Is Buckwheat Really Wheat?

Field of Blooming Buckwheat

No, it is not. In fact, buckwheat is not a grass and is more closely related to rhubarb than to wheat. Since buckwheat flour is used in many parts of the world to make breads, pancakes or noodles, many American consumers have assumed it to be the same as other cereal grains but that's not true. During Hindu fasting days in India, food containing buckwheat is allowed while cereals such as rice or wheat are prohibited. Since buckwheat contains no gluten, people with celiac disease or those who have gluten allergies can eat foods prepared using the pseudo-cereal. Gluten-free beer or whisky can be brewed and distilled using buckwheat as a substitute to traditional grains.

A distinguishing feature between wheat and buckwheat is that cereal grains are the seeds taken from various types of grasses. Whereas psuedograins like buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa are the seeds taken from blooming, broad-leaf plants (called dicots). In the United States, both amaranth and quinoa were cultivated by Native-Americans for centuries before European explorers arrived. Today, with the growing number of people looking for gluten-free ways to satisfy cravings for wheat products or other starchy foods, psuedograins have become a healthy option. Buckwheat is also rich in iron, zinc and selenium as well as phenolic antioxidants and has high concentrations of essential amino acids, such as lysine.

Like its more popular counterparts, buckwheat has to be prepared properly before it is used in food products. Psuedograins contain chemicals (protease inhibitors, lectins and saponins) that can upset the digestive system if eaten raw. Special preparation methods include germinating, sprouting, roasting and soaking them in water with lemon juice or vinegar. These things are normally done prior to the food product appearing on your store's shelf. What you must consider, however, is that psuedograins are still high in carbohydrates. So, those on strict low-carb diets may have better protein and nutrient options. High protein buckwheat flour is being studied for possible use as a functional ingredient in foods to reduce plasma cholesterol, body fat, and cholesterol gallstones.

To learn more about preparing breads, noodles and ethnic dishes using buckwheat, visit the Metabolic Research Center's Recipes and Blogs sections. Our weight loss consultants are always ready to provide a Free Consultation to discuss a personalized menu plan that supports your weight loss goals.


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