With all the hype about vegetarian and gluten-free diets, it is surprising there isn’t more discussion about buckwheat, a grain substitute that, despite its name, is naturally gluten-free.
Buckwheat is loaded with health benefits. Similar to whole grains, it is a great source of heart-healthy fiber, which helps keep you full longer. It also provides hunger-satisfying protein without any of the cholesterol or saturated fat that animal protein contains. Plus, it offers eight essential amino acids, making this complete protein a smart nutritional choice for vegetarians.
Other buckwheat benefits include fatigue-fighting iron, bone-healthy calcium and immune system-boosting manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc. Buckwheat is also a good source of a powerful flavonoid, rutin, which has been shown to protect against blood clots. It also contains
omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
Whole buckwheat flour can be made into a spaghetti-like noodle called a soba noodle, which can be served hot or cold. Although similar in shape to spaghetti, it won’t make you feel as heavy or stuffed after you eat it. It has a hearty, earthy taste, making it a good choice if you are looking for some noodle diversity in your next meal.
Buckwheat can be enjoyed in a variety of ways beyond soba noodles. Buckwheat flour makes great crepes or pancakes. Raw buckwheat groats can be used in homemade granola, and they work well for those keeping a raw food diet. The whole buckwheat kernel can be used as a substitute for cracked wheat or couscous (for instance, in a buckwheat tabbouleh). And toasted buckwheat groats, generally known as kasha, can be used as a breakfast cereal or pilaf. It also works well added to soups, casseroles and stuffings.
Not all soba noodles are created equal. Many packaged varieties also contain wheat flour, so be sure to read the ingredients on the label. Look for 100 percent buckwheat and a gluten-free or allergy label if you follow a gluten-free diet.
Like grains, there are options to buy whole buckwheat and white buckwheat. Choose the whole variety, as it contains more nutrients.
This chilled soba noodle recipe is perfect for a hot summer day. It is an incredibly light and refreshing gluten-free dish that will fill you up without making you uncomfortable. With all the nutrition benefits of buckwheat, the soba noodles are then paired with fresh shrimp and vegetables to round out this well-balanced meal. The dressing brings it all together: It is light and flavorful with a touch of sweetness to balance out buckwheat’s nutty taste. You can have fun with this recipe and add in other vegetables such as sugar snap peas, snow peas, bell peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms or shredded carrots.
More buckwheat recipes:
Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is creator of the healthy recipe site EatingbyElaine.com.