Buckwheat: Another Superfood


Buckwheat in the Field

Buckwheat has been on a dinner table somewhere in the world for thousands of years, since about 6000 years B.C.E.  It has been traced back to Southeast Asia, and has been a staple there and all over much of Asia.  It is extremely important there, and in other places, because of one simple compound contained within its nutty exterior.  It contains the essential amino acid lysine, which the human body cannot itself make, and so must be part of the human diet in order for the body to be healthy.  For this reason lysine is a "rock star" in the food world, and gives buckwheat a corresponding celebrity. 

In the US it has been used for centuries, making up a grain staple that complements wheat flour in pancakes and other baked goods.  It has gotten more popular in recent years as its lysine content and other nutritional advantages, most notably its gluten-free nature, were showcased in the media.    Buckwheat is not a grain at all, but a seed from a plant that is cousin to the rhubarb.  Its nutty, earthy flavor blends well with other flours, offering another dimension to the flavors of cereals, breads, and pastas.  Blending it with other things helps to cut the slightly bitter quality of the grain.

In every measure it is healthier than rice, corn, or wheat, packing a big fiber and protein punch in comparison.  It has a lower glycemic index, and a nice dose of iron, zinc, selenium, and a range of B vitamins.  It is great to mix whole with steel cut oats, as both of these help to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and they take a similar amount of time to cook.  It is suspected that it also have hypertension-improving qualities, due to some of its proteins.  It is versatile, blends well whole or ground with other grains and flours, and adds another option for the gluten-sensitive crowd. 

 

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