Buckwheat is one of the earliest crops to be grown in the United States. It originated in Asia and was brought here by Dutch colonists who first planted it along the Hudson River.
Botanically speaking, Buckwheat is considered a fruit. It belongs to the Polygonaceae family which includes such weeds as dock, sorrel, bindweed, and knotweed. It is closely related to the rhubarb plant and has more than 800 species in its family tree. This fruit of the buckwheat is triangular in shape and has a black shell. The kernel inside is known as a groat. When roasted, the groat is commonly called Kasha.
Kasha is a popular staple in Russia and throughout the Balkan region of Europe. In America, cooks associate buckwheat with flour for pancakes. (PBS had a terrific program about popular breakfast establishments in the US and one of the places served buckwheat pancakes. That place was crazy popular! They were only open a certain time of the year. The pancakes looked so good, I went out and bought buckwheat flour and made my own. But that’s a whole other story.)
Buckwheat is a complex carb (carbohydrate). Complex carbs satisfy our appetites and fuel our cells. The particular carbs in buckwheat are amylase and amylopectin which are digested more slowly than other types of carbs. This is good for everyone but especially those with diabetes.
The uniqueness of buckwheat is the quality of proteins it contains. They are the best known source of high biological value proteins in the plant kingdom. Buckwheat contains all essential amino acids in good proportions, making it closer to being a “complete” protein than any other plant source, even soybeans.
Buckwheat contains flavonoids. Studies have shown they block the spread of cancer. Two compounds in particular, quercetin and rutin, are especially promising because they appear to thwart cancer.
These substances make it difficult for cancer-promoting hormones to attach to healthy cells. They can literally stop cancers before they start. In effect, rutin may help to lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
The Yi people of China consume a high-buckwheat diet from an early age and have exceptionally low levels of total cholesterol. Their levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) remain high.
Buckwheat is rich in magnesium, manganese, zinc, and copper. Buckwheat is free of gluten so it is good for someone with celiac disease.
The bottom line, buckwheat leaves you feeling full longer. This makes it easier to eat less and helps to control your weight.
Whether you call it buckwheat or Kasha the health benefits are obvious. In its Kasha form, it is mildly flavored and goes well with savory or sweet additions making it easy to incorporate into many dishes.
Resource: Birkett Mills