I’d like to introduce a unique section of this blog called Grain Gains. In these blog posts I’m going to talk about different wholegrain superfoods. Including where they originate from, what they look like, the different forms you can buy them as in the supermarket, the nutrition facts and importantly how to actually use them in your meals.
Why the fuss? Well, wholegrains an essential part of nutritionally balanced vegetarian and vegan diets, or any diet for that matter. In fact, many nutrition experts consider cereal grains to be the most important nutritional component of the human diet. To quote esteemed plant-based physician Dr. John McDougall:
“for thousands of years grains have been recognised as staples—necessary foods and extolled as the staff of life”
Nutritionally, wholegrains provide you with energy and B vitamins to help you power through the day, fibre to keep you full and satisfied and for gut and bowel health, iron for oxygen transport and alertness, protein for growth, development and satiety, omega 3 and 6 for brain, blood vessel and heart health as well as other essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc and calcium to name a few. (1)
Meanwhile, numerous studies report that the benefits of wholegrains, include:
- reducing cholesterol, triglyceride, insulin and blood sugar levels
- reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancers of the digestive system
- helping to attain and maintain a healthy physique
- supporting healthy gut bacteria (2-5)
Although to be fair, like most studies, some of this research has been funded by cereal industries. Nevertheless the study designs are good and positive evidence still appears overwhelming.
On top of this, from a practical point of view:
Wholegrains are one of the best ways you can add variety, interest and expand your food choices to get the most out of wholefood plant-based diet
So let’s start with our first wholegrain!
And the winner is: buckwheat, sometimes referred to as buckinis.
Buckwheat is a superfood grain jam packed with nutrients whilst being super tasty and versatile.
Did you know that buckwheat is related to rhubarb?
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum Esculentum) whilst being nutritionally a grain, is actually botanically a seed as it is the fruit of the beech tree. Buckwheat originated from the Netherlands as well as Asia. The name itself is thought to derive from a Dutch word boecweite, pronounced “beech wheat”. Meanwhile, the plant itself is actually related to rhubarb!
Being biologically similar to a fruit and seed, buckwheat is naturally gluten free, making it a great food option for coeliacs or anyone with gluten sensitivity. (6-9)
SIDENOTE: That’s not to say that gluten is bad for you or the root of all evil. I mean asbestos is also gluten free but that doesn’t make it healthy or a superior food option! However, for people who do have a diagnosed sensitivity or intolerance to gluten (determined via small bowel biopsy and oral food challenge) buckwheat is a good gluten-free alternative to wheat, barley or rye.
We can purchase buckwheat in a few different forms including:
- Crushed into Seeds; called buckinis or buckwheat groats
- Milled into Flour: turned into buckwheat pasta, breads, soba noodles or crackers
- Sprouted: a green leafy version used in salads
The grains/seeds themselves can be purchased either roasted or unroasted (raw), roasting infusing buckwheat with a nutty flavour. Buckwheat typically ranges from a light brown colour to a pinkish colour depending the tree and region it is sourced from.
Buckwheat has been grown in Australia since the 1970’s, yet has only been on the radar in Australia for the past 10 to 20 years. Despite this, buckwheat and its products can be found in most supermarkets, typically in the health food aisle, as well as in most health food stores or food co-ops.
So what does buckwheat have in it that makes it so good for you? Well, in another post I talked about protein and how vegans and vegetarians get protein from wholegrains. Less than half a cup of buckwheat groats provide roughly ¼ of your daily protein needs. Meaning 2 cups alone could provide the daily protein needed for a healthy adult.
Buckwheat also contains a significant amount of magnesium, we well as iron, zinc and phytonutrients thought to protect against heart disease and diabetes. (10-11)
- Protein: 12g (23% RDI*)
- Fibre: 10g (33% RDI)
- Magnesium: 221mg (55% RDI)
- Iron: 3mg (38% RDI)
- Phosphorus: 319mg (32% RDI)
- Zinc: 2.42mg (18% RDI)
- Folate 42mcg (11% RDI(
- Potassium: 320mg (8%AI)
- High in B group vitamins including B1 (18%), B2 (21%) and B3 (32%)
- Traces of calcium
- Phytonutrients thought to decrease cholesterol and reduce your risk of diabetes.
