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  • Chris Bekermeier
    Chris Bekermeier
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    Is Buckwheat Flour Really Gluten-Free?

      With so much conflicting information available today, it can be hard to tell what's gluten-free and what isn't. Here's the skinny on buckwheat.

    Celiac.com 10/18/2013 - Buckwheat, sometimes referred to as kasha, is often billed as a “tasty alternative to wheat.” That’s all well and good, but is it really gluten-free, and generally considered safe to eat for those who suffer from celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity?  

    Photo: CC-- Bob DassWhether or not buckwheat is tasty is a matter of opinion. However, with so much conflicting information available today, it can be hard to tell what’s gluten-free and what isn’t. Here’s the skinny on buckwheat.

    The Facts

    Good news! With its non-wheat status, buckwheat is safely gluten-free. Buckwheat and wheat are, come to find out, actually from completely different botanical families. Derived from the seeds of a flowering plant, buckwheat is not considered a grain or a cereal (though it may be called a pseudo-cereal—don’t let that scare you).

    Buckwheat, in all of its gluten-free glory, is actually closely related to rhubarb. In addition, it is an excellent source of fiber and nutrients. In particular, buckwheat groats (the small, triangular seeds), when cooked, offer 17 grams of dietary fiber or 68% of the daily requirement for a 2,000 calorie per day diet, as well as 22 grams of protein.

    Nutritionally beneficial and sometimes used in treating symptoms of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, buckwheat contains rutin. Rutin, a glycoside, has been known to strengthen capillary walls and improve circulation.

    Like many grains, buckwheat can sometimes be cross-contaminated with wheat during processing, transportation or if it is used as a rotational crop with wheat, so it is important to find non-cross contaminated source of buckwheat—make sure the one you use is certified gluten-free.

    Culinary Uses

    Buckwheat groats make a healthy side dish. Also, if you grind the small seeds of the buckwheat plant, you can make buckwheat flour for use in noodles, crepes, and many other gluten-free products. Using buckwheat flour in your cooking will give a strong nut taste to your dishes. You can also contribute raw buckwheat groats to recipes for cookies, cakes, granola, crackers, or any other gluten-free, bread-like item.

    If you’re feeling more creative, buckwheat makes a good binding agent, and becomes very gelatinous when soaked. If you soak, rinse, and then re-dry the groats you can produce a sort of buckwheat chip that is crunchy and can act as a nice side dish.

    When toasted, buckwheat becomes kasha. You can pick out kasha—vs. raw buckwheat—by the color; it’s a darker reddish-brown. In addition, kasha has a strong toasted-nut scent. Conversely, raw buckwheat groats are typically light brown or green and have no aroma.

    Buckwheat

    So, there you have it. You can use buckwheat and kasha safely as a nutritional, gluten-free alternative to wheat, or to create fun and tasty side dishes with buckwheat groats.

    If you’re looking to stock your pantry with all kinds of gluten-free wheat alternatives for your side dishes or even your main dishes, you can safely go for buckwheat in addition to cornmeal, millet, amaranth, cornstarch, garbanzo beans, arrowroot, quinoa or brown rice. Eating a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean you have to rely on the same old wheat alternative for every dish!


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    I am interested to find out what brand of gluten free buckwheat flour is not contaminated, so that I can make my own noodles. You don't state any brands as safe in this article, but leave it up to us to guess.

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    I am interested to find out what brand of gluten free buckwheat flour is not contaminated, so that I can make my own noodles. You don't state any brands as safe in this article, but leave it up to us to guess.

    I am sensitive to buckwheat flour, so I can't use it. This is not an unusual issue for those with multiple dietary intolerances.

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    I know kasha makes a good pilaf side dish. I bet it could also be used in tabouli.

    Thank you for the thought!! I love tabouli and am recently wheat free- loving it but thinking what to substitute in tabouli...I was thinking millet. I like the Kasha idea.

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    I am interested to find out what brand of gluten free buckwheat flour is not contaminated, so that I can make my own noodles. You don't state any brands as safe in this article, but leave it up to us to guess.

    We have a small commercial, certified organic flour mill that only produces buckwheat flour...absolutely 100% gluten free. I grow the buckwheat and guarantee it to be free of contamination of other grains with gluten, such as wheat to my buyers. It takes a lot of work to keep product gluten free, but I have developed a regiment to achieve it.

