Buckwheat: Healthy Alternative to Wheat

Because of its name, you might think buckwheat is a grain. In fact, it is from an entirely different plant family than wheat and most grains. It’s closely related to rhubarb. But like wheat, buckwheat makes excellent bread and cereals. That makes it a possible selection for most (but not all) adults with celiac disease, an intestinal problem that can be controlled by avoiding gluten, a sticky protein found in wheat and other grains.

But those people with celiac disease who stand to benefit aren’t the only ones who can enjoy buckwheat. This is one food that has a little something to offer everyone. To those with diabetes, buckwheat offers a very special package of nutritional benefits.

Buckwheat has a “stick-to-your-ribs” reputation. That’s because its mix of amylose, a type of starch, and amylopectin, a water-soluble fiber, are absorbed very slowly in the intestines, explains Eunsook T. Koh, professor of nutrition in Oklahoma City.

Slow absorption helps keep blood insulin levels stable. This means there’s less chance of damage to organs such as the eyes or kidneys by high glucose levels.
Besides in pancakes, you can enjoy buckwheat cooked as a hot cereal, steamed in a pilaf or stuffed in a chicken breast. Many buckwheat recipes are of Eastern European origin. The best customers are Russian or Polish. One well-known recipe, “kasha varnitchkes”, is made with a combination of nutty-flavored roasted buckwheat (known as kasha) and bow-tie pasta.

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