Buckweat has been an under appreciated food in America. In the past, if you had a diet rich in buckweat, you would probably be a farm animal. Until recent years, it was primarily grown as feed for livestock. The name may confuse you. It's not a grain, but a seed from a plant related to rhubarb. |
However, buckweat is popular in Japan and some researchers suspect that this may be the reason for the remarkable low cancer rates in Japan. If you're familiar with Japanese cuisine, you might recognize soba noodles, which contain buckweat. It's also commonly available in pancake mixes.
Wide protection Buckweat contains a variety of compounds called flavonoids that have been shown in studies to help block the spread of cancer. Two compounds in particular, quercetin and rutin, are especially promising because they appear to thwart cancer in two ways. These substances make it difficult for cancer promoting hormones to attach to healthy cells. They can literally stop cancers before they start. Should cancer-causing substances get into cells, these compounds may be able to reduce damage to the DNA, the body's chemical blueprint for normal cell division.
Japanese researchers have found that buckweat extract can help interfere with colon and breast cancer in rats.
Keeping blood flowing The rutin in buckweat plays yet another protective role. Working in conjunction with other compounds, it helps prevent platelets – the components in blood that assist in clotting – from clumping together. By helping to keep blood fluid, buckweat can play an important role in any heart-protection plan. Rutin has also proved to stabilize blood vessels and help lower blood pressure, thus helping to protect against heart disease. And it act as an antioxidant, protecting your cells from the damaging attacks from free radicals.
Research believe that when flavonoids are combined with vitamin E, which is also found in buckweat, the benefits are even more significant. Fat-soluble vitamin E can neutralize dangerous free radicals, that can damage cells, in the fatty portion of cells. Flavonoids, on the other hand, are water soluble; they attack free radicals in the watery parts of cells.”That puts an antioxidant in both the watery and fatty portions of cells,” says Timothy Johns, PhD, professor at the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal.
An Italian Study tested the antioxidant capacity of a number of spices, fruits, cereal products, and other foods. It found that among the 18 cereal products tested, whole-meal buckweat and wheat bran had the highest total antioxidant capacity.
Protein Power Buckweat is the best known non-animal source of high-quality protein. That's good news if you are vegetarian or trying to cut back on meat. It also helps to lower cholesterol as well. We need protein for everything, from healing wounds to producing brain power.
In laboratory experiments, animals that were fed extracts of buckweat protein had significantly lower cholesterol levels than there non-buckweat-eating companions. Levels in the buckweat-fed animals, in fact, were even lower than in animals given soy protein extract, one of the most cholesterol-busting foods.
In addition, buckweat is an excellent source of essential nutrients. “It's rich in several minerals, most especially magnesium and manganese, but also zinc and copper,” says Dr. Eskin.
One cup of buckweat flour made from whole groats (the grain with the hull removed ) contains 301 mg of magnesium, or 75% of the Daily Value (DV) for this mineral. It also contains 25% of the DV for zinc, 40% of the DV for phosphorus, 27% of the DV for iron, and 20% of the DV for potassium.
Blood Sugar Control One of the most valuable aspects of buckweat is its ability to help control blood sugar levels in people with adult-onset, or type-2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.
The carbohydrates in buckweat, amylose and amylopectin are digested more slowly than other types of carbohydrates. This causes blood sugar levels to rise more evenly. While this good for everyone, it's especially important for people with diabetes, whose blood sugar levels tend to rise steeply and stay high too long. Keeping blood sugar under control has been shown to reduce or prevent many of the serious complications of diabetes, including kidney damage.
Because buckweat is absorbed more slowly than grains, it leaves you feeling full longer. This makes it easier to eat less and thus control your weight.
British researchers found that using buckweat flour in pasta made it more filling. One easy way to get buckweat into your diet is in pancake mixes that contain buckweat flour. You may find that buckweat pancakes “stick with you” than those made with regular flour.
People who are sensitive to gluten who have celiac disease, a serious intestinal problem, caused by gluten found in wheat and other grain products will have no problem with buckweat, because it is free of gluten.
Excellent Source of Vitamin B Buckweat is also an excellent source of several B vitamins. One cup of buckweat flour contains 37% of the DV for niacin, 35% of the DV for vitamin B6 and 33% of the DV for thiamin.
Niacin helps to transform the food your body uses into energy. Vitamin B6 is needed because it helps the hemoglobin in your red blood cells to carry oxygen, and it plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and a healthy nervous system. Like niacin, thiamin also helps to transform fuel into energy and helps your nervous system.
If you have a sweet taste, some honey producers bottle honey that is made by bees that harvest nectar from buckweat fields. This honey is rich in antioxidants, like phenolic acid, and flavonoids. This honey seems to be particularly powerful. Researchers found that buckweat honey has 20 times more antioxidant activity then any light-colored honey.
However, buckweat honey has a strong flavor that some people call "full body", but it's taste is not for everyone.
How to use buckwheat in the kitchen As already mentioned, buckweat contains no gluten like rice and wheat. Without gluten to hold the grain together, it will turn to mush unless you precook it.
Here is what you can do. Put the buckweat in a hot skillet, and toss gently for 3 to 5 minutes. This expands and strenghtens the outer skin, which will help it stay in tact during the simmering process.
If you're using kasha (the roasted form of buckweat) that's been cracked, toss it with an egg white before before adding it to the pan. The albumen in the egg will help to keep it firm. Uncracked kasha however, can be cooked without an egg.
Put the buckweat in a saucepan. Cook it the same way as brown rice. Add two cups of boiling water for each cup of buckweat. Boiling water will seal the outer shell and keeps the buckweat together during cooking.
Simmer the buckweat, covered, untill all the water is absorbed and the kernels are tender. Cracked kasha will take 8 to 10 minutes, and whole kasha 10 to 12 minutes.
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Flavonoids, cancer protection, antioxidants, protein, vitamin B, healthy immune system, blood sugar control,