    This article could have stated the benefit of the great amino acid make up of buckwheat, making it a very good source of plant protein for humans.

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    We have a small commercial, certified organic flour mill that only produces buckwheat flour...absolutely 100% gluten free. I grow the buckwheat and guarantee it to be free of contamination of other grains with gluten, such as wheat to my buyers. It takes a lot of work to keep product gluten free, but I have developed a regiment to achieve it.

    This article could have stated the benefit of the great amino acid make up of buckwheat, making it a very good source of plant protein for humans.

    I live in Canada, where can I buy it Bruce?

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    I live in Canada, where can I buy it Bruce?

    We sell to the Organic Works Bakery, in London Ontario. They distribute across Ontario.

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    Guest Joyce Harasemchuk

    Posted

    Thank for this timely information. I have been trying to adjust to a gluten free lifestyle. It's not easy for me because I love bread and all things baked.

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    Thank you for something new to try, I'm finding it hard to adjust as being a veggie as well is hard work finding food I can eat? But were in England can I find it?

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    I am interested to find out what brand of gluten free buckwheat flour is not contaminated, so that I can make my own noodles. You don't state any brands as safe in this article, but leave it up to us to guess.

    If you look on the bags usually they will say if the product was processed in a gluten-free facility if it wasn't then chances are it is contaminated. You can try Bob's Red Mill they use an ELISA test to test for Gluten in all of their gluten free products.

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  • About Me

    Chris Bekermeier is Vice President, Sales & Marketing, for PacMoore, one of the leading commercial food packaging companies processing dry ingredients for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Headquartered in Hammond, Indiana, Pacmore's capabilities include blending, spray drying, re-packaging, sifting, and consumer packaging. His company's site is at: http://www.pacmoore.com/packaging

