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Buckwheat vs. Wheat – How Different Are They?

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Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on May 13, 2024
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Wheat
vs
Buckwheat

Summary

A 100g of wheat provides 40 calories more, contains 2.33g more proteins, 6g more net carbs, and 1.6g more dietary fiber than buckwheat. A 100g of  Each grain contains less than 1g of fats.

Wheat is over two times richer in iron, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamin B3, 14.5 times richer in selenium; it is also richer in calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, vitamins B1, B3, A, and E. Buckwheat is richer in magnesium, vitamins B2, B6 and folate.

Buckwheat and whole-grain wheat have more beneficial effects on health when compared to refined grains.

 

Introduction

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 quinoa and amaranth, whereas wheat is a cereal and a grass. This article will provide information about their nutritional differences and impacts on health.

Classification

Common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) belongs to the Fagopyrum genus and Polygonaceae family. This family is also called the buckwheat or knotweed family, and it mainly consists of herbaceous plants, 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, grasses of grassland, and lawns.

Appearance

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; however, they can be spherical, long, narrow, and flattened as well. Grains can come in shades of light yellow, white, red, and sometimes purple and blue.

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 earthy to a little bitter or a little sweet.

In the culinary world, buckwheat and wheat are commonly used to make flour. 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 foods.

Buckwheat, as such, is used in buckwheat kasha, porridge, salads, granola, sweet potato burgers, and vegan meatballs. Soba noodles can also be made from buckwheat flour.

Varieties and Types

The two most common buckwheat varieties 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 high altitudes. In contrast, 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), and 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 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 (T. turanicum).

Wheat is classified into six classes: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, soft white, hard white, and 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.

Nutrition

The nutritional values in this article are presented for 100g of cooked Khorasan wheat (KAMUT company) and 100g of roasted and cooked buckwheat groats.

Macronutrients and Calories

Wheat is denser in nutrients than buckwheat: water in cooked wheat makes up 65%, whereas, in buckwheat, it is 76%. Thus, wheat is somewhat denser in nutrients. Wheat is higher in calories, proteins, net carbs, dietary fiber, and fats.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Protein +68.9%
Contains more Fats +33.9%
Contains more Carbs +38.4%
Contains more Other +58.1%
Contains more Water +16%
6% 28% 65%
Protein: 5.71 g
Fats: 0.83 g
Carbs: 27.6 g
Water: 65.18 g
Other: 0.68 g
3% 20% 76%
Protein: 3.38 g
Fats: 0.62 g
Carbs: 19.94 g
Water: 75.63 g
Other: 0.43 g
Contains more Protein +68.9%
Contains more Fats +33.9%
Contains more Carbs +38.4%
Contains more Other +58.1%
Contains more Water +16%

One cup of cooked wheat is ~172g, and one cup of cooked buckwheat is ~168g.

Calories

Wheat provides 40 calories more than buckwheat per 100g serving. A 100g of wheat provides 132 calories, while buckwheat provides 92. 

Carbohydrates

Carbs are the main source of calories in grains. Wheat is 6g richer in net carbs and 1.6g richer in dietary fiber.

A 100g of cooked wheat contains 27.6g of carbs, 23.3g (84%) of which are net carbs, and 4.3g (16%) is dietary fiber.

A 100g of cooked buckwheat contains 19.94g of carbs, 17.24g (86%) of which are net carbs, and 2.7g (14%) is dietary fiber.

Protein

Wheat is a richer source of proteins and nearly all essential amino acids than buckwheat, except for lysine. Cooked wheat contains 5.71g of proteins, whereas cooked buckwheat contains 3.38g.

Fats

Cooked buckwheat and wheat are very low in fats, containing 0.83g and 0.62g of fats, respectively.

The grains are naturally absent in cholesterol and trans fats.

Vitamins

Wheat is 2.5 times richer in vitamin B3 than buckwheat; it is also richer in vitamins B1, A, and E. The USDA database doesn’t provide information about the vitamins B5, C, and K contents of wheat.

