This has been confirmed by two recent clinical studies.
Preparation of tea – add 2 dl of boiling water to 2 tablespoons of dried buckwheat leaves and leave it covered for 15 minutes. Drink tea 3 times a day for 1-2 months.
Buckwheat and Healthy Heart
Buckwheat is good for the heart for the following reasons.
A diet rich in whole grains reduces the risk of heart disease. Buckwheat lowers blood pressure, lowers bad and increases good cholesterol, reduces the risk of diabetes, stroke, and obesity. Rutin in buckwheat regulates blood pressure.
Buckwheat and Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is becoming more common today because people consume great amounts of pastries full of gluten, a protein found in cereals (mostly wheat, rye, and barley). Buckwheat doesn’t contain gluten, which most other grains do. Gluten is the cause of celiac disease, an allergic disease whose symptoms are bloating, fatigue, malaise, and abdominal pain.
Buckwheat flour repairs the intestinal microflora and accelerates the renewal of the small intestinal mucosa. That is why buckwheat is an ideal food for everyone who is intolerant to gluten.
Buckwheat for Digestion and Weight Loss
Due to the richness of buckwheat fiber, this plant improves digestion.
Buckwheat meals provide a long-lasting feeling of satiety and thus contribute to weight loss.
Buckwheat and Diabetes
Diabetics are recommended to consume whole grains of cooked cereals (buckwheat, millet, oats, barley) every day. Buckwheat is useful in the fight against diabetes. Studies show that buckwheat lowers blood sugar by up to 19% because it contains D-chiro inositol, a soluble carbohydrate that lowers blood sugar. It’s a compound that is found very rarely in other foods and is found in large quantities in buckwheat.
Numerous studies show that buckwheat can keep glucose levels within normal limits better than other carbohydrates.
Buckwheat in Folk Medicine
Folk medicine recommends buckwheat as cough medicine. It’s recommended for people suffering from anemia, glaucoma, rheumatism, obesity. Buckwheat has a great effect on the entire nervous system. It can be taken against heartburn – a pinch of ground buckwheat grains is taken 3 times a day after meals.
Buckwheat is good for people who go to the gym regularly because it is a source of energy and a means of muscle recovery.
Buckwheat for Women’s Health and Beauty
In women, regular consumption of buckwheat has a beneficial effect on the condition of the skin – it becomes smooth, without hyperpigmentation and flaccidity. Also, it relieves eczema and dermatitis (buckwheat porridge is used as a face mask). Folic acid in buckwheat improves the functioning of the female reproductive system.
How to Use Buckwheat?
Buckwheat can be used in the daily diet in various forms. It is most often consumed in the following ways:
- Buckwheat seeds – whole grains are cooked and eaten as porridge.
- Flour – used to prepare bread and pastries, most often mixed with other types of flour.
- Sprouted grains – used as an addition to salads and porridges.
Buckwheat flour is the most common way to use this plant in your daily diet. Bread, pastries, pasta, and pancakes are made from buckwheat flour. Buckwheat pasta is recognizable by its dark color – the darker it is, the higher the share of buckwheat in it.
Due to the specific taste, it is best to introduce it into the diet gradually, so that you get used to it.
Buckwheat flour can be used to make gluten-free bread. Buckwheat flour is one of the most effective means of removing all toxins from the digestive system, which are the cause of many diseases. Consuming 100 g of buckwheat flour provides 40% of an adult’s need for vitamin B1. Buckwheat flour is mostly mixed with corn, wheat, or rice.
You need 1 bag of yeast, 0.5 liters of lukewarm water, 500 g of buckwheat flour, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, 3 teaspoons of olive oil.
Add yeast, sugar, oil, and salt to the flour. Gradually add water and knead the dough. Leave it to rise for about 30-40 minutes. Bake for about 45 minutes at 200° C.
Buckwheat bread is especially recommended for athletes because it is easily digestible and provides the necessary energy. This bread is also good for people on a diet because it doesn’t contribute to gaining weight – one slice contains only 72 calories.
Buckwheat Bread Recipe
To make this bread you need:
a cup of buckwheat flour, a cup of grounded walnuts, 2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds, a cup of various seeds for taste (sunflower, flax, sesame), 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 egg, a little salt and two cups of water. Mix all the ingredients, knead the dough, cover it with a cloth and let it stand for 1 hour. Bake at 180°C for about 75 minutes.
This porridge is very easy and quick to prepare. All you need is buckwheat flour and toppings as desired. Preparation: Bring water to a boil, add a little salt and when it boils, remove the pan from the heat and add the buckwheat flour and mix well. You can add cheese, yogurt, seeds (sunflowers, pumpkins), or walnuts to the finished porridge. You can also make a sweet porridge (in which case do not add salt), by adding honey or raisins.
Buckwheat Seed Porridge (the Russian Way)
Because it strengthens memory and concentration, buckwheat in Russia is called – food for students. Buckwheat porridge is prepared very simply. Buckwheat grains need to be washed and drained. Pour water and a little salt into a bowl and heat, and when it boils, add buckwheat and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. When the buckwheat is cooked, drain it and put it in a pan, add pieces of finely chopped butter and cover with aluminum foil.
Stew at a lower temperature until soft.
Buckwheat Porridge with Fruit
For this porridge you need:
200 g buckwheat grains, some walnuts, 1 pear, 1 banana, a few plums, 100ml milk, a little coconut oil. If desired, you can also add a little honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa, flaxseed, and other fruits. Preparation: leave the buckwheat soaked in water overnight. The next day, strain it and blend it with the nuts and fruit. Finally, add coconut oil and spices as desired.