  • Related Articles

    Scott Adams
    Preface: The following information was supplied originally in 1991 in the form of a letter to Phyllis Brogden, Chairperson of the Greater Philadelphia Celiac Sprue Support Group, by Donald D. Kasarda, who was a Research Chemist with the US Department of Agriculture at that time. Copies were sent to four other major celiac patient groups in the US. Dr. Kasarda retired from the USDA in 1999, but updated the information in February of 2000. Dr. Kasarda wishes to add the following disclaimer to the information: These are my opinions based on quite a few years of research in the area of proteins as they relate to celiac disease. They do not necessarily represent those of the Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. If you have any questions or comments regarding the piece, you can address them to Don at: kasarda@pw.usda.gov
    The only plants demonstrated to have proteins that damage the small intestines of people with celiac disease are those from wheat, rye, and barley (and the man-made wheat-rye cross called triticale). Although oats had generally been considered harmful until 1996, several high quality studies published since then indicate that oats are not harmful either in celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis. Some physicians choose not to accept these findings or else point out that there is some potential problem of contamination of oats by wheat. The contamination question has not yet been adequately researched, but may be overemphasized. The three harmful species are members of the grass family and are quite closely related to one another according to various schemes of plant classification (taxonomy). However, not all members of the grass family damage the intestines of celiac patients. Rice and corn, for example, are apparently harmless.
    Many other grains have not been subjected to controlled testing or to the same scrutiny as wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, and corn in relation to celiac disease. In fact, only wheat and oats have been extensively studied in controlled experiments with the most up-to-date methods. If we accept corn and rice as safe, however, and this seems reasonable to me, then members of the grass family that are more closely related to these species (on the basis of taxonomy) than to wheat are likely to be safe. Such grasses include sorghum, millet, teff, ragi, and Jobs tears, which appear to be reasonably closely related to corn. In some cases, there are protein studies in support of this conclusion, although the studies are not sufficiently complete to provide more than guidance. Scientifically controlled feeding studies with celiac patients would provide a better answer. However, such studies are not likely to be carried out in the next few years because of high costs and the difficulty of obtaining patient participation (such studies would likely involve intestinal biopsy). In lieu of feeding studies, further studies of protein (and DNA) would provide the next best way to evaluate my suggestion that millet, sorghum, teff, ragi, and Jobs tears are not likely to be toxic in celiac disease, although even such studies are hampered at present by a lack of knowledge of which sequences in the wheat gluten proteins are harmful. There is evidence that a few sequences are harmful, but not all possibilities have yet been tested.
    The scientific name for bread wheat is Triticum aestivum var. aestivum--the first part of the name defines the genus (Triticum) and the second part, the species (aestivum). Species falling in the genus Triticum are almost certain to be harmful to celiac patients. Grain proteins of these species include the various types characteristic of the gluten proteins found in bread wheats (including the alpha-gliadins) that cause damage to the small intestine in celiac disease. Durum wheats (Triticum turgidum var. durum) used for pasta are also harmful to celiac patients. Some Triticum species of current concern include Triticum aestivum var. spelta (common names include spelt or spelta), Triticum turgidum var. polonicum (common names include Polish wheat, and, recently, Kamut), and Triticum monococcum var. monococcum (common names include einkorn and small spelt). I recommend that celiac patients avoid grain from these species. Also, given their very close relationship to bread and durum wheats, I think it is unlikely that these grains would be safe for those with classical allergic responses to wheat.
    Rye (Secale cereale) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) are toxic in celiac disease even though these two species are less closely related to bread wheat than spelta and Kamut. They belong to different genera, Secale and Hordeum, respectively, and lack alpha-gliadins, which may be an especially toxic fraction.
    There have been anecdotal reports suggesting a lack of toxicity in celiac disease for spelta and Kamut, along with anecdotal reports of the opposite, at least in the case of spelt-celiac patients who have been harmed by eating it. Controlled tests would be necessary to draw a firm conclusion, although they hardly seem necessary insofar as spelt and Kamut should be considered forms of wheat.
    The diagnosis, sometimes self-diagnosis, of celiac disease is occasionally made without benefit of reasonably rigorous medical or clinical tests, especially intestinal biopsy. Individuals who are diagnosed in this way without rigorous testing may not actually have celiac disease. Claims that particular foods cause this latter group no problems in relation to their celiac disease could cause confusion.
    Furthermore, celiac patients who report no problems in the short run with spelt or Kamut might experience relapse later. There is now adequate evidence that when celiac patients on a gluten-free diet (that is, a diet free of any proteins or peptides from wheat, rye, and barley) have wheat reintroduced to their diets, times-to-relapse vary enormously among individuals, ranging from hours to months, or even years. And this is for wheat, presumably the most toxic of all cereal grains to celiac patients.
    Additionally, the relapse may not be accompanied by obvious symptoms, but be recognized only by physicians through observation of characteristic changes in the small intestinal tissues obtained by biopsy. The reasons for the enormous variability of response times are not known. It may be speculated that the variability has something to do with the degree of recovery of the lining of the small intestine on a gluten-free diet, the degree of stress that the patient had been experiencing (including infections), and individual genetic differences.
