How Do They Differ and Which is Healthier?
The difference between wheat and buckwheat is an interesting matter to talk about as not only do they seem similar by name but their nutrients and health benefits are indeed beyond compare. These two homonymous grains are an integral part of diets acknowledged worldwide.
So if you’re thinking, what is the difference between wheat and buckwheat, you’ve got to read this article to get to know them better and how they greatly differ from each other.
This article will enlighten you about wheat vs buckwheat and which of them is healthier. You will also get to know how to cook these two kinds of cereal and what food products are mostly made out of these two types of grains.
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The Difference Between Wheat and Buckwheat
The difference between wheat and buckwheat can be summed up as: wheat is grass and buckwheat is not, similar to the fact that they are cereal and a pseudo-cereal, respectively. Although they both have similar uses, their differences outweigh their common characteristics and features. See below to learn more.
Definition and Origin
- Buckwheat, belonging to the Fagopyrum genus and Polygonaceae family, is a pseudocereal, meaning, they are from plants that produce fruits or seeds which are used and consumed as grains—they are neither grasses nor true cereal grains. It is a domesticated plant in Asia and was a popular crop in Europe and the USA but more as an animal food rather than for human consumption.
- Wheat, on the other hand, is a member of the grass family Poaceae or Gramineae and is a true cereal. Wheat is considered a refined grain and is said to have originated in the “cradle of civilization” in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, near what is now Iraq.
Attributes, Tastes and Texture
- Buckwheat is a soft and nutritious seed that occurs inside a hard shell. It has a triangular shape with a gray or dark brown rind. Buckwheat has a strong, nearly bitter flavor. When prepared, buckwheat is a bit chewy and has a soft texture.
- Wheat, as a plant, is a bunch of grass with upright tillers. The leaves are rolled in the whorl. It has a long and slender inflorescence and a somewhat flattened spike. As a cereal grain, it comes in different colors such as white, red-brown, or yellow. Wheat tastes nutty and sometimes has a gummy texture.
- Buckwheat is mostly grown in Russia, which is also the top buckwheat-producing country in the world. Its cultivation in the said country occupied 712,047 of land and in 2014, about 700,000 buckwheat was produced based on FAO’s data.
- Wheat is said to be one of the most widely used crops in the world, along with corn and rice. It is also the most common cereal grain used as a staple food, worldwide. The total global production of wheat has reached 720 million tons, recorded in 2020—with China being the largest producer of it followed by the USA, India and Russia.
- Buckwheat is popularly known for making flour or buckwheat flour. Buckwheat flowers are also essential in making special honey. Buckwheat flour is also used to make soba noodles, bread, pancakes and crepes. It is also an ingredient to bake cakes, brownies, pizza dough, and the like.
Fun fact: buckwheat has been used to create gluten-free beers!
- Wheat is most commonly used to make bread and durum wheat is used in producing pasta like spaghetti and macaroni while other types of wheat such as club wheat (T. compactum) are used to make pastries including cakes, cookies, crackers and flour. Additionally, some wheat is used by industry for the production of starch, paste, malt, dextrose, gluten, alcohol, and other products.
Wheat Penne Pasta:
The main difference between wheat and buckwheat when we talk about their health benefits is that buckwheat is gluten-free, while wheat contains gluten. So if you’re gluten-intolerant, you should know by now which of them should be included in your diet. To know which of them is healthier, read below.
- Carbs and Calories
Carbohydrates are our chief source of energy thus, a daily supplement of carbs is required to let our bodies do what they are supposed to. Both contain a good quantity of carbs but the Glycemic Index (GI) of wheat is higher than buckwheat. On each serving of both grains (one hundred grams), buckwheat provides 343 calories, whereas a hundred grams of wheat 339 calories.
- Protein and Fats
All of the necessary amino acids are present in both foods but wheat contains a little more protein when compared to buckwheat. But buckwheat is gluten-free, making it a better option for those who have celiac disease.
Although fats are not overly present in both grains, buckwheat is higher in fats than wheat. Buckwheat and wheat contain almost three times more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids than saturated fatty acids. The good thing is that these grains are absent in cholesterol.
Fiber is an essential component if you’re into reducing weight. Both grains are good sources of fiber. 100g of buckwheat provides 10g of dietary fiber and up to 12.7grams of fiber is calculated for hard and soft kinds of wheat.
Both grains contain phytochemicals that act as antioxidants that help protect our bodies from free radical damage. In this component, buckwheat has an edge here because it has more powerful radical scavenging abilities than wheat or any other type of grain. Specifically, they contain:
Buckwheat: Quercetin, Rutin
Wheat: Phenolic Acids, Carotenoids, Tocopherols
The difference between wheat and buckwheat is a broad matter to discuss but the key answer to this lies in their plant family: wheat is a grass while buckwheat isn’t. Buckwheat, despite its name, has no relevance to wheat at all.
Nutrient-wise, both grains contain a significant amount of vitamins and minerals that bring benefits for overall health and protection against serious diseases. They are therefore beneficial to human and animal existence as they are not only for human consumption but also, they are used as animal feed.
In a nutshell, you don’t have to make an absolute choice between these two grains—you can actually have both. You can eat wheat on some days and add buckwheat to your dishes to get the combination of tastes you want.
Along with exercise and enough rest, these grains will surely help you achieve a healthier and happier life that everyone is aiming for.