Buckwheat Flour and Kefir Porridge
This porridge has an extremely beneficial effect on the body, because it cleanses blood vessels, relieves fatigue, strengthens the body, and restores vitality. It’s prepared by mixing 1 tablespoon of buckwheat flour in one cup of kefir and leaving it to stand overnight. It’s used in the morning for breakfast. If desired, a little honey can be added.
Buckwheat soup is an effective natural remedy for lowering blood pressure. It’s recommended for the treatment of hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and poor memory. It‘s prepared from whole grains of buckwheat, which should be soaked in water to swell before cooking. As an addition to soups, you can add herbs as desired (parsley, celery, spice).
In some countries, buckwheat is sown precisely because of honey – buckwheat honey is highly valued for its healing properties. Buckwheat is a honey crop loved by bees, and thanks to bee pollination, buckwheat crops can further increase yields by up to 50%. That is why beehives are often placed next to the places where buckwheat is sown. Buckwheat honey contains a lot of iron and has a beneficial effect on respiratory problems and anemia.
Buckwheat Sprouts in the Diet
Buckwheat grain is nutritious and healing in itself, but grain with sprouts is the most nutritious. The amount of vitamins and minerals in the germinated grain is greatest after 72 hours from the beginning of germination. Therefore, it should be used immediately after germination.
How to Prepare Sprouts from Buckwheat Grains
The procedure for preparing buckwheat sprouts looks like this – first wash the buckwheat grains and then pour clean filtered water over them, up to half of the bowl. Then cover the dish with a clean cloth and leave it at room temperature overnight. The next day, strain the grains and wash them twice. Return the strained grains to the bowl and cover them again with a cloth. Rinse the grains 2 more times during the day. Repeat the rinsing procedure two more times the next day. After 48 hours, sprouts will appear from the grain. Put the sprouts in a bowl and store them in the refrigerator. Use them within 2-3 days. It is recommended to take 1-2 tablespoons of sprouts a day. You can add them to salads and various spreads.
Buckwheat contains very few calories and is classified as healthy dietary food. That’s why it can be helpful if you want to lose weight. The diet with buckwheat is quite restrictive, but the results are satisfactory. This diet lasts for 14 days. After 2 weeks of keeping this diet, you can lose 7-10 kg and at the same time cleanse your body.
Preparing Buckwheat for Diet Purposes
In the evening, pour boiling water over the buckwheat grains, then drain the water and pour boiling water over the buckwheat again. Add 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of buckwheat grain (you can prepare as much as you want, e.g. 2-3 cups of buckwheat.). Cover and leave overnight (do not cook). In the morning, the buckwheat is ready to use. You can eat buckwheat as much as you want, without spices, sauces, and salt (you can only add soy sauce). Drink 1 liter of kefir during the day – the combination of buckwheat and kefir is great for the digestive system. You can have coffee (up to two cups, without sugar).
During the day, you can eat fruits and vegetables, such as, for example, apples, oranges, prunes, green vegetables (Brussel sprouts, peas, spinach, broccoli – boiled, without salt and other spices).
Buckwheat and Calories
You can eat buckwheat in unlimited quantities during the diet, i.e. as much as you need to be full. This diet is applied for 14 days, resulting in a loss of 7-10 kg. Also, this diet has healthy effects, due to the high amount of rutin in buckwheat. It protects the body from various diseases. A diet with buckwheat will help you clean your blood vessels, protect you from bad cholesterol and help you get rid of problems with elevated platelet levels. Also, rutin leads to the regulation of high blood pressure.
This way of eating brings a significant amount of magnesium into the body, which will lead to a relaxation of the heart muscle and thus provide better blood flow.
A diet with buckwheat is healthy because in this way a significant amount of protein is ingested (that is why buckwheat is great for vegetarians because it serves as a good substitute for meat).
Also, this way you will get rid of excess water in the body. People who want to lose only a few kilograms can keep a diet with buckwheat for only a week.
Where Else is Buckwheat Used?
In addition to food, buckwheat can also be used for cosmetic purposes, namely buckwheat flour. It’s used to make a home-made peeling mask.
For a peeling mask, whip one tablespoon of buckwheat flour, one egg yolk, and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Massage this mixture on the face and body and let it stand for a few minutes. The skin will be nourished, hydrated, and cleansed.
Buckwheat as a Filling for Pillows
For this purpose, we use a membrane removed from buckwheat grains. These pillows have an optimal degree of hardness, and after prolonged use, they reduce neck and upper back pain, relieve asthma symptoms, allergies to dust and mites, migraines, insomnia, and snoring.
Fresh flowers, leaves, and stems of buckwheat can be poisonous, so they must be dried before use. However, when applied externally, these substances have an antibacterial effect.
Daily use of buckwheat in the diet can significantly contribute to the improvement and preservation of health. At the same time, using it has no contraindications, and due to the protein it contains, it’s suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Also, as gluten-free food, it’s great for people intolerant to gluten.
- Treasure from garden: Bioactive compounds of buckwheat, Sciencedirect.com
- Buckwheat, whfoods.com
- Buckwheat: A Useful Food and Its Effects on Human Health, researchgate.com
- Buckwheat as a Functional Food and Its Effects on Health, pubs.acs.org
The author of this article is Biljana Tadić. Biljana Tadić is a freelance writer. She writes about healthy lifestyles, including topics on healthy eating and healthy foods, herbs and their uses, natural remedies for healing, and aromatherapy. With her love of health and writing, she wants to share her knowledge of how applying healthy lifestyles can change a lifetime. You can find her on Twitter https://twitter.com/BarbaraTil2.