Buckwheat Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Buckwheat annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Buckwheat is a popular grain alternative eaten as breakfast cereal and used as gluten-free flour for baked goods. Contrary to its name, buckwheat is not wheat or even a grain at all. Buckwheat is more closely related to rhubarb (a vegetable grown for its stalks and used in pies) and sorrel (a vegetable often featured in French cooking). However, buckwheat is considered an honorary pseudo-grain due to its typical culinary uses.

Buckwheat has potential blood sugar-lowering effects, along with a host of other health benefits. The edible portion of buckwheat is the seeds of the plant which are rich in protein, insoluble fiber, and important minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese. Buckwheat's impressive nutritional profile may have you second-guessing your old breakfast choices. 

Buckwheat Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one cup (168g) of plain, cooked buckwheat groats.

  • Calories: 155
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 252mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33g
  • Fiber: 4.5g
  • Sugars: 1.5g
  • Protein: 5.7g

Carbs

As a grain alternative, buckwheat still contains plenty of carbs. There are 33 grams in one cup of cooked buckwheat groats. Buckwheat flour is more concentrated with about 44 grams of carbohydrates per 1/2 cup. Buckwheat is naturally low in sugar and high in fiber. The glycemic index of buckwheat is 49, and the glycemic load is 15 (based on 150g serving).

Fats

Buckwheat is naturally low in fat with just 1 gram per serving. The majority of fats in buckwheat are heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.

Protein

When it comes to protein content, buckwheat overshadows most grains. Cooked buckwheat has 5.7 grams of protein per cup (about twice as much protein as oatmeal). Unusual for plant-foods, buckwheat offers a complete amino acid profile, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids that our bodies require from food. Buckwheat is an excellent addition to any healthy eating plan but can be especially helpful for vegetarians looking to up their protein intake.

Vitamins and Minerals

Buckwheat is rich in B vitamins and minerals. Niacin (used in the digestive system, skin, and nerves) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) are particularly abundant in buckwheat.

Buckwheat also contains magnesium (maintains muscle health), phosphorus (used to form teeth and bones), zinc (important for your immune system), copper (helps the body manufacture collagen and absorb iron), and manganese (assists in building connective tissue and bones). With so much to offer nutritionally, buckwheat is truly a health-promoting powerhouse.

Health Benefits

Buckwheat offers several health benefits, especially for the digestive system. If you have food restrictions or digestive issues, buckwheat can be a versatile addition to your menu.

Useful for People With Celiac Disease

Pure buckwheat is gluten-free. Buckwheat is often used to make products that are labeled gluten-free, particularly cereals. However, if you need to follow a gluten-free diet, you should not assume a food product is gluten-free just because it happens to contain buckwheat—always read the label for gluten-free certification.

May Manage Irritable Bowel Symptoms

Buckwheat's nutrient-density makes it a great choice for anyone who is required to follow a restrictive eating plan. Pure buckwheat is also low in FODMAPs, which are types of carbohydrates that can exacerbate digestive issues in some people. Nutritionists frequently recommend a low FODMAP diet for people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Eliminating FODMAPs temporarily can also help identify symptom trigger-foods.

May Help Control Blood Sugar

A study comparing the buckwheat-eating region of Mongolia to the region where buckwheat is not consumed found that populations who eat buckwheat had almost 17% lower fasting blood sugar levels. The low glycemic rating for buckwheat, along with the beneficial polyphenols that it contains, are two reasons for someone with diabetes to consider adding it to the grocery list (especially in place of sugary cereals and refined grains).

Might Reduce Cholesterol

Buckwheat has been shown to have multiple benefits on the cardiovascular system. Buckwheat intake reduces total cholesterol by an average of 0.5 mmol/L and triglycerides by 0.25 mmol/L based on data from human studies ranging from seven days to 27 weeks of testing. This is likely in part due to its resistant starch content.

May Help Prevent Diverticular Disease

Buckwheat contains mainly insoluble fiber. This is the type of fiber that doesn't dissolve in water, which means it remains mostly intact as it moves through your digestive tract. Insoluble fiber helps to bulk up the stool, keeping constipation at bay and lowering your risk of diverticulitis, a painful infection in your large intestine.

Medical authorities recommend that adults get between 20 and 35 grams of fiber per day. If you eat 3/4 cup of buckwheat groats as a hot cereal for breakfast, you are off to a great start.

Allergies

While it is possible to be allergic to buckwheat, it is considered rare. Buckwheat allergy symptoms can include hives, swelling of the tongue and lips, and difficulty breathing. If you are trying buckwheat for the first time and you experience these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Varieties

There are several ways to enjoy buckwheat. Buckwheat flour is used to make crepes, pancakes, muffins, rolls, and cookies. Sauces, soups, and casseroles can be thickened with buckwheat flour as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour. In Japan, buckwheat flour is mixed with wheat flour to make soba noodles.

Groats are buckwheat kernels with the hull removed. Various cuisines from around the world use buckwheat groats in their main dishes. Noodles, chapattis, and dumplings are made from buckwheat groats in Asia. In Europe, toasted buckwheat groats are called "kasha." Kasha is used in pilaf and meat dishes.

With the growing demand for gluten-free products, you may find crackers, granola, and other processed food items made with buckwheat. Although buckwheat is a healthy ingredient, be mindful that these products may contain added sodium, sugar, and preservatives. When it comes to food, the less processed it is, the more nutritious it tends to be. The same goes for buckwheat products.

Storage and Food Safety

The same general food safety guidelines apply to buckwheat as other whole grains. Intact whole grains should always be stored in an airtight container as moisture, heat, and air contribute to their degradation. Buckwheat groats can be stored this way in the pantry for two months and in the freezer for up to one year. Buckwheat flour or meal should keep in the pantry for one month and in the freezer for two months. Cooked grains last about three to four days in the fridge, but when in doubt, throw it out.

How to Prepare

Buckwheat has a nutty flavor that some people find bitter. Cooked buckwheat groats are similar in consistency and taste to steel-cut oatmeal. The simplest way to make buckwheat is by cooking it as a hot cereal out of plain buckwheat groats.

Most buckwheat groats will include an easy recipe right on the package, but you will likely need to soak your groats overnight in water and then cook them over high heat for a few minutes (follow the recipe on your specific buckwheat groats package for the best results). This hot cereal tastes great with some added milk and with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg on top.

You also can use buckwheat flour in place of traditional flour. Just note that the recipe proportions will need to be adjusted as buckwheat's high fiber content can make baked goods come out more rough or dry. To get the right texture, follow a recipe that specifically calls for buckwheat flour.

Buckwheat is not just a breakfast food. Traditional Soba noodles, common in Japanese cuisine and served in soups or salads, are usually made from buckwheat flour. Buckwheat can also be added to soups and casseroles, cooked similarly to lentils.

Recipes

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