Like many people, when I first heard about buckwheat several years ago, before my nutritional therapy studies, I assumed it was a type of wheat. Not so I quickly found out after doing some research. Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed, and a very nutritious one at that.
It is gluten-free and can be used as an alternative to grains. As well a having a low-glycaemic load, making it suitable for diabetics and anyone conscious of keeping their blood glucose levels on an even keel, buckwheat contains a great balance of essential amino acids including lysine which is not found in wheat, corn or rice. Nutrition studies have shown lysine to be lacking in many individuals susceptible to the herpes virus, in addition to being helpful for promoting muscle and collagen growth. Like the very popular quinoa, buckwheat is a good source of protein yet can be used as a grain substitute.
Other health and nutrition benefits of buckwheat include it's impressive array of vitamins and minerals, including the B-vitamins choline, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, thiamine, and folate, and the trace minerals magnesium, copper and manganese. B-vitamins are important for energy production and mental alertness while magnesium helps relieve stress and anxiety and reduces muscle fatigue. Copper is necessary for healthy skin and balanced hormone function.
What do to with buckwheat?
So, you've taken the bold step of buying a packet of buckwheat grouts, flakes, or flour from the supermarket. Now what?
Well, the easiest way I have found of using buckwheat flakes is as a porridge in place of oats. Admittedly, probably because I tend to choose jumbo sized oats, I do not find the texture is quite as nice but with my usual handful of berries, nuts and seeds on top I barely noticed the difference. Buckwheat flakes cook in the same sort of way as porridge oats and adapt really well to various different flavours, especially cinnamon and grated apple.
Buckwheat grouts can be cooked and added to soups or stews, a bit like pearl barley or cous cous, to enhance the flavour and deepen the texture. I also made a simply yummy sugar-free granola with buckwheat grouts, quinoa flakes, nuts & seeds, all gently baked in some coconut oil (all nutrition professionals like to experiment!). Such a quick and easy breakfast base.
But what if you want to use buckwheat flour as a gluten-free alternative to regular bread? This was my dilemma a few months back when I took the conscious decision to not eat any gluten for a few weeks. My solution?
Buckwheat flatbreads - only four ingredients, simple to make, and very versatile. Recipe to follow.....
The first one I made was devoured super quick with simply a spreading of hummus - I couldn't wait to try it!
The next morning I took a little more care and thought in deciding how to serve the flatbread and settled on warmed mixed berries and pumpkin seeds with dollop of coconut yoghurt. The verdict? Absolutely delicious!
I wholeheartedly recommend you try buckwheat in one form or another, even if simply just to try something new. Enjoy!
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Helen Morton, registered Nutritional Therapist. sports nutritionist, runner and food lover, sharing latest nutrition research and recipes.