6 Health Benefits of Buckwheat Groats
Buckwheat, also known as beechwheat, might well be the next big superfood to hit the headlines. It is supercharged with a slew of health-boosting nutrients and phytochemicals, including B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper, potassium, and selenium. It is also one of the best natural sources of rutin and D-chiro-Inositol, two phytochemicals that have been associated with a number of interesting health benefits. What's more, buckwheat groats (the hulled kernels) are generally well tolerated and rarely cause allergic reactions or other adverse effects in humans. Buckwheat groats are available at many health food stores and larger grocery stores in the US and UK, and these gluten-free kernels can be served as an alternative to rice or made into delicious buckwheat porridge.
In this article, we take a look at the many health benefits of buckwheat groats, from protection against venous insufficiency, anti-inflammatory conditions and PCOS to improved cardiovascular and digestive systems.
Protection Against Varicose Veins and Cardiovascular Disease
Due to their high concentration of rutin, buckwheat groats are considered one of the best foods for varicose vein prevention. Rutin acts by strengthening capillary walls and might therefore also help prevent other conditions related to venous insufficiency, including hemorrhoids, cold hands and feet resulting from poor circulation, superficial thrombophlebitis, and edema.
People eating buckwheat on a regular basis may also benefit from improved cardiovascular health, as suggested by a Chinese study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1995. The study, which investigated the relationship between oat/buckwheat intakes and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in an ethnic minority in China, found that a higher buckwheat intake was associated with lower total cholesterol levels, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and a higher ratio of HDL to total cholesterol. The researchers concluded that buckwheat consumption may play a role in the in the prevention and treatment of both hypertension (high blood pressure) and hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol).
Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Arthritis Properties
The potential positive health effects of rutin are not limited to vascular benefits. Foods rich in rutin, such as buckwheat groats, have also been credited with fighting inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. A French study published in the January 2008 edition of the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy found that rutin was capable of reducing human macrophage-derived inflammatory mediators in vitro as well as of reducing clinical signs of chronic arthritis in rats.
Buckwheat – A Superfood for Allergy Sufferers
While celiac disease (true gluten allergy) is still relatively rare, an increasing number of people suffer from gluten intolerance, which may manifest itself through a variety of symptoms. Upon eating gluten-containing grains such as wheat, gluten intolerant people may experience, for example, headaches, migraines, abdominal pain and distension, flatulence, IBS, depression, or skin rashes.
Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, and it does not contain the wheat protein gluten, either. It is also listed as a hypoallergenic food, meaning that it is low in other allergy-triggering proteins as well and therefore unlikely to cause allergic reactions in most humans. But that's not the only reason why people with allergies might want to introduce buckwheat porridge or steamed buckwheat groats into their diet – turns out, buckwheat may also help alleviate existing allergies. A Korean study published in the journal International Immunopharmacology suggests that buckwheat grain extract has strong anti-allergic action, probably due to its ability to inhibit histamine release and cytokine gene expression in the mast cells.
Benefits for the Skin and Hair
Buckwheat is supercharged with B complex vitamins including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and folate (B9). These vitamins work both synergistically and individually to promote healthy skin and strong hair. In addition, the rutin in buckwheat has strong antioxidant properties which can help keep premature wrinkles at bay.
But these are not buckwheat's only benefits for the skin and hair. This unsung superfood is also a wonderful source of high-quality protein which is crucial for normal hair growth. The protein in buckwheat contains essential amino acids which are needed for healthy keratin production. Keratin, a fibrous protein, is the main structural constituent of hair and nails.
Eating Buckwheat May Improve Gut Health
Buckwheat is a superb source of fiber, but that's not the only reason why buckwheat porridge and steamed buckwheat groats may be good for the gut. Some experts have suggested that due to its relatively low digestibility score, buckwheat protein may have fiber-like effects, including constipation-fighting effects and anti-cancer activity in the colon.
These hypotheses are supported by recent studies, one of which found buckwheat protein extract to provide protection against colon carcinogenesis in rats by reducing cell proliferation. Another study found that constipated rats showed improved symptoms after they were treated with buckwheat protein extract, as opposed to treatment with casein.
Buckwheat Fights PCOS and Insulin Resistance
Buckwheat is one of the few natural sources D-chiro-Inositol (DCI), a compound that may provide interesting health benefits for women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and related conditions such as hirsutism or insulin resistance. In double-blind studies, women with PCOS who received DCI experienced increased insulin sensitivity, lowered testosterone levels, lowered blood pressure, and increased frequency of ovulation.
List of References
1. J. Q. Griffith Jr., Couch J.F., and Lindauer, M. A (1944). Effect of Rutin on Increased Capillary Fragility in Man. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 55(3), 228-229.
2. R. L. Shanno (1946). Rutin: a new drug for the treatment of increased capillary fragility. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, May, 211, 539-43.
3. Wallace Marshall (1955). Ambulatory therapy for thrombophlebitis with rutin and vitamin C. The American Journal of Surgery, 80(1), 52-56.
4. N. Ihme, H. Kiesewetter, F. Jung, et al (1996). Leg oedema protection from a buckwheat herb tea in patients with chronic venous insufficiency: a single-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 50(6), 443-447.
5. J He, M J Klag, P K Whelton, et al (1995). Oats and buckwheat intakes and cardiovascular disease risk factors in an ethnic minority of China. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61(2), 366-372.
6. Tina Krauss, Moynet Daniel, Rambert Jerome, et al (2008). Rutoside decreases human macrophage-derived inflammatory mediators and improves clinical signs in adjuvant-induced arthritis. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 10(1).
7. Chang Deok Kima, Won-Kyung Leec, Kyong-Ok No, et al (2003). Anti-allergic action of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) grain extract. International Immunopharmacology, 3(1), 129-136.
8. N. Kato, Kayashita J., and Sasaki M (2000). Physiological functions of buckwheat protein and sericin as resistant proteins. Journal of the Japanese Society of Nutrition and Food Science, 53(2), 71-75.
9. Zhihe Liu, Wakako Ishikawa, Xuxin Huang, et al (2001). A Buckwheat Protein Product Suppresses 1,2-Dimethylhydrazine-Induced Colon Carcinogenesis in Rats by Reducing Cell Proliferation. Journal of Nutrition, 131(6), 1850-1853.
10. Jun Kayashita, Iwao Shimaoka, Michikazu Yamazaki, and Norihisa Kato (1995). Buckwheat Protein Extract Ameliorates Atropine-Induced Constipation in Rats. Curr. Adv. Buckwheat Res., 2, 941-946.
11. Nestler JE, Jakubowicz DJ, Reamer P, Gunn RD, Allan G (1999). Ovulatory and metabolic effects of D-chiro-inositol in the polycystic ovary syndrome. The New England Journal of Medicine, 340(17), 1314-20.
12. Iuorno MJ, Jakubowicz DJ, Baillargeon JP, et al. (2002). Effects of d-chiro-inositol in lean women with the polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrine Practice 8(6), 417-23.