Buckwheat: Ancient Grain

Japanese Soba

Buckwheat continues to increase in popularity on American dinner plates because of increased exposure in the media. It is an ancient grain, and originated in Southeast Asia six thousand years B.C.E. It is used as a staple in much of Asia for a number of reasons, but probably primarily for one simple fact...it is a great source of the essential amino acid lysine.

Lysine is one of the key players in the food world. It often determines basic food combinations. The human body does not produce lysine itself, and is dependent on outside sources of this key substance.

Buckwheat is not actually wheat, not actually a grain at all, but a seed from a plant relative of the rhubarb. Its lack of true grain designation doesn't hold buckwheat back, though. It is used in nearly every way just like grain would be. It is a common addition to cereals and pancake mixes, offering a delicious and earthy flavor. A delicate crepe made of buckwheat flour, known as a galette, is made to contain savory fillings in western France. Noodles made of buckwheat flour are gaining in popularity as a healthy alternative to wheat pasta. It is generally healthier in every measure of the word than rice, corn, or wheat, with a lower glycemic index, higher levels of protein, contains no glutin, and greater general nutritional value. It contains a good amount of iron, zinc, and selenium, and a whole host of B vitamins.

Studies tend to show that buckwheat has a cholesterol lowering effect, both reducing bad cholesterol or LDL, and raising good cholesterol, or HDL. It may help with hypertension due to the properties of its proteins. These proteins may also reduce or stabilize blood sugar levels, which can help with diabetes. All in all, it is a versatile and easy to cook ancient grain option for those who are looking to add more whole grains to their diet. With an excellent flavor and texture, buckwheat has a lot to offer. It is well worth giving it a try.


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