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Buckwheat: Gluten-Free Grain Substitute Offers Complete Vegetarian Protein

Thursday, April 02, 2009 by: Barbara L. Minton
Tags: buckwheat, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Most health conscious people don't think of waffles and pancakes when they think of breakfast, but it turns out that both foods are highly nutritious and health promoting if the right ingredients are used. A recent study from a team of researchers in Madrid, Spain has highlighted the healthy aspects of hearty buckwheat and the flour made from it. Indulging in a stack of buckwheat pancakes or waffles will provide vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and prebiotics that create health and happiness.

Buckwheat increases immune boosting friendly bacteria in the gut

Researchers at the University of Madrid fed rats a buckwheat rich diet for ten days. An additional group of ten rats were fed the same diet, but without buckwheat. At the end of the trial period, the intestines of the rats were analyzed and compared. The researchers found that rats receiving buckwheat had a significantly greater amount of friendly bacteria in their digestive tracts than did those in the control group. They also had three additional types of beneficial bacteria that were not present in the controls.

Why are intestinal bacteria so important? Friendly bacteria inhabit the digestive tract in massive numbers, crowding out harmful bacteria and proving protection against food borne and other illnesses. They assist with digestion and free valuable nutrients such as some of the B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes such as lactase, and immune system constituents that seek out and destroy cancer cells.

This critical ecosystem of the digestive tract is fragile and easily disturbed. Antibiotics can completely kill off all friendly bacteria. Steroid drugs like cortisone or prednisone, birth control pills, and chemotherapy can destroy the balance of friendly bacteria leaving room for unfriendly bacteria to flourish. Poor nutrition, chlorinated water, and conventionally produced foods that contain pesticides also create havoc in the friendly bacteria population and place health in jeopardy. All these reasons make it extremely important to eat foods that encourage the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria.

Buckwheat is a gluten-free complete protein

Although many people think of buckwheat as being a grain, it is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel. Buckwheat flowers are highly fragrant, making them attractive to bees which use them to produce dark, richly flavored honey. Buckwheat has been grown in American since colonial days, and was once a common food on tables in the northeast and north central U.S. before being replaced by nutrient poor processed white flour primarily from wheat.

Although buckwheat has the look, feel, taste, and versatility of grain, buckwheat is not technically grain, and it contains no gluten. What it does contain is a full spectrum of essential amino acids, making it one of the few vegetarian sources of complete protein that equals the protein of fish or meat in quality.

Buckwheat has a nutty, rich flavor that complements many dishes. Its versatility allows it to replace meat in many recipes. Pure buckwheat flour can replace processed white flour almost across the board.

Buckwheat is available in a number of different forms, each with its own distinct taste and texture. When following recipes, selecting the right type of buckwheat will help ensure each dish is at its best.

Groats: These are buckwheat kernels that have been stripped of their inedible outer coating. They are three-sided in shape and resemble grains of wheat, oats, or rye in size. Groats can be used whole in cereals, breads and soups. Groats are often served as an alternative to rice, but they provide a much higher nutritional profile.

Kasha: Groats that have been roasted for a unique nutty flavor are sold as kasha and are often available in coarse, medium or fine grains.

Buckwheat Flour: Made from ground groats, buckwheat flour can be used to make those breakfast pancakes and waffles, along with bread, muffins, cookies and more.

Buckwheat rivals fruits and vegetables in its ability to promote health

Scientists have recently discovered that the phenolic content of grains equals that of fruits and vegetables when both free and bound phenols are measured. This discovery has clarified what was the mystery of why studies have shown populations eating diets high in fiber-rich whole grains consistently have lower risks of colon cancer, while studies concentrating on fiber alone have produced inconsistent results. Studies focused only on fiber have not taken into account the interactive effects and the complete nutrient picture in whole grains.

Research reported at the American Institute for Cancer Research International Conference on Food, Nutrition and Cancer by Rui Hai, Liu, M.D., Ph.D. and his colleagues at Cornell University has shown that the powerful cancer fighting potential of grains is in their wholeness. When any whole grain is refined and the bran and germ are removed, this wholeness is destroyed. The bran and germ of grain contains 83% of its phenolics. Whether from fruits and vegetables or grains, phenolics are powerful antioxidants that work in multiple ways to prevent disease in the body.

