Food Focus: Buck Wheat

A super food that can be used in the exact same way as regular wheat

Wholegrains and seeds supply us with complex carbs for energy, as well as proteins, vitamins and minerals. Buckwheat in particular is rich in iron, zinc and selenium, and also contains several noted antioxidants. Wholegrains benefit cardiovascular health, as well as helping to effectively balance the diet. But in order to benefit the body most, they need to be in the wholegrain, natural state – unrefined and unprocessed.

Buckwheat is most commonly sold and consumed as whole ‘groats’ (for porridge), flour (for breads and pancakes) and as delicious Soba noodles. But its most nutritious form is as ‘buckwheat sprouts’, which are mainly used as components in health foods. This sprouting process includes fermentation with lactic acid bacteria, which produces a number of interesting health benefits.

An enlightening study on mice, published in a recent edition of The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, demonstrated that lactic fermentation of buckwheat sprouts produced highly potent blood-pressure lowering proteins.

The GI (glycaemic index) of certain fibre-rich carbs was detailed in a study published this year in The International Journal of Food Science. Breads containing oats and buckwheat, as well as buckwheat porridge, were all compared for their effect on blood sugar levels. The food with the lowest GI response was oat bread with a score of 32. Oat-buckwheat bread came in at 58 while, surprisingly, buckwheat porridge exhibited a response of 71, which is relatively high. For athletes, this would indicate that a meal such as buckwheat porridge would be ideal for post-exercise refuelling.

For pre-exercise, oats would appear to be a better option, especially since research shows a low GI food taken prior to exercise benefits performance.