Buckwheat is richer in vitamins B2, B6, and folate and also contains some levels of vitamins B5 and K.

The grains are absent in vitamins D and B12; buckwheat is also absent in vitamin C.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Wheat
4
:
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +166.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +137.5%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +145.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +30%
Contains more Folate +27.3%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.077
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 5% 0% 0% 24% 7% 44% 0% 17% 9% 0% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 0% 2% 0% 0% 10% 9% 18% 22% 18% 11% 0% 11% 5%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +166.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +137.5%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +145.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +30%
Contains more Folate +27.3%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.077

Minerals

The grains are excellent sources of minerals, wheat being richer in most of them. 

Wheat is 14.5 times richer in selenium, three times richer in zinc, 2.2 times richer in iron, and two times richer in phosphorus; it is also richer in calcium, copper, potassium, and manganese.

Buckwheat is richer in magnesium and lower in sodium.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Calcium +28.6%
Contains more Iron +120%
Contains more Phosphorus +110%
Contains more Potassium +86.4%
Contains more Zinc +201.6%
Contains more Copper +41.8%
Contains more Manganese +155.6%
Contains more Selenium +1350%
Contains less Sodium -50%
Equal in Magnesium - 51
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 3% 66% 35% 63% 15% 2% 51% 69% 135% 174%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 3% 30% 37% 30% 8% 1% 17% 49% 53% 12%
Contains more Calcium +28.6%
Contains more Iron +120%
Contains more Phosphorus +110%
Contains more Potassium +86.4%
Contains more Zinc +201.6%
Contains more Copper +41.8%
Contains more Manganese +155.6%
Contains more Selenium +1350%
Contains less Sodium -50%
Equal in Magnesium - 51

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index values for these foods differ depending on the variety and cooking methods.

The glycemic index of whole wheat kernels is 30±9, which is considered 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.

On average, bread made from white wheat or whole wheat flour has a high glycemic index value but can also be moderate. 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 on our website.

Insulin Index

The insulin index value of foods demonstrates how the degree to which a food raises blood insulin levels in the first two hours after intake.

While there is no research yet about the insulin index of wheat, this value for buckwheat has been measured to be 53 (2). This is a moderate insulin index value. 

Buckwheat bread has a relatively high insulin index of 74 (2).

Acidity

The pH value of whole wheat is 5.8 (3). The pH value for whole wheat bread falls in the slightly acidic range of 5.47 to 5.85 (4).

Buckwheat has a neutral pH value of 6.8 (3).

A different way to look at acidity is by calculating the potential renal acid load or PRAL value, which shows the food's acidifying effect on the body.

The positive PRAL values of 3.4 for buckwheat and 12.3 for wheat show that these foods are acidic. The higher PRAL value of wheat means that it is more acid-producing.

Weight Loss & Diets

Between wheat and buckwheat, wheat is the preferred choice for low-calorie, low-carb, and low-fat diets.

Bread, pasta, and cereals made from whole-grain wheat and buckwheat can be a good addition to the DASH diet.

Whole-grain wheat, bulgur wheat, and buckwheat can be included in the Mediterranean diet.

During the attack phase of the Dukan Diet, 1 tbsp of wheat bran can be used to avoid constipation.

Buckwheat and whole wheat can be consumed during the anti-inflammatory diet.

Buckwheat and buckwheat products can be used as a substitute for wheat on a gluten-free diet.

Health Impact

Buckwheat and whole wheat, such as spelt, Khorasan, bulgur wheat, or cracked wheat, are considered superfoods - nutrient-rich foods with health-promoting properties.

Products containing whole wheat are superior to the ones with refined wheat. Refined grains lack dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Section reviewed by cardiologist Astghik Grigoryan Article author photo Astghik Grigoryan

Increased buckwheat intake may reduce cardiovascular disease risk markers, as well as glucose, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels (6).

