Buckwheat vs Wheat - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Buckwheat and some types of wheat are ancient cereal grains used as the main ingredients in numerous foods. Despite the name, buckwheat is a pseudocereal and a plant, like amaranth and quinoa, whereas wheat is cereal and grass. This article will provide information about their nutritional differences and impacts on health.
Common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) belongs to the Fagopyrum genus and Polygonaceae family. The family is called the buckwheat or knotweed family as well and it mainly consists of herbaceous plants, also trees, shrubs, and vines.
Common wheat (bread wheat, Triticum aestivum) belongs to the Triticum genus, Pooideae subfamily, and Poaceae family. Poaceae or Gramineae are commonly known as grasses and include cereal grasses, bamboos, the grasses of grassland, and lawns.
Buckwheat has triangular-shaped grain-like seeds, with a gray or dark brown rind.
Wheat grains can vary in appearance, depending on the type they are usually oval-shaped, they can be spherical, long, narrow, and flattened as well. Grains can be light yellow, white, red, and even purple and blue, varying in colors.
Taste and Use
Buckwheat has an intense nutty and slightly bitter flavor. When prepared, buckwheat is a bit chewy and has a soft texture.
The taste of wheat ranges from nutty, earthy to a little bitter and a little sweet.
In the culinary world, buckwheat and wheat are commonly used for their flours. Buckwheat or wheat flour can be used in different types of bread, pancakes, wraps, crepes, soba noodles or pasta, waffles, muffins, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, and many other things.
Buckwheat as such is used in buckwheat kasha, porridge, salads, granola, sweet potato burgers, and vegan meatballs.
Varieties and Types
The two most common varieties of buckwheat are common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and bitter or tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tartaricum). Tartary buckwheat is a self-fertile plant that grows well in cold climates and at high altitudes, whereas common buckwheat depends on insects for pollination, prefers temperate climates, and grows well in lower altitudes.
Some of the most cultivated varieties of wheat are common or bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), durum wheat (T. durum), club wheat (T. compactum). Common wheat grows under a wide range of climatic conditions and is used to produce flour for bread and cookies. Durum wheat is longer and narrower in shape and it is ground in semolina. Club wheat is the best choice for confectionery and cookies.
Other common and ancient varieties of wheat are spelt (T. spelta, dinkel wheat), einkorn (T. monococcum, T. boeoticum), emmer, or hulled (T. dicoccum), and khorasan or Kamut (T. turanicum).
Wheat is classified into six classes: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, soft white, hard white, durum. Two of their differences are geographic locations and plant dates.
There is a genetic classification for wheat as well. Depending on the chromosomes, wheat is classified into diploid (einkorn), tetraploid (durum, emmer), and hexaploid (spelt, common, and club wheat).
Wheat can be whole-grain, refined, and enriched. Whole-grain wheat contains all three portions of the grain kernel. Refined and enriched wheat are absent in two of the components, however, enriched wheat is fortified with additional nutrients.
The nutritional values in this article are presented for buckwheat and durum wheat.
Macronutrients and Calories
Both buckwheat and wheat are nutrient-dense and have very similar nutritional contents. Buckwheat contains only 10% water and one percent more contains wheat.
The average serving size of buckwheat and wheat is one cup. One cup of buckwheat weighs 170g and one cup of wheat, being a little heavier weighs 192g.
Both of these foods are high-calorie foods. A hundred grams of buckwheat and a hundred grams of wheat contain 343 and 339 calories, respectively.
Protein and Fats
Wheat contains a little more protein when compared to buckwheat. Both of the foods contain some levels of all essential amino acids.
Buckwheat is higher in fats, even though these foods are not particularly rich in fats. Buckwheat and wheat contain almost three times more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids than saturated fatty acids.
These grains are absent in cholesterol.
Most of the grains are high in carbs and buckwheat and wheat are no exceptions from that.
