In the first weeks of quarantine, buckwheat became the most fashionable product: you can’t find it on store shelves, but in Internet memes you can’t go anywhere without it. Culinary sites, telegram channels and chefs on their own Instagram keep up with the trend and share buckwheat recipes – from simple to molecular. But is the kernel and products made from it really useful? Should I buy it for years to come? We answer the main questions about the most popular cereals.
Is buckwheat the healthiest cereal?
No! We do not diminish its qualities in any way (more on them later), but it does not apply to cereals. Cereals are a family of monocotyledonous plants, which include wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn, barley, millet, bamboo, and sugarcane. The fruits of cereals in botany are called caryopses, and in everyday life – grains. Buckwheat, on the other hand, is a cereal, which is sometimes called pseudo-grain, along with amaranth, quinoa, chia seeds, and an even more exotic whole. Buckwheat grains are triangular nuts, buckwheat fruits grown from flat triangular seeds of this plant. Wild buckwheat comes from the Himalayas; man cultivated her more than 5 thousand years ago, and since then she reached Europe through China, Korea and Japan, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Today, the main world supplier of buckwheat is Russia, but it is also grown in China, Ukraine, France and Poland.
By the way, buckwheat is one of the most important melliferous plants on the territory of our country: its flowers give a lot of nectar and pollen, therefore they attract bees, which, when cross-pollinated, ensure the appearance of up to 70% of seeds. So the production of buckwheat groats and the production of buckwheat honey are directly related.
Is all the buckwheat on the shelf the same?
No, it all depends on how and where it was grown. Class 1 buckwheat grown in the fields without the use of pesticides is placed, transported and stored separately from buckwheat grown with pesticides – in Russia this is a GOST requirement. You can distinguish buckwheat, which is grown completely without the use of the aforementioned chemicals, by the mark “Recommended for baby food” on the package (it will definitely not be on the pesticide). However, one should not be too afraid of pesticides: scientists still leave their potential harm in question.
Also, on the pack with buckwheat you can see the inscription “unground” and “done” – these are not different varieties, just whole grains got into the pack from the first, and from the second – split.
Is green buckwheat healthier than brown buckwheat?
Already wondering what kind of buckwheat to sow in the country: elite green or workers ‘and peasants’ brown? In fact, the plant is one, only the processing method differs. Pure sorted buckwheat has a greenish-beige color. At this stage, it can already be packaged for sale – and this is mainly done with buckwheat in Europe. In Russia, most of the cereals are steamed – that is, they are briefly heated to 160-180 C, as a result, the grains turn brown and lose some of the moisture. Unsteamed, green buckwheat is most often found on the shelves of healthy food products, and despite the fact that it is less manipulated, it is more expensive. But ordinary brown buckwheat is already a product of mass production.
“Since green buckwheat is minimally exposed to heat treatment, it retains all the vitamins – mainly B and E groups – and denser fiber. Fiber foods are beneficial because they help regulate blood sugar levels, affecting hunger and satiety. In addition, coarse fibers play an important role in digestion, providing mechanical movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, ”says Zulay Ibragimova, nutritionist, gastroenterologist, head of the X-Clinic Department of Dietetics and Nutrition.
Among the advantages of any buckwheat groats can be noted the presence of rutin – a substance that improves blood flow. The main “keeper” of the flavonoid rutin is the buckwheat shell, which contains 17 times more of it than inside the kernel. But when processing with steam, the shell is destroyed, therefore green buckwheat is much richer in them. Only germinated grains of green buckwheat contain even more flavonoids.
Is buckwheat really useful?
Everyone has heard about the health benefits of buckwheat. And not only in the post-Soviet space: Western nutritionists regularly include it in the list of the most-very-super-healthy lifestyle products. In the well-fed times in Russian realities, buckwheat is difficult to compete with more glamorous cereals – it fades into the background, giving way to quinoa, brown rice, amaranth. But in times of crisis, compatriots again return to buckwheat. Does this make sense in terms of health benefits?
If buckwheat contains both protein and fiber, does this mean that you can “live” on it?
Eating a lot of buckwheat is not harmful if you eat other foods in addition to it and your diet is well balanced. If we are talking about a mono-diet, when a person eats only buckwheat, then there will still not be enough proteins, complex carbohydrates and other valuable nutrients from it. “Buckwheat mono-diet is contraindicated in case of gastritis, stomach and duodenal ulcers, cardiovascular diseases, but most importantly – in diabetes mellitus, when it is especially important to control the level of carbohydrates,” warns Zulay Ibragimova. “But also completely healthy people should not experiment on themselves, eating only buckwheat, because it will not lead to anything good.”
How to cook buckwheat correctly so that it is as useful as possible?
One of the classic “grandmother’s” tricks, which housewives shared in Soviet times, said: to make buckwheat especially crumbly, you need to add a little soda to it during cooking. Indeed, this method works, since soda creates an alkaline environment, changing the texture on the surface of the grains – they become darker and denser, the porridge does not boil over and acquires a strong nutty flavor. But from the point of view of modern dietetics and health benefits, this method of preparing crumbly buckwheat porridge cannot be considered useful. Nutritionists are convinced that it is better not to cook at all, but to soak buckwheat in warm, but by no means hot water. So the cereal will be crumbly, but at the same time much more useful. Put buckwheat in a container, fill with water in a ratio of 1: 2, cover tightly and leave for several hours, or better overnight.
“Any long-term heat treatment leads to the destruction of vitamins, and soaking, on the contrary, allows you to preserve the maximum of nutrients that make up the cereal,” explains Zulay Ibragimova. – Fiber in steamed buckwheat – about 11 grams per 100 grams of kernel, but if you boil it in boiling water, only 4 grams remain. Thus, in order to replenish the body’s daily need for fiber (20-30 g), you need to eat 200-300 grams of cereals soaked in water. While boiled will need almost three times more.