Buckwheat is rich in flavonoids, which, among other beneficial effects on health, are known to reduce cardiovascular risk (the risk of fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and overall cardiovascular mortality) (7).

Research on neonatal rats has shown that rutin, a flavonoid found in buckwheat, can inhibit angiotensin II-induced hypertrophy of myocardial cells (8).

Buckwheat seed consumption may also prevent hypertension (9, 10).

Intake of whole grains has been inversely associated with the risks of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and all-cause mortality rates (11, 12, 13).

Diabetes

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 specific protective effects on mice's spleen and liver as well (14, 15). Rutin content in Tartary buckwheat is much higher when compared to common buckwheat.

Higher consumption of whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, cereals, wheat germ, and bran, but not refined grains, is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes (16, 17).

Insoluble fiber has protective effects against type 2 diabetes, and the potential mechanisms leading to these effects may be improved glucose tolerance, reduced inflammation, and improved immune response (18).

Digestive Health

Buckwheat and buckwheat-enriched products contain flavonoids (bioactive compounds) that exert an anti-inflammatory effect on the colon cells. A study on this topic suggests that buckwheat consumption may benefit inflammatory bowel diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease; however, increased buckwheat intake is also not suggested, as it’s rich in dietary fiber and may worsen diarrhea (19).

Resistant starch in Tartary and common buckwheat may beneficially affect gut microbiota and increase SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids) synthesis (20, 21). Prebiotics in whole-grain wheat may have similar effects on gut microbiota: stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli (22, 23).

Dietary fiber from wheat bran increases stool bulk and the frequency of bowel movements and softens it, making it easier to pass; thus, it can be used to treat constipation and uncomplicated diverticular disease. However, bran is only partially effective in those with chronic constipation (24, 25, 26).

Liver Health

By improving lipid metabolism, common buckwheat may lower blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of fatty liver disease (27).

Khorasan wheat and its ethanolic extract may also improve lipid metabolism and insulin resistance in fatty liver disease (28, 29).

Cancer

The anticarcinogenic activity of buckwheat is due to its antioxidant activity and the inhibition of cancer cell growth. Results of studies have indicated that Tartary buckwheat bran shows antitumor activity for human breast cancer cells (30). Buckwheat shows anti-tumoral activity on liver cancer cells as well (31).

Increased intake of dietary fiber, specifically cereal fiber and whole grains, is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer (32).

Reduced risk of stomach, esophageal, and breast cancers is associated with the consumption of whole grains (33, 34).

Downsides and Risks

The Risks Of Gluten

Gluten is a group of proteins in cereal grains and products made from these grains. Consumption of wheat should be avoided for people with gluten-related disorders such as Coeliac disease, gluten intolerance, dermatitis herpetiformis, and gluten ataxia, as it will likely trigger the symptoms of the disease (35).

Several studies recommend a low-gluten or gluten-free diet for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, suggesting it may slow down the progression of the disease; however, other studies find no associations between the diet and Hashimoto’s disease (36, 37, 38, 39).

Buckwheat does not contain gluten proteins and can be consumed as a great alternative to wheat.

Allergy

Wheat allergy is more common in children and can cause severe reactions such as anaphylaxis. Inhalation of wheat can cause asthma or rhinitis in workers with repetitive exposure to wheat flour. Wheat allergy can cause eosinophilic esophagitis or gastritis as well (40).

Buckwheat allergy may lead to allergic reactions from urticaria to wheezing and anaphylaxis (41).

Type 1 Diabetes

Gluten intake might affect type 1 diabetes development. A study on animal models has shown a cereal-based diet may promote the development of type 1 diabetes (42).

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 (43).

