Is Buckwheat Gluten Free?
When adopting a gluten free diet, it is common for patients to turn to a quick Internet search to determine what foods are gluten free. A quick glance may suggest that many alternative grains (or similar products) are gluten free. One common example is buckwheat.
But there’s more to the story. Just because buckwheat is commonly called gluten free doesn’t mean it is safe to eat on a gluten free diet.
This in depth article will take a closer look at this commonly misunderstood seed. The following will be discussed:
- What is buckwheat?
- Relevant research about buckwheat
- Is buckwheat gluten free?
- Recipe ideas to replace buckwheat
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What is Buckwheat?
You might be surprised to learn that buckwheat is actually not a grain. It is actually considered a pseudo cereal. Pseudo cereals are seeds that are consumed as cereal grains but don’t grow on grasses. Quinoa and amaranth are two other common pseudo cereals.
Buckwheat is a flowering plant that belongs to the same family as rhubarb and sorrel. It is also referred to as beech wheat or kasha. Buckwheat can be eaten as the whole groat, and served in either sweet or savory dishes similar to oats or quinoa. Buckwheat is also commonly ground into a flour, similar to traditional grain-based flours. This flour is used in a number of baking applications, most often in buckwheat pancakes and crepes.
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Research about Buckwheat
While buckwheat technically contains no gluten, there are a few issues to consider before consuming buckwheat on a gluten free diet:
- Cross contamination: Research shows that buckwheat is frequently cross contaminated with gluten. This makes its consumption risky. As one study on cross contamination puts it, “incorrect gluten quantitation, improper product labeling, and poor consumer awareness, which results in the inadvertent intake of relatively high amounts of gluten, can be factors that compromise the health of patients with celiac disease.” In fact, some research estimates that 30-92% of celiac patients still experience symptoms even after one year on a gluten free diet. It is suspected that unknown cross contamination is the culprit.
- Buckwheat reactions: Some research shows that Celiacs react to buckwheat in addition to gluten. One study found that 30% of participants with celiac disease in addition to another food allergy reacted to buckwheat. Reactions were less common in those with celiac disease alone. Another study reported that 4% of participants reacted to buckwheat.
- Buckwheat allergies: Research suggests that buckwheat allergies are on the rise, and likely more common than diagnosed. This may be attributable, in part, to its rising use in the gourmet and allergy-friendly sectors, particularly in gluten free foods.
For these reasons, Gluten Free Society takes the approach that removing buckwheat from the diet is best for those embarking on the gluten free diet for health related issues. Especially for those who have been following a traditional gluten free diet (no wheat, barley, or rye) and continue to struggle with GI problems or other forms of autoimmune disease.
Recipe Ideas to Replace Buckwheat
For applications in which buckwheat is served as a whole groat, try a gluten-free granola like the recipe listed below.
The Bottom Line
While buckwheat is technically gluten free, it comes with a list of potential problems that may lead to a failure to recover on a traditional gluten free diet. Bottom line – buckwheat is on Gluten Free Society’s NO list of healthy, gluten free foods.