Buckwheat is not a cereal grain but is a fruit seed from a herbaceous plant.  The plant produces an aromatic flower and then buckwheat groats, which are small, triangle-shaped seeds covered by a hard shell.  While buckwheat does not have bran and germ (characteristic of grains), the flavor, consistency and nutrient content are so much like those grains that it is treated as one.

This "grain" can help to control diabetes and aid in preventing heart disease and cancer.


In the U.S., there are two forms of buckwheat:  common and Tartary.  The color of buckwheat can range from a tan-pink to brown.  Buckwheat can also be sold roasted, giving it a nutlike taste.  Ground, un-hulled buckwheat is used to make a dark, nutritious flour.  Buckwheat does not contain gluten and is a good choice for those individuals who must avoid wheat for allergy reasons.


This grain is native to Central Asia and was originally cultivated in China and other Eastern countries from the 10th through 13th centuries.  Buckwheat was subsequently taken to Europe by the Crusaders and was introduced to the U.S. by the Dutch settlers in the 1600s.  People of Russian and Polish descent have used buckwheat as a main ingredient in their traditional dishes for many generations. 

Other world producers of buckwheat are the United States, Canada and France.

Nutritional Information

This grain contains rutin and quercetin, two flavonoids with significant health-promoting actions.  Buckwheat is also a good source of magnesium, with 86 grams per a 1-cup serving.  Other nutrients include phosphorous, manganese, protein and pantothenic acid.  Buckwheat is a source for very high-quality protein, containing eight of the essential amino acids. 

Health Benefits

Buckwheat contains a rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin and quercetin.  These two flavonoids extend the action of vitamin C and perform as antioxidants.  These compounds also help to maintain blood flow, aid in keeping platelets from clotting excessively, and protect low-density lipoproteins from free radical oxidation. 

Diets which contain buckwheat have been linked to a lowered risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  This results in a lowered risk for heart disease.  One study in China showed that consuming buckwheat was linked with lower total serum cholesterol, lower levels of LDL (cholesterol linked to cardiovascular disease), and a high ratio of HDL (healthy cholesterol) to total cholesterol. 

Some researchers believe buckwheat may be behind the low cancer rates in Japan.  Quercetin and rutin (both found in buckwheat) appear to stop cancer in two ways.  These compounds make it difficult for cancer-promoting hormones to attach to healthy cells.  If cancer-causing substances do get into cells, rutin and quercetin may help to reduce the damage to the body's DNA, the body's chemical blueprint for cell division which is normal.

While buckwheat does not have bran and germ, it is still a very good source of fiber.


This grain is not a common allergen and is frequently used in allergy elimination diets.  There is some debate as to whether people with celiac disease can safely eat buckwheat.  Celiac disease is an intestinal disease caused by gluten sensitivity and is brought on by consuming such grains as oats, wheat, rye and other foods containing the protein gluten.  Buckwheat is often excluded from diets as well.  Even though buckwheat is not in the grass family, it does contain prolamines that are similar to the alpha-gliadin of wheat.

Selecting and Storing

When purchasing, it is important to make sure there is no moisture in the product.  Bulk bins of buckwheat should be covered and the market should be checked to ensure there is a fairly quick turnover of product.  Buckwheat should be stored in an airtight container and kept in a dry, cool place.  The best place to store buckwheat flour is the refrigerator, where it will last for several months.  Whole buckwheat which is refrigerated will last for about a year.

Serving Ideas for Buckwheat

Buckwheat flour and wheat flour are combined by the Japanese to make soba noodles.  Whole buckwheats are soaked, steamed and milled to remove the hulls, and then a product called soba-mai is made and used in a similar way to rice. 

In the U.S., buckwheat flour is used to make pancakes, a great alternative for those who suffer from wheat allergies.  Russians partake of kasha, a mashed and cooked buckwheat dish served for breakfast.

As with most other grains, buckwheat should be thoroughly rinsed under cool, running water to remove dirt and debris.   Some serving ideas include:

  • Cooked buckwheat can be added to stews and soups.

  • Buckwheat can be a good substitute for oatmeal.

  • Combine buckwheat flour with whole wheat flour to make muffins, pancakes and breads.

  • Use buckwheat flour to make crepes that can be filled with pureed yams, blueberry jam or sauteed mushrooms.

  • For a nourishing salad, combine 1 cup of chopped chicken, 1/2 cup garden peas, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds and 1/4 cup scallions with 1 cup of cooked and cooled buckwheat.


  1. Holford, P.(2004). The optimum nutrition bible. London : Piatkus
  2. Holford, P & Lawson, S. (2008). Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health. London : Piatkus
  3. Murray, M.T. et al.(2005). Encyclopedia of healing foods. London : Piatkus
  4. Yeager, S. & Prevention Health Books. (1998). The doctors book of food remedies : the newest discoveries in the power of food to cure and prevent health problems from aging and diabetes to ulcers and yeast infections. [Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale

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