In my last post, the Happy Hippie Granola called for buckwheat flour, and I didn’t even talk about how good buckwheat is for you! How rude. I’m here to make amends and give you everything you ever wanted to know about buckwheat (and probably a lot of stuff you don’t even want to know, but are now going to know anyways). I'm planning to overdo it, go beyond all blogging word counts appropriate for one single food, and give you the definitive guide to buckwheat.
As a reward for reading this long and winding buckwheat tome, you should probably go into the kitchen and whip up these easy, vegan, gluten-free ice cream sandwiches. Go on, you deserve it.
Buckwheat is not a true wheat or grain, but a relative to rhubarb. It originated in China, and became popular in medieval Russia, as kasha. In Russia, the word, kasha, signified a feast or meal, as this was a staple in the diet at the time. An oddball fact about buckwheat is its ability to lighten skin pigment, as it inhibits melanin production (the tanning element). This may be a clue to why kasha (buckwheat), was such a staple in the Siberian peoples, as this would enable them to absorb more vitamin D from the sun. (So, just be careful, as eating a lot of buckwheat can make you more susceptible to sunburn, if you have very fair skin!)
Varieties of Buckwheat
Buckwheat/Buckwheat Groats: White-green in colour and unroasted, buckwheat groats can be soaked and eaten raw, or cooked into a hot cereal.
Kasha: The toasted variety of buckwheat groats. This has a strong flavour and is more of an acquired taste. Like nuts and seeds, it’s best to buy buckwheat groats (raw), and toast them at home.
Kasha Grits: This is kasha (see above), ground coarsely for quick-cooking (although, regular kasha only takes about 10 minutes to cook).
Whole Buckwheat: Definitely don’t go cooking this up for dinner! This has the inedible black buckwheat hull attached. This is meant to be ground into flour (as used in this recipe), or sprouted.
Buckwheat Flour: Made from unroasted buckwheat groats, this flour comes in light, medium and dark varieties. Since the dark variety has the black hull intact, this is the most nutrient-dense of the three, and supplies an incredibly high amount of the essential amino acid, lysine (uncommon in such large quantities, in plant foods). Buckwheat flour is used to make soba noodles; however, it’s important to read the package if you're gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease, as many brands combine buckwheat flour with wheat flour. Buckwheat flour can’t be substituted 1:1 for all-purpose flour in baking, so be sure to follow a recipe that calls specifically for buckwheat flour--like the one below!
Health Benefits of Buckwheat
Blood Sugar Stability: Of any “grain,” buckwheat takes the longest to digest, helping to stabilize blood sugar, and keep hunger pangs at bay.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Aid: The D-chiro-inositol compound found in abundance in buckwheat, has been shown to produce lowered free and total testosterone, decreased blood pressure, improvement in glucose removal, and a higher frequency of ovulation--all extremely positive benefits for women with PCOS. (The study on PCOS and D-chiro-inositol’s benefits, was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.)
Gluten-Free: Contrary to its name, buckwheat is both wheat and gluten-free.
Diabetes Control: Along with its blood sugar-stabilizing abilities, buckwheat contains D-chiro-inositol, needed for insulin signal transduction. Studies have found type 2 diabetics to be deficient in D-chiro-inositol and buckwheat contains the most of this compound of any food.
Bone Builder: Buckwheat contains many bone-supportive nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, lysine and manganese.
Lowers Blood Pressure: The flavonoid glycosides of buckwheat are highly beneficial to blood vessel health, helping to dilate blood vessels, increase microcirculation, lower blood pressure and reduce capillary permeability.
Amino Acid-Packed: Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein is needed for immune health, tissue repair, muscle building, neurological health, hair strength and much, much more. Buckwheat is particularly high in the essential amino acid lysine. Lysine helps to absorb calcium from the intestinal tract, promoting bone health; it also increases collagen production, which is needed for skin, cartilage, connective tissue and bone strength.
Heart Healthy: Its blood pressure-lowering, blood sugar-stability, high-fibre and cholesterol-reducing features, makes buckwheat a heart-healthy food. Furthermore, buckwheat’s abilities to improve arterial diameter (making them larger), aids in the aversion of stenosis (arterial narrowing).
Nutrient-Dense: Buckwheat is loaded with a variety of nutrients, including iron, manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, protein and fibre.
I hope to have a fun story for my next post and recipe, so stay tuned! Until then… Vegan Buckwheat Ice Cream Sandwiches: They speak for themselves.
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