The amount of dietary fiber per 100g serving of buckwheat and buckwheat flour is 10g, which covers 40% of the daily need.
Dietary fiber is not calculated for durum wheat, but it is calculated for 100g serving of hard and soft kinds of wheat and it ranges from 12.2 to 12.7 grams, and in the unenriched, whole grains flour, it is 10.6 grams.
More than 70% of carbs found in spelt wheat and khorasan are starch.
Buckwheat and wheat are good sources for vitamin B complex.
Buckwheat is 3.5 richer in vitamin B2, it is also richer in vitamin B5.
On the other hand, wheat is four times richer in vitamin B1 and two times richer in vitamin B6, it is richer in folate or vitamin B9 as well.
These foods contain nearly the same amount of vitamin B3 and are absent in fat-soluble vitamins A and D and vitamin B12.
Buckwheat is two times richer in magnesium and copper. It also contains two times less sodium.
Wheat contains over 1.5 times more iron, calcium, and zinc and almost 1.5 times more phosphorus.
Durum wheat and Kamut khorasan contain 10 times more selenium compared to buckwheat and over 3.5 times more when compared to wheat flour.
These foods contain similar amounts of potassium.
The glycemic index values for these foods differ depending on the variety and its cooking methods.
The glycemic index of whole kernels of wheat is 30±9, which is considered to be low. Precooked and cooked durum wheat has a glycemic index of 50±5. Different types of pasta made from durum wheat have low or moderate glycemic index values.
Bread made from white wheat or whole wheat flours on average have high glycemic index values, but they can be moderate as well. Spelt wheat bread predominantly has a moderate glycemic index (1).
The glycemic index of boiled buckwheat groats is 45. You can find more information about it here.
The pH of whole wheat is 5.8, making it moderately acidic (2). The pH value for whole wheat bread falls in the range of 5.47 to 5.85 (3).
Buckwheat has a pH value of 6.8, making its acidity close to neutral (2).
A different way to look at acidity is by calculating the potential renal acid load or PRAL value, which shows the acidifying effect of the given food on the body.
The positive PRAL values of 3.4 for buckwheat and 12.3 for wheat shows that these foods are acidic. The higher PRAL value of wheat means that it is more acid-producing.
Weight Loss & Diets
Even though buckwheat and wheat are nutrient-dense and high in calories, they can still be part of the weight-loss diets for being rich in complex B vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, antioxidants, and low in fats.
Between these two, wheat is the preferred choice for a low calorie, low carb, and low fats diet.
Bread, pasta, cereals made from whole-grain wheat, and buckwheat can be a good addition to the DASH diet.
Whole-grain wheat, bulgur wheat, and buckwheat are included in the Mediterranean diet as well.
During the attack phase of the Dukan diet, 1 tbsp of wheat bran can be used for avoiding constipation.
Buckwheat and whole wheat can be consumed during the anti-inflammatory diet.
Unlike wheat, buckwheat can be used on a gluten-free diet.
Buckwheat and some types of whole wheat, such as spelt, Kamut khorasan, bulgur wheat, or cracked wheat are considered to be superfoods. A superfood is a nutrient-rich food with health-promoting properties.
Products containing whole wheat are superior to the ones with refined wheat. Refined grains lack dietary fiber, antioxidants, some minerals, and vitamins.
The increased intake of buckwheat may reduce cardiovascular disease risk markers, as well as glucose, total cholesterol, and triglycerides (5).
Buckwheat is rich in flavonoids and among other beneficial effects on health, they are known to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease (6).
Research on neonatal rats has shown that rutin, a flavonoid found in buckwheat, can inhibit angiotensin II-induced hypertrophy of myocardial cells (7).
Buckwheat seed consumption may prevent hypertension as well (8, 9).
Intake of whole grains has been inversely associated with the risks of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and all-cause mortality rates (10, 11, 12).
