Buckwheat is an excellent and versatile grain that has been used for thousands of years. It can be enjoyed savory or sweet, cooked or raw. Buckwheat’s beneficial effects are due in part to its rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin. Flavonoids are phytonutrients that protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C and acting as antioxidants. Buckwheat’s lipid-lowering activity is largely due to rutin and other flavonoid compounds. These compounds help maintain blood flow, keep platelets from clotting excessively (platelets are compounds in blood that, when triggered, clump together, thus preventing excessive blood loss, and protect LDL from free radical oxidation into potentially harmful cholesterol oxides. All these actions help to protect against heart disease.
Buckwheat is also a good source of magnesium. This mineral relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure—the perfect combination for a healthy cardiovascular system.
The nutrients in buckwheat may contribute to blood sugar control. In a test that compared the effect on blood sugar of whole buckwheat groats to bread made from refined wheat flour, buckwheat groats significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses. Whole buckwheats also scored highest on their ability to satisfy hunger.
Despite the fact that for years researchers have been measuring the antioxidant power of a wide array of phytonutrients, they have typically measured only the “free” forms of these substances, which dissolve quickly and are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. They have not looked at the “bound” forms, which are attached to the walls of plant cells and must be released by intestinal bacteria during digestion before they can be absorbed.
Phenolics, powerful antioxidants that work in multiple ways to prevent disease, are one major class of phytonutrients that have been widely studied. Included in this broad category are such compounds as quercetin, curcumin, ellagic acid, catechins, and many others that appear frequently in the health news.
Kasha Pumpkin Energy Bites
- In a food processor, process half of the following: pitted dates, pumpkin puree, extract, spices and salt. Process until a smooth paste is formed, stopping to scrape the sides down several times. Scoop out into a large mixing bowl. Process the remaining pitted dates, pumpkin puree, spices and salt as before then place it in the bowl with the other date/pumpkin date mixture.
- To the date mixture stir in half of the following: oat flour, almond meal, and kasha (uncooked). Stir to incorporate, then add the remaining flour, meal and kasha. Stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.
- Portion all the bites. Place on a cutting board. At this point you can either place the bites in the fridge for 30 minutes to make them a bit easier to handle, or you can forge ahead (although it’s a bit stickier).
- Place the chopped pepitas in a shallow dish or small plate.
- Use your hands to roll individual bites into balls, then roll through the pepitas (or other optional covering) to cover each individual bite.
- Place in a covered container. When stacking the bites, be sure to separate layers with a piece of parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to a week. They will firm up a bit in the fridge.
*Note: To make oat flour, process 1 C of old fashioned rolled oats in a food processor. Process until a meal is formed.
*Note: Do not cook the kasha. The kasha is crunchy, yes, but will soften within the bites.