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/114/5/1625/6320814
  2. http://www.nphsystem.guide/grain_food_values.htm
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11170616/
  4. pH values of foods and food products
  5. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/grains
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986499/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7180151/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25587324/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17645626/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32351304/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28155258/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27798329/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27301975/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31250605/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27279072/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32641435/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24158434/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29191432/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6597957/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32724589/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32184894/
  22. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/4/1417/
  23. Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6281350/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7494680/
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2545244/pdf/bmj00274-0031.pdf
  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32383865/
  28. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29652567/
  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30414175/
  30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27942664/
  31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25901645/
  32. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22074852/
  33. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31374888/
  34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7271550/
  35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538505/ 
  36. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34362024/
  37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34969211/
  38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9101474/
  39. https://www.nuclmed.gr/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/10.pdf 
  40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743586/
  41. Buckwheat Allergy: An Emerging Clinical Problem in Europe
  42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4119241/
  43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4185872/
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: May 13, 2024
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan

Infographic

Wheat vs Buckwheat infographic
Infographic link

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -42.5%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +29.3%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +123.8%
19% 21% 60%
Saturated Fat: 0.077 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.084 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.243 g
26% 37% 37%
Saturated Fat: 0.134 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.188 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.188 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -42.5%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +29.3%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +123.8%

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Wheat Buckwheat
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Wheat Buckwheat Opinion
Net carbs 23.3g 17.24g Wheat
Protein 5.71g 3.38g Wheat
Fats 0.83g 0.62g Wheat
Carbs 27.6g 19.94g Wheat
Calories 132kcal 92kcal Wheat
Fructose 0.1g Buckwheat
Sugar 3.07g 0.9g Buckwheat
Fiber 4.3g 2.7g Wheat
Calcium 9mg 7mg Wheat
Iron 1.76mg 0.8mg Wheat
Magnesium 48mg 51mg Buckwheat
Phosphorus 147mg 70mg Wheat
Potassium 164mg 88mg Wheat
Sodium 8mg 4mg Buckwheat
Zinc 1.84mg 0.61mg Wheat
Copper 0.207mg 0.146mg Wheat
Manganese 1.03mg 0.403mg Wheat
Selenium 31.9µg 2.2µg Wheat
Vitamin A 4IU 0IU Wheat
Vitamin E 0.24mg 0.09mg Wheat
Vitamin B1 0.095mg 0.04mg Wheat
Vitamin B2 0.03mg 0.039mg Buckwheat
Vitamin B3 2.305mg 0.94mg Wheat
Vitamin B5 0.359mg Buckwheat
Vitamin B6 0.07mg 0.077mg Buckwheat
Folate 11µg 14µg Buckwheat
Choline 20.1mg Buckwheat
Vitamin K 1.9µg Buckwheat
Tryptophan 0.051mg 0.049mg Wheat
Threonine 0.172mg 0.129mg Wheat
Isoleucine 0.22mg 0.127mg Wheat
Leucine 0.432mg 0.212mg Wheat
Lysine 0.161mg 0.172mg Buckwheat
Methionine 0.097mg 0.044mg Wheat
Phenylalanine 0.3mg 0.133mg Wheat
Valine 0.267mg 0.173mg Wheat
Histidine 0.147mg 0.079mg Wheat
Trans Fat 0.002g Buckwheat
Saturated Fat 0.077g 0.134g Wheat
Monounsaturated Fat 0.084g 0.188g Buckwheat
Polyunsaturated fat 0.243g 0.188g Wheat

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Wheat Buckwheat
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
8%
Wheat
8%
Buckwheat
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
61%
Wheat
24%
Buckwheat

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Wheat
Wheat is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.057g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Wheat
Wheat is lower in glycemic index (difference - 1)
Which food is cheaper?
Wheat
Wheat is cheaper (difference - $2)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Wheat
Wheat is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Buckwheat
Buckwheat is lower in Sugar (difference - 2.17g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Buckwheat
Buckwheat contains less Sodium (difference - 4mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Buckwheat
Buckwheat is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Wheat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169744/nutrients
  2. Buckwheat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170686/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.