Rutin content in tartary buckwheat is much higher when compared to common buckwheat. Research on mice has shown that rutin has therapeutic effects on reducing blood sugar and cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetic mice. It has been shown to have certain protective effects on the spleen and liver of those mice as well (13,14).
Higher consumption of whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, cereals, wheat germ, bran, but not refined grains is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (15, 16).
Insoluble fiber shows protective effects against type 2 diabetes and the possible mechanisms leading to these effects may be improved glucose tolerance, reduced inflammation, and improved immune response (17).
Buckwheat and buckwheat enriched products contain flavonoids (bioactive compounds) that exert an anti-inflammatory effect on those colon cells responsible for the inflammatory response in the intestine. A study done on this topic suggests that buckwheat consumption may have beneficial effects on inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. (18).
Resistant starch found in tartary buckwheat has the potential to improve imbalanced gut microbiota, increase the synthesis of short-chain fatty acids (19). Another study indicates that buckwheat honey supports the growth of Bifidobacteria and restrains the pathogenic bacterium in the intestinal tract (20).
Prebiotics found in whole-grain wheat have similar effects on gut microbiota. They selectively stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, increasing the natural resistance of the host’s body to invading pathogens (21, 22).
Dietary fiber, wheat bran increase stool bulk and soften it, making it easier to pass and increases the frequency of bowel movements thus can be used in the treatment of constipation and uncomplicated diverticular disease (23, 24). However, bran is only partially effective in those with chronic constipation, showing lower stool output and slower transit time (25).
Common buckwheat by improving lipid metabolism potentially can be used to prevent high-fat content in blood and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (26).
Kamut khorasan wheat and the ethanolic extract of wheat improve insulin resistance and lipid metabolism and ameliorate liver profile in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (27, 28).
The thyroid gland has the highest content of selenium, which is high wheat. Trials of selenium intake in patients with autoimmune/Hashimoto thyroiditis resulted in decreased autoantibody titer without apartment improvements of symptoms. In mild Graves disease, selenium intake might lead to faster remission of hyperthyroidism and improve life quality.
Observational studies have indicated that low selenium status is a risk factor for goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland) (29,30).
The anticarcinogenic activity of buckwheat is due to its antioxidant activity and the inhibition of the growth of cancer cells. Results of studies have indicated that tartary buckwheat bran shows antitumor activity for human breast cancer cells (31). Buckwheat shows anti-tumoral activity on liver cancer cells as well (32).
Increased intake of dietary fiber, specifically cereal fiber and whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer (33).
Reduced risk of gastric, esophageal, breast cancers is associated with consumption of whole grains (34, 35).
Downsides and Risks
Gluten Related Disorders
Gluten is a group of proteins found in cereal grains and products made from these grains. Consumption of wheat for people having gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity is likely to trigger gluten-related disorders, such as Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia (an autoimmune disease), or other neurological disorders.
Buckwheat does not contain gluten proteins and can be used as a good alternative to wheat.
Wheat allergy is more common in children and can cause severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Inhalation of wheat can cause asthma or rhinitis in workers who have repetitive exposure to wheat flour. Wheat allergy can cause eosinophilic esophagitis or gastritis as well (36).
Buckwheat allergy may lead to allergic reactions from urticaria to wheezing and anaphylaxis (37).
Type 1 diabetes
Gluten intake might affect type 1 diabetes development. A study on animal models shows cereal-based diet promotes the development of type 1 diabetes (38).
Along with the previous, type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease often occur together and a gluten-free diet has shown some beneficial effects on symptoms (39).
Buckwheat is richer in vitamin B2 and vitamin B5, magnesium, copper.
Wheat is richer in fiber, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and Folate, selenium, iron, calcium, zinc.
Buckwheat and whole-grain wheat have more beneficial effects on health when compared to refined grains.
- pH values of foods and food products
- Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics
- Selenium and the thyroid
- Buckwheat Allergy: An Emerging Clinical Problem in Europe
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values