Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
September 15, 2008

Dear Mark: Visting Family – Primal Compromises and Grain Alternatives

By Mark Sisson
51 Comments

Dear Mark,

Browsing the Crossfit nutrition forums, I recently came across an interesting discussion about buckwheat, a possible Primal-friendly grain alternative. It caught my eye because I’ve been on the lookout for alternatives to pasta and bread ever since I found out that my Standard-American-Diet family will be visiting for an entire week (!) next month. What are your thoughts on buckwheat in particular and my conundrum at large?

I’ve previously covered a number of popular grain alternatives in my post about quinoa. In that post you’ll find suggestions like eggplant, butternut squash, crustless quiche, sweet potatoes and stuffed mushrooms. These are good go-to options when you are feeding family members that are used to starchier foods, or when you are making the transition to Primal eating and are finding it difficult to not revert back to eating your usual biscuits, pasta dishes, pancakes and croissants. But what of buckwheat?

At first glance, buckwheat certainly looks promising. Unlike grains, it’s not a grass, but rather a flowering pseudocereal. The triangular seed from the buckwheat plant, called a groat, is harvested and can be milled into flour or used whole in cereals. Seed? Seeds work, right? Not necessarily. While I love most seeds for their high fat content and protein, they do have to be low in carbs to pass the test. Buckwheat groats are decidedly starchier than, say, flax (another story altogether) or pumpkin seeds, so we must use caution. Buckwheat’s glycemic index is 54, which is still fairly high despite being lower than actual grains.

Historically speaking, buckwheat certainly isn’t paleo. You can put lipstick on a pseudocereal, but it’s still a high-carb, high-glycemic-loading grain wannabe. It also requires significant amounts of processing (grinding, roasting, rinsing, sprouting) to become edible to humans, and the earliest known domesticated cultivation of buckwheat was in Southeast Asia, probably around 6000 BC, well after the advent of agriculture. A wild form obviously existed before, but – as with grains and legumes – not in large enough quantities for it to become a regular food source for early man.

Is there a place for buckwheat in the modern Primal diet?

If you want my strict Primal answer, then, well, no. But your question had another nuance: that you have family visiting, and that these loved ones can’t imagine eating a meal without a starchy side. So you are looking for some sort of middle ground. If you desperately need a grainish backdrop for a meat dish, I guess you could throw in a little quinoa or buckwheat. But my guess is that your family members might be turned off more by these pseudo-grains than they would be if you prepared something genuinely Primal for them – think steamed, sauteed or grilled veggies galore with clean cuts of meat prepared in dozens of ways. (Check out my Recipe category for scores of suggestions.) With quinoa, buckwheat, or even rice for that matter, it is likely neither you nor your family will be satisfied; you because it isn’t truly Primal, and they because they had to eat… buckwheat and KEEN-WAH.

You don’t have to get all preachy on your family about what they ingest, but you could use this visit as an opportunity to subtly inform them about their foods choices. That is, just prepare Primal foods and see if they even notice. My guess is they’ll be begging for seconds without even knowing how healthy they are eating. Who knows? By the end of the week they may feel better than ever.

I’ve addressed the social dynamics of eating in the past. Here are a few of the most relevant:

Dear Mark: How to Eat a Healthy Dinner with My Family?

You vs. The Mob: Mob Eating Mentality

10 Simple Steps to Help Motivate a Friend

Diet Change and Partner Dynamics

Give advice to your fellow Apple in the comment boards!

tschorda Flickr Photo (CC)

TAGS:  gluten

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

51 Comments on "Dear Mark: Visting Family – Primal Compromises and Grain Alternatives"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 12 days ago
I had my favorite fried rice on friday night for the first time since going primal (wife is Thai and makes a killer fried rice). It was an enlightening experience. It didn’t fill me up, I wanted to eat a lot more, my body felt sluggish, tired and over-all icky and I had my first anxiety attack since going primal. I was at a highschool football game I went to watch my youngest brother participate in and started freaking out about all the people when it wasn’t even really that busy (brain chemical imbalance?). I never fully believed the negative… Read more »
Rachel
Rachel
3 years 23 days ago
Unbelievable, I hope you don’t mind me ‘chipping in’, but I have had almost exactly the experience with a anxiety attack (after consuming buckwheat)in a lovely village where it was just so bizarre and I thought I was going ‘nuts’, I had to take deep calming breaths and mentally transport myself to somewhere in order to be calm. No-one else seemed to have experienced this before and I think it is definately something to do with the carbohydrate content. I have blood sugar issues, I am also vegetarian/vegan but am trying to follow or find out more about primal, not… Read more »
Josh
Josh
1 year 2 months ago

I don’t know why people are so happy to accept low carb flu but remain blissfully ignorant of the obvious fact that when you suddenly eat more carbs than your body is used to you will get a reaction.

