Buckwheat groats: the benefits of this gluten-free grain

What are buckwheat groats?

Buckwheat is a bit of a misnomer. There’s “wheat” in the name, of course, but the stuff doesn’t actually contain wheat. Actually, it’s not even a grain.

The pseudograin gets its name from its appearance: the grains resemble the seeds of beech trees. “Buckwheat” comes from a Dutch word that translates to “beech wheat”.

Buckwheat groats are the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant, which is part of the Poaceae family, according to the Oldways Whole Grain Council.

They are naturally gluten-free because, again, they are not true wheat. And despite not being a grain, buckwheat groats are nutritionally and culinary very similar to grains. That’s why they’re often grouped with whole grains like whole wheat, oats, and barley.

As for the taste, “buckwheat groats taste a lot like steel-cut oats, but you can eat buckwheat groats raw,” says San Diego-based registered dietitian Ashley Harpst.

Indeed, you will find recipes that call for both raw and cooked buckwheat groats. Some say that buckwheat is similar to hops.

Here’s everything you need to know about buckwheat groats, including their nutrition, health benefits, and how best to use them.

The history of buckwheat groats

Buckwheat dates as far back as 4,000 BC. in Northern China, according to 2017 research in Vegetation history and archaeobotany. Then, around 2000 BCE, buckwheat made its way to southwestern China and the Tibetan/Himalayan areas.

Many, many centuries ahead – and the buckwheat crop was brought to America via European settlers.

For many years, in the United States, buckwheat was mainly used for flour and animal feed. In the 1970s, it began to grow in popularity, especially as a gluten-free option.

Different types of buckwheat groats

There are two main types of buckwheat groats. These are regular buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and tartare buckwheat (Fagopyrum tartaricum), according to the Oldways Whole Grains Council.

The two types of buckwheat are grown differently.

Tatar buckwheat can produce itself using its own pollen. And because it can tolerate frost, it can grow in colder weather and at higher altitudes.

Common buckwheat, on the other hand, grows more at lower elevations and can only reproduce using insects for pollination.

As for nutrition, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that tartaric buckwheat has a higher antioxidant content than regular buckwheat.

The main flavonoid present in both types of buckwheat is called rutin. And in the tartaric buckwheat, the rutin content is five times higher than in the ordinary buckwheat.

A common use for buckwheat is in soba tea, Berman notes.

Nutrition of buckwheat groats

When it comes to eating buckwheat groats, exactly how much nutrition do you get in each bite?

Here’s a look at both the numbers and the daily value (DV), using a quarter cup (45 grams) of Bob’s Red Mill buckwheat groats:

Calories: 160

Total fat: 1 g (1 percent DV)

cholesterol: 0 g (0 percent RDA)

Sodium: 0 g (0 percent RDA)

Carbohydrates: 33 grams (12 percent RDI)

Fiber: 2 g (7 percent DV)

Egg white: 6 g (12 percent DV)

Calcium: 4 mg (0 percent RDA)

Iron: 1 milligram (6 percent DV)

Potassium: 196 mg (4 percent RDA)

YelenaYemchuk/Getty Images

Health Benefits of Buckwheat

“Buckwheat became popular as a health food because of its high mineral and antioxidant content, as well as its versatility,” says Melissa Nodvin Berman, a registered dietitian in Atlanta.

Buckwheat does indeed have many health benefits. Here are just a few:

High in protein

One of the main benefits of buckwheat groats is its protein content, with six grams per quarter cup.

“Toasted buckwheat groats can be a valuable source of protein for a plant-based diet,” says Melissa Altman-Traub, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Jamison, Pennsylvania.

And here’s a very surprising fact: Buckwheat is a complete vegetarian protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

Only a handful of plant-based proteins, such as tofu, edamame, and quinoa, are considered complete proteins.

Most commonly, the nine essential amino acids are found in meat.

Great source of minerals

Buckwheat is an excellent source of many minerals, including the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin.

“It is richer in minerals than other pseudocereals and provides a good amount of zinc, copper, manganese, and magnesium compared to other cereal grains,” Berman says. “It also contains potassium, which helps maintain water and acid levels in your tissue.”

A food with a lower glycemic index

Another advantage? Buckwheat is a resistant starch, meaning it has a lower glycemic index.

“Buckwheat is primarily made up of carbohydrates,” Berman says. “But these carbohydrates are lower on the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels after a meal”

That could be beneficial for people with diabetes, who want to avoid major blood sugar spikes after eating. (But the seeds are still a high-carb food, so portion control is key.)

“It’s also high in fiber, which helps with digestion and satiety,” Berman says.

Because they keep you feeling full and full for a long time, buckwheat groats are said to be a beneficial grain choice for weight management. Just pay attention to portion size (more on that below).

The best ways to eat buckwheat groats

Now comes the fun part: eating buckwheat groats. You have so many options at your fingertips.

“I like to make kasha and bow ties, especially for a holiday meal, as a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish,” says Altman-Traub. “In addition, boiled buckwheat with onions, mushrooms and other vegetables, legumes and herbs is a great filling for pumpkin, peppers, zucchini or eggplant.”

And raw buckwheat groats are a fantastic topper for soups and salads.

Buckwheat groats aren’t just for savory dishes. Harpst says that buckwheat porridge, also known as kasha, is a great breakfast option.

You can also make buckwheat smoothies, buckwheat muffins, and buckwheat muffins.

(Try these high-protein breakfast ideas.)

Risks or Side Effects of Eating Buckwheat Groats

Because buckwheat groats can be eaten raw or cooked, they can be a denser grain, meaning a smaller serving can have a higher number of calories.

“If you’re looking at your calorie or carb intake, look at portion size and see how you can pair them with vegetables for less energy density,” says Altman-Traub.

For example, if you’re using cooked buckwheat groats as a substitute for rice, consider mixing the groats with cauliflower rice to add more volume.

Berman notes that some people who consume buckwheat in large amounts may develop a buckwheat allergy.

“But in general, buckwheat is well tolerated,” she says.

How often should you eat buckwheat groats?

“They can be eaten regularly as part of a healthy diet in the grains group, taking into account guidelines such as MyPlate, the Mediterranean Diet, and the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate,” says Altman-Traub.

As for portion size, Berman suggests sticking to a half-cup serving or less.

Buckwheat groat recipes to try

Ready to cook some buckwheat? Give these recipes a try.

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