When we started baking gluten-free breads nearly 4 years ago, they were made from potato, Sorghum and rice. In our efforts to make the breads wholesome we have tinkered with the ingredients over the years, which have changed a lot since then. Regular consumers of our breads will have noticed that some ingredients are a part of every bread that we bake and one such ingredient is Buckwheat.
Buckwheat is something that we introduced last of the many ingredients that we use in our breads and this is its story. ‘To use or not to use’ buckwheat is something we deliberated quite a bit and this is why; The first reason was because protein in Buckwheat inhibits starch gelatinisation and since our breads rely on gelatinisation for structure, we had to be extremely careful while baking our breads and this would make baking very tricky. A bad idea when baking large batches of bread.
The second reason was the cost- A kilogram of organic buckwheat flour costs upwards of 240 Rupees in the retail market, this would make the breads prohibitively expensive; something that is always a concern for us. We however felt that if we directly source the buckwheat from farmers and manage most of the ‘farm to fork’ chain ourselves, we could make the costs workable.
We know people want to eat healthy food and once people realise the wholesomeness buckwheat provides, they would understand why were are so gung-ho on it. We after all we want the best for all those who consumed our breads.
Buckwheat is a minor crop, grown in many parts of the world and in India it is largely cultivated in the Himalayas and sporadically in the Nilgiri hills. Changing agricultural and consumer patters are ensuring that buckwheat cultivation is dwindling in India.
Although called buckwheat- it has no relation whatsoever to wheat and biologically it is even classified as a fruit (we call it a pseudo-grain). Buckwheat has no gluten, and can be consumed by Celiac’s and even those following Paelo diets.
Once dried buckwheat grains are black in colour and are called un-hulled buckwheat. The black coating is removed in a process called hulling and it looks greenish in colour after that. It is now called Buckwheat goats and most flours are made from these groats.
We however use un-hulled buckwheat and stay true to our whole grain concept, it also ensures everyone who consumes our breads get a fiber and flavonoid rich diet.
So now that we know a bit about Buckwheat- you may ask- what’s so great about it ?
Therapeutic effects of Buckwheat: Over 80 prescriptions utilizing buckwheat have been described in traditional Chinese medicine. Studies have shown that food made from buckwheat have positive effect in reducing cholesterol, blood lipid, blood sugar, urinary sugar, and other indices. (Source 1) The therapeutic effects are attributed to the unique proteins, resistant starch, dietary fibers as well as Vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and phytosterols in buckwheat.
The flavonoids and phytosterols from Buckwheat have been found to be effective in reducing blood cholesterol, keeping capillaries and arteries strong and flexible, improving micro circulation and protecting the blood vessels from rupturing and forming clots. These flavonoids also demonstrate anti-oxidant, anti-microbal and inti-inflammatory activities. The phytosterols are also understudy for their anti-tumor activities. (Source 2)
Although controversial as of now- fagopyrins from buckwheat is found to be an effective component for treatment of type-2 diabetes.
Protein and Amino Acids:
Buckwheat not only has a high level of protein but also a good quality of nutritional balance of proteins. Buckwheat is one of the best sources of high biological value (BV) protein in the plant kingdom. The BV of buckwheat protein is 93, compared to 100 for egg, 68 for soya and 63 for wheat protein. Amino acid composition of Buckwheat protein is nutritionally well balanced and is rich in essential types (eg. Lysine and arginine).(Source 2)
Buckwheat contains about 10% crude fiber 30% of which is soluble dietary fiber. Buckwheat fiber is free of phytic acid.
Buckwheat is a treasure trove of minerals , especially Mg, Se, Fe, K, Ca, Cu, Mn and Zn. Analysis show that buckwheat flour contains Mg (13 times), Sr (5-36 times) Fe (4 times) that of wheat.
Buckwheat has high levels of Vitamin B1, B2 , E and B3 (in the form of nicotinic acid)
Several flavonoids are found in Buckwheat, some of them are rutin, quercetin, kaempferol, orientin/isoorientin and vitexin/isovitexin. Rutin is the most important among these and is found only in buckwheat among cereals. Other than being an anti-oxidant, Rutin is also shows anti-inflammatory activity. All these flavonoids are present in the hull of the grain and hence we like to use un-hulled buckwheat.
Although benefits of Buckwheat are briefly stated here, they have many more healthy properties, which we have left out because research is still on them. Meanwhile, buckwheat grows in poor soils and requires very little water to cultivate, something that we has humankind need to lookout for in the food that we eat.
1. Statistical data from 187 samples of clinical observations by Beijing Grain Science Research Institute, Beijing. Lin RF, Zhou MD, Tao YR, Li JY, and Zhang ZW (eds.) (1992) Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Buckwheat, 20–26 August, Taiyuan, China. Beijing: Agricultural Publishing House; Corke H and Lin RF (eds.) (1998) Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Asian Food Product Development – Focus on Specialty Grains and Grain Products, 6–10 September, Taiyuan, China. Beijing and New York: Science Press.
2. Encyclopedia of food grains 2nd Edition (2016)- 4 Volume Set. 1st Volume Page 311-312
2. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition - 2nd Edition 2003 (10 Volume Set) Page 692.