When it comes to paleo eating, there are many grey area foods such as some grain-like ingredients and young legumes. I believe that a flexible approach to most foods is what is truly sustainable. How about something innocuous and seemingly innocent like buckwheat? It’s not pizza or a cookie, and in fact, if you do some research, you’ll quickly find out that it’s often touted as a health food. Could you add buckwheat to your paleo diet?
Well, in short, it depends on how you define paleo and how paleo serves you in your daily life. In my 8-week paleo program, buckwheat is a welcomed reintroduction after the stricter ‘reset’ phase, and there’s a reason I put it there! Today, I want to clear up some misconceptions, teach you more about buckwheat, and answer any questions you have.
You might also be interested to read my similar posts on white rice, quinoa, white potatoes, amaranth, peas, oatmeal, and miso.
The nutritional profile of buckwheat
The first thing is first: yes, buckwheat is a pseudo-grain (it’s a seed that has similar properties to grains). As the paleo diet is 100% grain-free, strictly speaking, buckwheat is not paleo. There’s more to it than that, though. For every cup of buckwheat, here’s what you get:
- Thiamin: 0.2 mg (11% DV)
- Riboflavin: 0.7 mg (42% DV)
- Niacin: 11.9 mg (60% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.4 mg (18% DV)
- Folate: 51.0 mcg (13% DV)
- Pantothenic Acid: 2.1 mg (21% DV)
- Calcium: 30.6 mg (3% DV)
- Iron: 3.7 mg (21% DV)
- Magnesium: 393 mg (98% DV)
- Phosphorus: 590 mg (59% DV)
- Potassium: 782 mg (22% DV)
- Zinc: 4.1 mg (27% DV)
- Copper: 1.9 mg (93% DV)
- Manganese: 2.2 mg (111% DV)
- Selenium: 14.1 mcg (20% DV)
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 133 mg
- Omega-6 fatty acids: 1634 mg
So basically, buckwheat is an awesome multivitamin. You can really pack in tons of vitamins and minerals with a little buckwheat in your day or week. Oh, and did I mention it’s naturally gluten-free?
See, buckwheat isn’t actually a grain – and it’s especially not wheat! Buckwheat is a fibrous seed packed with glorious plant protein. Per cup, you also get 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre which create the perfect blend to help keep you satiated for longer.
Now, buckwheat is definitely not a low-carb food with 33 grams of carbs per cup, so it’s not going to fit into a keto diet – even the grey areas. Fortunately, it is a low-glycaemic food. Some carbs are better than others, and that’s why buckwheat has a place in my heart (also, because I grew with Ukrainian food!). This “slow carb” is actually good for blood sugar regulation, coming in at 63 on the glycaemic load scale.
Other benefits of buckwheat
Now that we know all the intricacies and magic of buckwheat’s nutritional value, let’s talk about the benefits! When I think about the paleo diet, I think about eating the BEST possible foods for our bodies and minds.
When I think about eating the best foods, I also consider eating the widest range of foods possible. Once you do a paleo reset phase and eliminate all grains, it’s almost just as important to do some mindful reintroductions and see which foods your body likes. A wide range of foods to choose from and less strict dietary restrictions make for a more enjoyable, sustainable, and satisfying diet overall. Buckwheat is often non-problematic for folks because it doesn’t contain any gluten, but is it worth it? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide.
Here are some of the most notable benefits
- Buckwheat is a top food for good heart health. According to this research, buckwheat and oat consumption can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by addressing high cholesterol and hypertension.
- Buckwheat is an amazing plant protein. The paleo diet can feel a little meat-heavy to some. I like to take some meatless days here and there, and I rely on foods like eggs and gluten-free grains (or seeds, in this instance) to get my protein in and stay full. Buckwheat provides highly digestible protein in larger amounts than other gluten-free grains like rice and corn.
