What makes a food super? In my opinion, a superfood should be nourishing and satisfying, and provide a bountiful variety of the nutritional essentials we need for energy and vitality. It has to make for enjoyable eating, and needs to be versatile. In addition, superfoods should be sustainable, good for both planet and people.
Buckwheat amply fills this bill.
Buckwheat has an appealing, roasty flavor that is equally welcome as a waker-upper, a snack that feeds performance and focus, or a hearty dinner accompaniment. Buckwheat furnishes plant nutrients, protein, healthy carbs, and other essentials we all need, while satisfying the appetite. The cultivation of buckwheat actually benefits the earth in which it’s grown, and after cutting, it can be composted straight into the ground, protecting the topsoil and topping up its nutrient reserves. This also adds to crucial organic matter that feeds the soil’s beneficial microbial residents.
Hard to beat? Yes, but for all buckwheat’s advantages, Himalayan Tartary buckwheat (HTB), its eastern cousin, does just that.
Good for People, Plants, Planet
Ordinary buckwheat and HTB are different species of buckwheat, in the same family as tangy sorrel and rhubarb. In different parts of the world, both of these types of buckwheat have been staple crops for centuries. Ordinary buckwheat tolerates hot weather, but HTB can also handle conditions encountered in the Himalayan region — like acidic soil, frost, and high altitude — and it actually helps rebuild soil that has lost its natural fertility.
One fascinating way HTB differs from ordinary buckwheat is in how it produces seed for more plants. Buckwheat blossoms provide a sweet nectar that nourishes hungry, hard-working pollinators. (Pollinators like bees are immensely valuable for the fertilization services they provide growing plants, right?)
Get this: HTB is capable of self-pollination. It fertilizes itself! This means that HTB is an especially dependable crop that also feeds precious pollinators, whose numbers are threatened by modern land management practices. HTB survived by adapting to some challenging circumstances in the past, and has maintained this pollination advantage to the present day.
So HTB is great for the earth and her pollinators — what about humans? Himalayan Tartary buckwheat’s greatest treasure may be in its phytonutrient wealth. Like ordinary buckwheat, HTB provides plant protein, minerals, dietary fiber, and other nutrients that fall short in the diets of many folks. But HTB — perhaps due to its ability to weather harsh conditions — is a real survivor, and specializes in stocking up on substances that allow it to tolerate stress and even thrive despite adversity. (PS: It does the same for humans who eat it!) HTB concentrates its natural stores of phytonutrients like quercetin, rutin, and its own stealth ingredient, 2-HOBA, also known as Hobamine.
Hobamine: Buckwheat’s Crown Jewel
Hobamine (short for 2-hydroxybenzylamine) is a gem. Your body is full of proteins, right? Specialized proteins make up the structures in your heart, your brain, muscles, eyes, and every cell in your body. All these proteins age and get damaged just like we do, and once aging gets going, these proteins — and the vital organs we depend on — can’t perform as well.
Hobamine’s specialty is protecting these proteins against certain processes of biological aging — whether they come from something unhealthy in your diet, a lack of physical activity or high-quality sleep, some stress you are going through, or some other aspect of lifestyle that may be aging you before your time. This isn’t just a booster for immunity, or some quick fix. It’s a lasting benefit that helps limit the overall impact of aging and the unnecessary work it creates for your immune system. It’s like Hobamine allows your immunity to maintain better focus over time.
Rich in Key Flavonoids for Immunity
HTB is also generous with the plant nutrients quercetin and rutin. In the body, these flavonoids function as antioxidants that safeguard cells, arteries, and even fats and cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. Ordinary buckwheat is no slouch on nutrition, yet Himalayan Tartary buckwheat can contain at least 80 times more rutin than its western relative.
A supercool thing about rutin is that when we digest it, some of it breaks down into quercetin plus a specialized sugar (rutinose) that we can’t use for energy — and both quercetin and rutinose feed the “good guy” microbes in our gut microbiome. So in sharing more rutin, HTB gives more quercetin plus good food for beneficial gut flora. Because the intestines harbor immune tissue that responds to everything passing through, you might say that HTB is a superfood for this specialized community as well. It’s a superfood for the gut’s immune system and the helpful microbes that support its ongoing mission of protecting you.
Blood vessels also love rutin, and it helps cells build more of their energy-producing factories, called mitochondria. Quercetin is like a health message from food to cells in the body, inviting them to engage in rejuvenation. Cell rejuvenation is a process that helps aged or damaged cells decide whether they should undergo repair or be recycled into new cells by the body. Both of these valuable nutrients help cells – and their humans – live and age more gracefully and successfully.