You’ve probably heard of it but why is everyone suddenly eating buckwheat – and why is it deemed a healthy alternative to regular pasta?

What is buckwheat?

Despite often being confused with a grain because of the way it is cooked and used, buckwheat is a ‘pseudo-cereal’ super seed related to rhubarb and sorrel. It’s a highly nourishing, energising food that can be used as an alternative to rice or porridge, or even flour, and is naturally gluten-free.

[Read more: 6 healthy ancient grains you should add to your diet]

What are the health benefits of buckwheat?

Nutritionist Cassandra Barns gives the lowdown on why it might be worth incorporating some buckwheat into your daily diet…

1. Helps sleep and relaxation

Buckwheat is high in magnesium, a mineral that many of us lack in our diets. One of magnesium’s roles is to help muscle relaxation and it’s also associated with having a calming effect on the body and mind, helping us to cope with stress and aiding restful sleep.

2. Help manage your weight

Buckwheat has a low glycaemic load (GL), meaning that the carbohydrates it contains break down and release slowly into your blood. This helps maintain a steady blood sugar level and avoid the ‘swings’ that can happen after eating higher-GL foods such as white bread, rice or corn.

“Try switching your normal pasta for a buckwheat version, like Organic Buckwheat Pasta,” advises Cassandra.

3. Balances your energy

Buckwheat is a good source of vitamins B2, B3, as well as magnesium, all of which are essential to help your body turn food into energy.

4.Could help prevent varicose veins

Buckwheat is high in rutin, a type of flavonoid. Although it may have many health benefits, rutin is especially associated with toning and strengthening veins and capillaries, and may even help prevent or reduce venous insufficiency, the weakening of the valves or walls of the veins that can lead to varicose veins.

[Read more: Varicose veins: What you need to know]

5. Provides antioxidant protection

Rutin and other flavonoids in buckwheat are similar to – or the same as – those found in fresh fruits and vegetables, so it’s thought that buckwheat and some other whole grains could have just as good antioxidant properties as fruit and veg.

 

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6. Helps lower cholesterol

Studies comparing populations who eat a lot of buckwheat to those who don’t show that the buckwheat-eaters have lower cholesterol.

“Although this doesn’t prove that buckwheat lowers cholesterol, it’s an indication that it may be of benefit,” suggests Cassandra.