- Naturally gluten free
- Negligible sodium, no cholesterol or saturated fat
Buckwheat also has a low glycemic index and low-moderate glycemic load. Meaning it digests slowly and won’t spike your blood sugar levels. (12) This makes it a great option for anyone with diabetes or insulin resistance.
So how can you incorporate buckwheat to add more variety and interest to your plant-based diet? Here are a few of my top suggestions:
100g of buckinis (only 1/3rd of a cup, so just a little bit) offers: (10-11)
- Buckinis add extra crunch, kind of like a popping candy, so they are perfect for sweets or desserts. Add them on top of (plant based) yogurts or ‘nicecream’, breakfast parfait or chia pudding
- For other breakfast options try adding them to a muesli mix or brekkie bar
- Buckwheat soba noodles are perfect for Asian style dishes and stir fries
- The flour can be used to make baked goods such as pancakes, waffles, muffins or crepes
- Try buckwheat crackers as a snack
- The actual sprouted buckwheat makes a really great addition to salads, whilst the buckinis are good to add last minute as a salad topping for a bit of crunch
- Add crunch with buckinis in other savoury dishes too such as on top of a veggie bake
- For something a bit different try making a risotto out of buckwheat groats instead of the typical Arborio rice
Next week I will share some of my favourite Buckwheat recipes from around the web – stay tuned!
For more information and more videos on different grains that can add variety and interest to a whole food plant-based diet as well as great recipe ideas please visit the Green Minded Nutrition Instagram and Facebook page.
* RDI is the recommended daily intake necessary to meet the needs of 97% of the population. The RDIs above are based on an adult male aged 19-30 years old to compare with someone of high nutrient needs. Your needs may be different. For personalised nutrition advise please book a one-on-one nutrition consult.
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- Mahan L, Escott-Stump S, Raymond J. Krause’s food & nutrition care process. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2011.
- Kelly SA, Summerbell CD, Brynes A, Whittaker V, Frost G. Wholegrain cereals for coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD005051.
- Heaton KW, Marcus SN, Emmett PM, Bolton CH. Particle size of wheat, maize, and oat test meals: effects on plasma glucose and insulin responses and on the rate of starch digestion in vitro. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Apr;47(4):675-82.
- Kempner W, Newborg BC, Peschel RL, Skyler JS. Treatment of massive obesity with rice/reduction diet program. An analysis of 106 patients with at least a 45-kg weight loss. Arch Intern Med. 1975 Dec;135(12):1575-84.
- Wright N, Wilson L, Smith M, Duncan B, McHugh P. The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes. 2017;7(3):e256.
- Leenders, K. De boekweitkultuur in historisch perspektief. Geografisch Tijdschrift 21 (1987) 213 – 227.
- Leenders, K. Zuiddorpe en de boekweit. In: Kraker, A.M.J. de, H. van Rooyen, M.E.E. de Smet (red.). Over den Vier Ambachten. 750 jaar Keure. 500 jaar Graaf Jansdijk. Kloosterzande, 1993, 263 – 268.
- See Ohnishi, Ohmi, “Search for the Wild Ancestor of Buckwheat. III. The Wild Ancestor of Cultivated Common Buckwheat, and of Tartary Buckwheat,” Economic Botany, 52 (2), 1998, pp. 123-33.
- Slicher van Bath, B. H., The Agrarian History of Western Europe A.D. 500-1850, Olive Ordish, trans. London: Edward Arnold, 1963, p. 264; Root, Waverly, Food: An Authoritative, Visual History and Dictionary of the Foods of the World, New York: Fireside, 1980, pp. 39-40; Bianchini, F. and F. Corbetta, The Complete Book of Fruits and Vegetables, Italia and Alberto Mancinelli, trans. New York: Crown, 1976, pp. 28-29.
- Nutrients | Nutrient Reference Values [Internet]. Nrv.gov.au. 2017 [cited 29 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients
- NUTTAB Online Database. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. 2017 [cited 5 June 2017]. Available from: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/nutrientables/nuttab/Pages/default.aspx
- Atkinson F, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller J. International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(12):2281-2283.