    As I have indicated, all known grain species that cause problems for celiac patients are members of the grass family. In plant taxonomy, the grass family belongs to the Plant Kingdom Subclass known as monocotyledonous plants (monocots). The only other grouping at the Subclass level is that of dicotyledonous plants (dicots). Some other species about which celiac patients have questions actually are dicots, which places them in very distant relationship to the grass family. Such species include buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, and rape. The seed of the last plant listed, rape, is not eaten, but an oil is pressed from the seeds that is commonly used in cooking. This oil is being marketed as canola oil. Because of their very distant relationship to the grass family and to wheat, it is highly unlikely that these dicots will contain the same type of protein sequence found in wheat proteins that causes problems for celiac patients. Of course, some quirk of evolution could have given rise in these dicots to proteins with the toxic amino acid sequence found in wheat proteins. But if such concerns were carried to a logical conclusion, celiac patients would have to exclude all plant foods from their diets. For example, buckwheat and rhubarb belong to the same plant family (Polygonaceae). If buckwheat were suspect for celiac patients, should not rhubarb, its close relation, be suspect as well?
    It may be in order to caution celiac patients that they may have undesirable reactions to any of these foods--reactions that are not related to celiac disease. Allergic reactions may occur to almost any protein, including proteins found in rice, but there is a great deal of individual variation in allergic reactions. Also, buckwheat, for example, has been claimed to contain a photosensitizing agent that will cause some people who have just eaten it to develop a skin rash when they are exposed to sunlight. Quinoa and amaranth may have high oxalate contents-approaching those of spinach and these oxalate levels may cause problems for some people. Such reactions should be looked for, but for most people, buckwheat, quinoa, or amaranth eaten in moderation apparently do not cause problems. (Buckwheat is sometimes found in mixture with wheat, which of course would cause a problem for celiac patients.) It seems no more necessary for all people with celiac disease to exclude buckwheat from their diets because some celiac patients react to it than it would be for all celiac patients to exclude milk from their diets because some celiac patients have a problem with milk.
    In conclusion, scientific knowledge of celiac disease, including knowledge of the proteins that cause the problem, and the grains that contain these proteins, is in a continuing state of development. There is much that remains to be done. Nevertheless, steady progress has been made over the years. As far as I know, the following statements are a valid description of the state of our knowledge:
    Spelt or spelta and Kamut are wheats. They have proteins toxic to celiac patients and should be avoided just as bread wheat, durum wheat, rye, barley, and triticale should be avoided. Rice and corn (maize) are not toxic to celiac patients. Certain cereal grains, such as various millets, sorghum, teff, ragi, and Jobs tears are close enough in their genetic relationship to corn to make it likely that these grains are safe for celiac patients to eat. However, significant scientific studies have not been carried out for these latter grains. There is no reason for celiac patients to avoid plant foods that are very distantly related to wheat. These include buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and rapeseed oil (canola). Some celiac patients might suffer allergies or other adverse reactions to these grains or foodstuffs made from them, but there is currently no scientific basis for saying that these allergies or adverse reactions have anything to do with celiac disease. A celiac patient may have an allergy to milk, but that does not mean that all celiac patients will have an adverse reaction to milk. Again, however, scientific studies are absent or minimal for these dicots. A list of my publications with pertinence to celiac disease follows. Cross-references to the literature for most of the points discussed above can be found in these publications.
    Kasarda, D. D., and DOvidio, R. 1999. Amino acid sequence of an alpha-gliadin gene from spelt wheat (Spelta) includes sequences active in celiac disease. Cereal Chem. 76:548-551. Kasarda, D. D. 1997. Celiac Disease. In Syllabus of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, 4th Annual Postgraduate Course, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, pp. 13-21. Kasarda, D. D. 1997. Gluten and gliadin: precipitating factors in coeliac disease. In Coeliac Disease: Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Coeliac Disease (September 5-7, 1996), edited by M. Mäkki, P. Collin, and J. K. Visakorpi, Coeliac Disease Study Group, Institute of Medical Technology, University of Tampere,Tampere, Finland, pp. 195-212. Srinivasan, U., Leonard, N., Jones, E., Kasarda, D. D., Weir, D. G., OFarrelly, C., and Feighery, C. 1996. Absence of oats toxicity in coeliac disease. British Medical Journal 313:1300-1301. Tatham, A. S., Fido, R. J., Moore, C. M., Kasarda, D. D., Kuzmicky, D. D., Keen, J. N., and Shewry, P. R. Characterization of the major prolamins of tef (Eragrostis tef) and finger millet (Eleusine coracana). J. Cereal Sci. 24:65-71. 1996. Kasarda, D. D. 1994. Defining cereals toxicity in coeliac disease. In Gastrointestinal Immunology and Gluten-Sensitive Disease, edited by C. Feighery, and F. OFarrelly, Oak Tree Press, Dublin, pp. 203-220. Shewry, P. R., Tatham, A. S., and Kasarda, D. D. 1992. Cereal proteins and coeliac disease. In Coeliac Disease, edited by M. N. Marsh, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, U. K., pp. 305-348. De Ritis, G., Auricchio, S., Jones, H. W., Lew, E. J.-L., Bernardin, J. E. and Kasarda, D. D. 1988. In vitro (organ culture) studies of the toxicity of specific A-gliadin peptides in celiac disease. Gastroenterology 94:41-49. Kagnoff, M. F., Patterson, Y. J., Kumar, P. J., Kasarda, D. D., Carbone, F. R., Unsworth, D. J. and Austin, R. K. 1987. Evidence for the role of a human intestinal adenovirus in the pathogenesis of celiac disease. Gut 28:995-1001. Levenson, S. D., Austin, R. K., Dietler, M. D., Kasarda, D. D. and Kagnoff, M. F. 1985. Specificity of antigliadin antibody in celiac disease. Gastroenterology 89: 1-5. Kagnoff, M. F., Austin, R. K., Hubert, J. J., Bernardin, J. E. and Kasarda, D. D. 1984. Possible role for a human adenovirus in the pathogenesis of celiac disease. J. Exp. Med. 160: 1544-1557. Grains in Relation to Celiac (Coeliac) Disease by Donald D. Kasarda.
    An annotated copy: http://wheat.pw.usda.gov/topics/

