Introduction: Tartary Buckwheat or bitter buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum Gaertn.) is a plant from Polygonaceae family and a popular herbal plant in China, India, Nepal, and Mongolia. In recent years, Tartary buckwheat has gained interest owing to its health-promoting and nutritional benefits in Asian countries. Tartary buckwheat has been found effective in treating several disorders such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, inflammation, and dyslipidemia. Tartary buckwheat is now tagged as a superfood with an array of health-promoting benefits. Moreover, the health benefits of Tartary buckwheat are superior in comparison with other buckwheat variety such as common buckwheat.
Tartary buckwheat is a rich source of several essential dietary components such as dietary fiber, fat, proteins, starch, vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Some of the major chemical constituents of Tartary buckwheat are:
- 1. Starch: Tartary buckwheat seeds are primarily made up of starch which contains 70% of the total seed weight.
- 2. Fiber: Dietary fiber constitute approximately 26% of the total seed weight. Tartary buckwheat is a great source of dietary crude fiber.
- 3. Proteins: Tartary buckwheat proteins are found to be balanced in amino acid composition.
- 4. Lipids: They are 1–5% of the total seed weight. Some of the major fatty acids are palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and eicosenoic acid.
- 5. Vitamins: Tartary buckwheat is a rich source of vitamins such as vitamin B complex (B1, B2, and B6), vitamin C and vitamin E.
- 6. D-chiro-inositol: An epimer of Myo-inositol, this is involved in insulin signaling and may play a role in lowering the blood sugar, balancing the triglycerides levels in humans.
- 7. Polyphenols and flavonoids: Tartary buckwheat contains several polyphenols and flavonoids such as p-Hydroxybenzoic acid, rutin, gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, syringic acid, vanillic acid, and quercetin.
- 8. Minerals: Tartary buckwheat seeds contain Fe, K, Cu, Zn, and Mg.
In brief, Tartary buckwheat possesses several medicinal and nutritional benefits due to the presence of several phytoconstituents.
Health benefits of Tartary buckwheat
- 1. Acne Prevention and treatment: Some phenolics present in the Tartary buckwheat such as rutin, quercetin, and isoquercetin possess antibacterial properties against Propionibacterium acne, Staphylococcus epidermis, and S. aureus. It suggests that this plant can be used in the prevention and cure of acne.
- 2. Anti-obesity: Tartary buckwheat extract has been shown to reduce adipogenesis and obesity-associated chronic systemic inflammation.
- 3. Antidiabetic properties: Tartary buckwheat polyphenols (quercetin, isoquercetin) inhibit crucial enzymes of carbohydrate metabolisms such as alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase. These two enzymes convert complex carbohydrates coming from the diet into simple sugars leading to a rise in postprandial hyperglycemia. Inhibition of these two enzymes, thus, controls the post-meal glucose spike and helps in the management of diabetes. Another component of Tartary buckwheat called fagopyritol B1 improves insulin sensitivity and reduces blood glucose levels. D-chiro-inositol present in Tartary buckwheat possesses insulin-like activity and helps in the reduction of blood glucose.
- 4. Regulates lipid metabolism: Tartary buckwheat polyphenols inhibit lipase, a critical enzyme in lipid metabolism, and helps in the maintenance of lipid homeostasis in the body.
- 5. Antioxidant: Tartary buckwheat is a rich source of antioxidants and thus possesses strong anti-oxidative properties.
- 6. Cholesterol-lowering: Tartary buckwheat flour, sprout powder, crude protein extract, have been shown to possess cholesterol-lowering effects in both animal models and human studies. Tartary buckwheat showed hypocholesterolemic properties and also balanced the levels of circulating triglycerides. Since higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides have been associated with several lifestyles associated disorders like cardiovascular diseases and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), regular consumption of Tartary buckwheat could be a preventive measure to fight with these disorders.
- 7. Hepatoprotective: Oxidative stress and inflammation are considered two main causes of liver damage. Tartary buckwheat extract and phenolics possess potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and prevents liver damage. Moreover, Tartary buckwheat also increases the serum levels of potent ant-oxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, therefore, raises the body`s ability to fight oxidative stress.
- 8. Energy booster: Tartary buckwheat flour extract has been shown to improve energy levels. It reduces blood urea and inhibits the production of lactic acid and free-radicals. Since lactic acid and free-radicals contribute to fatigue, their inhibition by Tartary buckwheat boosts the energy levels and acts as an anti-fatigue recipe.
- 9. Antihypertensive: Hypertension cases have increased significantly in the past few decades. Some of the chemical constituents of Tartary buckwheat namely gamma-aminobutyric acid, certain polyphenols, and some peptides have been shown to reduce blood pressure. It has been demonstrated that Tartary buckwheat sprouts increased the levels of nitric oxide and bradykinin both known to promote the dilation of blood vessels. Furthermore, the levels of vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 decreased. Taken together, Tartary buckwheat reduces blood pressure and acts as a hypotensive agent.
- 10. Anticancer: Tartary buckwheat has been shown to possess cytotoxicity against several cancer cell lines.
- 11. Anti-genotoxic: Tartary buckwheat polyphenols such as rutin and quercetin reduce chemical-induced DNA damage thus helps in the maintenance of genome integrity.
- 12. Anti-inflammatory agent: Tartary buckwheat sprout extract inhibits the synthesis of potent inflammatory molecules such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 production. Since inflammation is a key contributing factor in several disorders such as obesity, insulin resistance, non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, and cardiovascular disorders, the anti-inflammatory properties of Tartary buckwheat may help in the management of these disorders.
- 13. Cognitive functions: Tartary buckwheat components rutin and N-trans-ferulotyramine have neuroprotective functions. Phenolics of Tartary buckwheat such as rutin prevents oxidative damage to neurons in diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
Cautions: Although Tartary buckwheat has been considered a superfood and used as an herbal plant for ages, some of the proteins present in Tartary buckwheat such as Fagt2 are allergens for some people. Some common signs of allergic reactions are allergic rhinitis, asthma, and angioedema.
Concluding remark: Tartary buckwheat is a rich source of high-quality protein, dietary fiber, lipids, minerals, vitamins, and several health-promoting plant polyphenols and flavonoids. Several health benefits of Tartary buckwheat have been documented and proved scientifically. It normalizes blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and therefore helps in the management of symptoms associated with common lifestyles associated disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders. It also possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-genotoxic properties. Thus, Tartary buckwheat can be a beneficial dietary component for individuals affected with disorders of a sedentary lifestyle.
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