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How often do you explore different grains in your diet? There’s quite a variety beyond just wheat and oats; millet, rye, oat bran, wheat germ, polenta, rice, quinoa, barley, sorghum, spelt, teff, wild rice and buckwheat. But of course grouping all of these as just grains is very general. The aim of this article is to demystify all of the above while zoning in a spotlight on buckwheat. Wheat is certainly being challenged as consumers begin exploring more options. So buckwheat vs wheat, what is the difference? And not only that, but do you need to rotate your grains or is it just a matter of taste? Let’s take a look.
Buckwheat vs Wheat: Understanding the grain family
Like most food categories, there are various nuances worth noting. As a start, some grains are gluten-free and some are not which immediately highlights their different make-up. Similarly, different grains have different nutrients and in varying amounts. So again, while they can be grouped, they aren’t all created equal.
Going a little deeper, some of these grains fall into the category of ‘ancient grains’. We wrote a whole blog post about ancient grains. In short, we have been farming and cultivating grain for about 8-10k years. While certain grains have been genetically manipulated to increase yield consistency (i.e. wheat), others haven’t changed too much. The ancient grains resemble closely the same seeds we started farming with and so in theory are also more digestible. These are buckwheat, quinoa, millet, sorghum, amaranth, teff, freekeh, chia seeds, farro, spelt and kamut.
Pseudo grains/Pseudo cereal
Certain grain varieties are actually pseudo grains. This means that while the plant produces seeds used as cereals, they are actually not grains. Pseudo cereals are typically high in protein and other nutrients, gluten-free, and are considered whole grains. These include quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and chia (you’ll note these are also ancient grains). Alongside providing protein and a good nutrient profile, they are also easier on your digestion. Luckily they are also becoming more available to buy in health stores and big supermarkets.
As with any product, try to source organic where possible and in an uncooked, raw form. Remember that the production method to make something a certain way and also preserve it in that state can involve a lot of chemicals and refining. It you ever see statements like ‘with added B vitamins’ or ‘fortified with ‘x’ and ‘y’’, beware. These products should contain nutrients naturally and not need anything added unless they’ve been so processed that the said minerals and vitamins have died.
What are the benefits of buckwheat?
Despite the name, buckwheat actually doesn’t contain wheat or gluten. In addition, this grain has a lot of nutritional benefits making it a worthy addition to your diet:
- It’s anti-inflammatory making it also a good tool for managing cholesterol
- Great for digestion due to its ‘ancient’ grain structure and high fibre content. You can also ferment it
- Rich in antioxidants that support the body, namely the brain, liver and digestive system.
- Antioxidants support the body by fighting free radicals which also by default helps reduce oxidative stress in the body.
- Buckwheat has a low GI relative to other grains making it a great choice for more steady state energy and if you happen to suffer from blood sugar imbalances or diabetes.
- Finally, a fantastic source of energy. With the previous point in mind, buckwheat supplies a steady state carb energy. Not only that, but it’s a rich source of B-Vitamins which support the energy cycle in the body.
How to use buckwheat
It’s a very versatile grain which can also be ground into a flour. Use it in soups, stew, as a porridge replacement or bake muffins and bread with it!
You might have heard of this or seen it on a label, but ‘sprouting’ is a very important concept when it comes to legumes, nuts, pulses and grains. The idea is that you soak the seed to stimulate germination meaning all the anti-nutrients or protective agents get broken down to allow the seed to start to grow. At this point you then use it in your cooking which also means the ingredient is more digestible and the nutrients more readily available.
How do I sprout? It’s easy, simply place some raw buckwheat groats in a colander and rinse. Then put in a bowl and cover with filtered water. Let sit for 3-6 hours on your kitchen counter. Drain the liquid and you’re ready to go!
So to wrap up the buckwheat vs wheat and other grains discussion. Grains are not all created equal. While they all land into this category of food, the nutrient profiles vary as do the benefits. Overall, buckwheat is a fantastic option as it’s gluten-free, an ancient grain and rich in nutrition. For vegans and vegetarians specifically, it’s also a good source of protein.
How does iRaw use buckwheat?
As a grain, buckwheat falls into a lot of categories we mentioned above: protein rich, gluten free, ancient grain and pseudo grain. It also has a lot to offer in flavour and texture and the combination of all of this makes it a perfect ingredient for our range. You’ll find buckwheat in a few of our products:
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