- Buckwheat is loaded with B vitamins. If you check out the nutritional information for buckwheat above and decode it a bit, you’ll find that many of those vitamin names are B vitamins. These can be particularly hard to get, and particularly pervasive if you’re deficient. Some examples include pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, thiamin and choline.
- Buckwheat is full of fibre. Fibre isn’t only important for keeping you feeling fuller for longer. It’s also a key component of healthy digestion, and it can really help get things moving along or keep you regular. Buckwheat’s resistant fibre, in particular, is great for managing healthy blood sugar levels and reducing food cravings which can aid in weight loss goals.
- Buckwheat is rich with antioxidant power. Flavonoids can be found in buckwheat making it an excellent choice for antioxidant consumption. Antioxidants act against free radical damage, supporting cellular health, reducing risk of cancer, and managing inflammation.
- Buckwheat is generally non-allergenic. Because buckwheat is naturally gluten-free, it’s unlikely to elicit a strong adverse reaction – even in sensitive eaters. This is mainly what makes buckwheat an especially safe reintroduction grain to experiment with.
- Buckwheat is versatile in the kitchen. From a cooking point of view, buckwheat comes as kernels or as flour and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and in baking. See more notes below!
What to watch out for with buckwheat
You’re probably thinking, “Wow! Buckwheat sounds perfect.” No food is without its caveats, though. Fortunately, in defence of buckwheat, those worries are small ones. It is important to consider the same downfalls that we do with most grains (and foods in general) though.
- You might be sensitive to it. In the rare instance that you have an allergic reaction to buckwheat, or even a mild symptom of intolerance (e.g. indigestion, bloating, heartburn, nausea, or inflammation, you should take note and avoid buckwheat. Most importantly, choosing to include a new “grey area” food into your modified paleo diet is highly individual and you should honour that.
- It might be too fibrous. If you’re stepping up your fibre intake or overdoing it, it can cause a serious bellyache. When adding significantly more fibre to the diet, it’s good to take it slow or you might be (unpleasantly) surprised. People with autoimmune issues like Crohn’s disease or IBS should be especially careful; extra fibre can make things significantly better, but these fibrous foods can also be highly irritating.
- Buckwheat can go rancid. Any food with a substantial amount of dietary fat is subject to rancidity. Not only does this diminish the quality in the taste of your food; it also impacts the nutrition. Those good essential fatty acids your body loves won’t be as effective, and their integrity is compromised. Always store buckwheat and buckwheat flour in a cool, dry place or refrigerate. Grab as much as you need at once from the bulk section and buy it in smaller amounts.
- It’s a calorie-dense food. While this isn’t a concern for everyone, it can be important to those who follow a modified paleo diet in terms of weight loss. Eat mindful, measured portions of buckwheat to ensure you’re not overdoing it.
- It contains anti-nutrients like phytates. Like most grains and legumes, a little prep work goes a long way to increase the bio-availability of the nutrient profile. By soaking and/or sprouting your buckwheat, you reduce anti-nutrients such as phytates that compromise your body’s ability to absorb all of its amazing nutrients by binding to the good stuff.
- Lectins are also present in buckwheat, which can cause GI distress and trigger an immune response. Lectin content is also reduced during the soaking, sprouting, and fermenting process. However, those with a leaky gut, autoimmune condition(s) or other digestive issues might want to stay away – even from properly prepared buckwheat.
How to use buckwheat IN COOKING
So maybe now you’re looking to step outside of the box and experiment with grains. I think buckwheat can be a nutritious, inexpensive, and delicious staple in nearly anyone’s healthy, balanced, and modified paleo diet.
If you’re feeling experimental and your gut health is more or less intact, I have some gorgeous recipes you’ll love trying. Use this as a guide to just how versatile buckwheat can be, especially if you’ve never cooked with it before. You’re totally in for a treat! It works incredibly well to make sweet and savoury dishes alike. You can purchase buckwheat online, in health food stores and in most major supermarkets.
Let me know what you think about buckwheat as a sustainable and nutritious addition to a paleo diet. Is this a food you’re willing to try?