Buckwheat is rich in lignans that prevent breast cancer and heart disease

Whole grains such as buckwheat are one of the best sources for lignans which can be converted in the gut into mammalian lignans. One such lignan type, enterolactone, protects against breast and other hormone dependent cancers by competing with hormones to fill hormone receptors. This lignan also offers protection against heart disease. Women eating the most whole grains have been found to have significantly high blood levels of this lignan.

Buckwheat helps control blood sugar and reduces risk of diabetes and obesity

The nutrient profile of buckwheat has been shown to help control blood sugar in a study reported by The Worlds Healthiest Foods. In a test comparing the effects on blood sugar of whole buckwheat groats to bread made from refined wheat flour, the groats significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses. Whole buckwheat also scored highest in the ability to satisfy hunger.

Buckwheat is a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes including those involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion. Women who ate the most foods high in magnesium had a 24 percent lower risk of diabetes compared to women who ate the least.

The ability of buckwheat to lower the insulin response also helps it prevent and reduce obesity and gallstones. Its insoluble fiber not only speeds intestinal transit time, but reduces the secretion of bile acids which contribute to gallstone formation.

Prevent heart failure with a buckwheat breakfast

When Harvard researchers looked at the effects of whole grain consumption on heart failure risk, they followed 21,376 participants for 19.6 years. They found that men who ate a daily morning bowl of whole grain cereal had a 29% lower risk of heart attack.

Another recent study from South Korea evaluated the nutritional quality of buckwheat's fiber content. The scientists found that consumption of buckwheat containing diets significantly improved several cardiovascular risk factors including total cholesterol, lipid profile, and levels of triglycerides. Rats fed with buckwheat and waxy barley showed a significantly larger aortic lumen than those fed with other grains. The aorta wall was significantly thinner in the buckwheat fed group. This study is from the Annals of Nutrient Metabolism, 2008.

Buckwheat is high in flavonoids

Some of buckwheat's beneficial effects are due to its rich supply of the flavonoid rutin. Flavonoids are phyonutrients that protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C, and by acting as antioxidants on their own. The lipid-lowering activity of buckwheat is largely due to these compounds. They help maintain blood flow, keep platelets from excessive clotting, and protect LDL cholesterol from free radical oxidation. Each of these activities adds to heart health.

Store buckwheat in the refrigerator in warm weather

Buckwheat's exceptional nutritional profile makes it very attractive to bugs, so in warm climates or in warm weather, store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Buckwheat flour should be stored in the refrigerator year round. Like all grains, buckwheat requires thorough rinsing under running water before cooking. The basic recipe for preparing buckwheat is adding one part of buckwheat to two parts of boiling water or broth. After the liquid has returned to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Raw, sprouted buckwheat is the best buckwheat

Raw sprouted buckwheat offers the ultimate in healthy eating since the sprouting process releases all of its nutrients and preserves enzymes. Raw buckwheat groats can be sprouted and dehydrated at low temperature to make crunchy cereal that resembles grape nuts. Sprouted groats can be ground to make sprouted buckwheat flower for the ultimate in healthy pancake and waffle eating. Several companies offer raw sprouted buckwheat groats online for those interested in saving time and work. Here is a recipe for delicious, crunchy raw buckwheat treats that can be eaten for breakfast or anytime. If the groats are sprouted, so much the better.

Raw Buckwheat Treats

12 Pitted Dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup Agave Nectar
1/2 cup of Water
1/4 cup Sunflower Seeds
1/4 cup Walnuts
1/4 cup Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup Ground Flax Seed
2 Teaspoons of Pumpkin pie spice or Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla extract
2 cups of Buckwheat Grouts
1/4 cup Sprouted Wheat Berries (optional)
Sea Salt as desired

Place pitted dates, raisins, agave nectar and water in a food processor or blender and blend until a paste is formed, scraping the walls as needed.

Then add the sunflower seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds to the mix and process again until seeds and nuts are mixed well throughout the paste.

Add the ground flax seeds, pumpkin spice or cinnamon, vanilla extract and a few dashes of sea salt to the mixture and process again.

Once thoroughly processed, dump the mixture into a large mixing bowl, adding the buckwheat grouts and wheat berries. With a spatula or wooden spoon, mix thoroughly.

After this is done, place the mixture into clumps on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 100 degrees for about 12 hours. Makes about two sheets.

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About the author

Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.

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