    Scott Adams
    The following was written by Donald D. Kasarda who is a research chemist in the Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture. If you have any questions or comments regarding the piece, you can address them to Don at: kasarda@pw.usda.gov.
    Most sprouted wheat still has gluten or gluten peptides remaining. Although the sprouting begins enzymatic action that starts to break down the gluten (a storage protein for the plant) into peptides and even amino acids. Generally this is not a complete process for sprouts used in foods so some active peptides (active in celiac disease) remain.

    Sheila Hughes
    Millet is an Untapped Gluten-Free Resource
    Celiac.com 05/14/2013 - Despite the fact that millet is more nutritious than wheat, as well as other gluten-free grains, modern science lacks the processing technologies to manufacture it on a large scale. Millet is an age-old grain, however we have yet to harness its full potential due to this drawback.
    The preparation of millet includes fermentation, decortication, milling, and sieving. Most of millet being processed today is currently being down on a household level in rural areas, and due to this fact its availability is limited in urban areas. Another challenge with increasing millet production is making sure the nutritional properties are not depleted during the process.
    Current health benefits of millet include high anti-oxidants which could mean a reduced risk of cancer. It is also used more and more in diabetic products because it is high in polyunsaturated fat.
    While there currently isn't a system to produce millet on a large scale, there is research being done in this area. Perhaps in the near future we will see this grain being produced on the scale needed to make it common place in gluten-free products.
    Source:
    http://www.bakeryandsnacks.com/R-D/Millet-promise-stopped-short-by-processing-shortfalls-review

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    Okay, thanks. Re: MTHFR - I don't really know yet... I only started reading about it yesterday and it is pretty overwhelming. But it does seem to be common advice that if you have a close relative with it you should be tested, and I guess having 2 copies of the "C" variant, as my sister has, is the "worst" variety of it.  It came to light for her when she was going through infertility and miscarriages.  They discovered that her homocysteine was high, which led to the MTHFR testing. So that is one thing I know I would then want to proceed to do, if I do have it - get my homocysteine tested. My dad died of early-onset Alzheimer's, and apparently there is a link between high homocysteine as well as the MTHFR mutation and Alzheimer's. It also seems like it would be worth knowing if I have it since it could be the cause of my lower levels of B12. And I guess maybe I would need to start taking methyl-folate? I mean, to answer your question, I am not entirely sure what I will do if I do have it.   Probably read a lot more about it... and take supplements like methyl-folate if I really think I need to.  Check my homocysteine & control that if I need to, hopefully to lower my risk of Alzeheimer's.  It seems like a frustrating area because there appear to be limited official medical websites that really even talk much about it (so far).  I have found one article on the NIH that focuses on the link with high homocysteine. I already eat a very healthy diet.  Whole grains, lots of fruit & veg, mostly organic.  I am a vegetarian except for very rare seafood. I avoid processed food and, above all, foods with added sugar...  To me, sugar is by far the worst culprit in the SAD.  I think RA has been ruled out by my 2 negative Rheumatoid Factor tests (one done several years ago, one just this year at my physical).  Also, the way this started in my elbows, and was really only there for years, is just... weird... and definitely doesn't really fit with arthritis.  And there is no swelling to speak of, just mild pain - sometimes aching, sometimes burning, sometimes sharp...  It may or may not fit with any systemic diagnosis versus a mechanical one, but nowadays I do also have pain in my hands, feet, and knees.  So then I think, well maybe it is/was something systemic, but it was worse in my elbows for some mechanical reason but now has progressed elsewhere.  I thought Crohn's was just digestive?  (Of course, many people think that of celiac.)  So I haven't really investigated that one much. My ANA was retested and is back down to "negative," so I think that pretty much rules out lupus.  I believe fibromyalgia is still on the table. Anyhow....  Your point is nonetheless taken.  I do want to rule out celiac and go from there.  At this point I'd sure love to find out it is something I could control through my diet!
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