Ole
Ole
2 years 11 months ago

Same here, i tried making a homemade pizza the other day, the next day, i started getting heart cramps!!! I’ve had those cramps daily since i was 12 – 13 years old, and doctors called it a nervous heart back then… Now i’m 33, have been doing Paleo on and off for 3 years, to really see all those difference it does to the body ( 24 Things and still testing ) and then it took 2 freakin days for the pains to go away again, NO MORE!!!

Jen C.
Jen C.
8 years 12 days ago

Listen, I know that when I take a visit back to my hometown and my grandmother has chicken noodle soup on the table for me, I do not pass that up. Is it okay to deviate from the primal diet occasionally?

Cult
Cult
1 year 5 months ago

What sort of question is that? It is this type of question that makes me realise the cult like behaviour of you extreme dieters.

David
David
8 years 12 days ago

Figured buckwheat was kind of like oatmeal, one of those things touted as healthy, but still boils down to a carby, carby food. And Jen, I occasionally deviate from the primal diet (usually in the form of beer), for me the important thing is to know when and by how much I’m deviating!

Anna
8 years 12 days ago
Mark said: My guess is they’ll be begging for seconds without even knowing how healthy they are eating. I think Mark is right. I’ve been making low-starch and starch-less meals for several years now, for my own family and anyone else who happens to be here. Many people already know how I cook and eat, but not everyone (in which case I often don’t say anything unless someone comments). I never get any complaints and am often complemented on my cooking, either verbally or with clean plates and requests for seconds and thirds. I think the key is having enough… Read more »
Erin
Erin
8 years 12 days ago
This was SO my weekend! I was visiting family in Chicago, so what was on the menu? Italian beef sandwiches, cheese slathered french fries, potato chips, beer, pancakes, chocolate, pop… and the list goes on. I tried, and failed to find a vegetable in that house. I did sort of indulge, I ate part of my roll with my Italian beef, but nothing really filled me up. I was hungry all weekend. (I’m never that hungry when I’m all primal!) If I’d known it would be like that I would have brought 3 lbs of broccoli with me. Luckily I’ve… Read more »
The Baltimore Babe
8 years 12 days ago

AMEN!

Amanda
8 years 12 days ago

Haha! Never thought you’d read that! Consider it a sign of celebrity? 😛

Dr. J
8 years 11 days ago

Don’t they have restaurants in southern California that can make all y’all happy 🙂

Anna
8 years 10 days ago

Dr. J, yes we do, but one dinner at those places will cost as much as I can feed the entire family for days, if not a week. When dining out, I want food at least as good as I can make at home, if not better. Otherwise the only advantage is not doing the dishes.

I know, picky, picky… 🙂

trackback

[…] planning, the decline and fall of sugar (and a look back at some dietary flat-Earthers), hosting guests who aren’t on the primal eating bandwagon, superfood mash-ups (don’t get me started), […]

chocolatechip69
chocolatechip69
7 years 11 days ago

I thought buckwheat was a fruit, like a rhubarb.

ian
ian
6 years 11 months ago

rhubarb aint a fruit!

ian
ian
6 years 11 months ago
Eleanor Snyder
6 years 10 months ago

I have an acquaintance that goes into anaphylatic (sp?)shock if she touches buckwheat. We have had to take her to emergency several times when she mistakenly ate some.

trackback

[…] “Family Compromises and Grain Alternatives“, Marks Daily […]

Emy
Emy
6 years 2 months ago

Buckwheat is not a grain. Is a flower seed!
Open your mind

Lya
Lya
5 years 2 months ago

Waaaaaaa…. I love buckwheat :((((((

trackback

[…] it out. I followed it exactly, soaking the oats in an acidic medium (Greek yogurt) and adding the buckwheat flour, which I made a special trip to the store for. When it was done cooking, I added a bunch of […]

Nigel Straightgrain
Nigel Straightgrain
5 years 1 month ago
One person goes into anaphylactic shock after eating buckwheat. Another thrives on it. We are not all that same. Like my forebears, I’m an omnivore. Buckwheat isn’t a huge part of my diet. Nothing is. But I DO eat buckwheat, because: 1. I like it. 2. I feel great when I eat it. 3. It doesn’t fog my brain. Science is wonderful, but our primal forebears didn’t have the benefit of today’s biochemistry. They had to use…well, a more primal form of the scientific method–namely, eat something, and then see what happens. The three criteria I’ve listed above pretty well… Read more »
Em
Em
2 years 5 months ago

Quote: ” I DO eat buckwheat, because:

1. I like it.
2. I feel great when I eat it.
3. It doesn’t fog my brain.”

I am the same, it is one of the few grain type foods that agrees with me and I feel great when I eat it, I don’t get brain fog, I don’t bloat, it doesnt make my tummy hurt or make me break out in hives like most and I feel full and satisfied for hours after consuming it 🙂 Plus I LOVE the taste

Nigel Straightgrain
Nigel Straightgrain
5 years 1 month ago

Egads…not all “the” same, I should have said. Alas, for all its other benefits, I guess this post system is…er, “primal”. No editing capability. Feh.

Lindsay Grok
4 years 4 months ago

On a side note… for women with PCOS or other female hormonal imbalances (like me) buckwheat is high in D-chiro-Inositol which has had promising results for many women in regards to insulin resistance and hormone stabilization.

So I eat it. There are some potential medicinal benefits to eating buckwheat in addition to the compelling reason of I LOVE THE TASTE! 🙂 And have to agree with Nigel: it doesn’t give me foggy brain either. Cheers!

Frank
Frank
3 years 11 months ago

By letting sprout buckwheat for one to two days and rinsing it a lot during these one or two days, you get rid of a lot (most?) of the starch. And this way the taste of buckwheat becomes very good (and very different) too.

Since I learned this way of preparing buckwheat I love to eat it several times a week: it doesn’t give me a foggy brain and it feels very good to eat it. This way buckwheat feels very paleo to me 🙂

Kenneth Benjamin
3 years 9 months ago
Foggy brains on grains: I found that the issue for me wasn’t carbs at all but specifically gluten. Wheat, barley, and rye (and stuff made from them) are all gluten-containing. Every other starchy thing I’d been eating didn’t cause the crash that gluten did. Most people don’t notice because gluten is so prevalent in the SAD. They just chalk it up generically to carbs. If you’re not going Primal then at least try gluten-free for a week or two and see if you don’t notice the difference. I wrote about my experiences here, if you’re interested: http://wisdomwebsite.com/observations-gluten-sensitivity-why-you-might-have-it-too/ I’m just starting… Read more »
Gisele
Gisele
3 years 8 months ago

Buckwheat is technically a grass like wild rice. It requires not much more processing than the current types of wild rice available. It is not as “starchy” as you seem to erroneously believe, especially if you are eating whole roasted groats.

Evelyn
Evelyn
2 years 4 months ago

That is actually incorrect, Buckwheat, with the botanical name Fagopyrum esculentum, is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds.

I don’t really get why it doesn’t fall under paleo…

Gisele
Gisele
3 years 8 months ago

Grains and grasses are completely very different by the way, not one and the same category.

trackback

[…] is not a grain, and therefore it is gluten-free. Although it is a seed, it’s not considered primal or paleo, but it sure is a lesser evil than wheat. I wanted to make it more digestible by […]

Craig
Craig
3 years 7 months ago

Buckwheat is most certainly NOT a grass, technically or otherwise. It is a member of the Polygonaceae family that also contains sorrels, docks, smartweeds, and rhubarb. Grains – rice, wheat, corn, rye, sorghum – are all members of the Gramineae family.

Buckwheat and grains are very different and not very closely related. You are somewhat correct in that grasses and grains are different. Grasses are the plants, grains are the seeds of grasses.

trackback

[…] steps 1 and 2).  It’s definitely not on Mark Sisson’s menu though, as buckwheat has a fairly high level of starch, but that’s precisely why I’m introducing it to my […]

Jason
Jason
3 years 6 months ago

I think we should all take a break from the quinoa. Many reports have come about showing how the new fascination with quinoa is leaving some South American people hungry. Local prices for quinoa have skyrocketed in South America…bad news for the locals who heavily depended on this nutritious crop. Let’s not starve people out. Find something else to eat! or let’s all come up with a solution!

mark
mark
3 years 4 months ago

I know it doesn’t contain glulten, but what about lectins and phyto acids in Buckwheat?

trackback

[…] speaking, buckwheat is not a go-to choice for anyone who adheres to pure Paleo or Primal eating.  Here’s a bit from Mark Sisson explaining why.  But, as I have mentioned before, I eat a Paleo-ish / traditional foods diet and rely mainly on […]

AMc
AMc
3 years 1 month ago

I just don’t see how meat and veggies can’t work for everyone at a dinner table*? And isn’t it a little rude to expect your host to have your normal breakfast on offer, if you’re that particular?

*Except for vegetarians…. I just slow cook a stew for them made up of mostly veggies and either quinoa, adzuki beans or split peas.

Andrew Specht JD,DC
3 years 21 days ago
I make sour buckwheat pancakes that are delicious. I grind the buckwheat into a flour in the Vitamix, mix with water and organic full fat yogurt and let that sit in a covered bowl for a night or two. I take most of the fermented mix and add eggs, coconut oil and real salt and a pinch or two of baking powder. I cook the cakes with blueberries and walnuts. I eat ’em with organic butter and a bit of salt. DELICIOUS. I put more ground buckwheat and water in with what I left in the original (no eggs, etc)… Read more »
pam
pam
2 years 10 months ago

Hi, Andrew,

Chris Kresser has a buckwheat pancakes that is similar to yours but he grinds the groats after soaking.

http://chriskresser.com/sourdough-buckwheat-pancakes-now-theyre-even-fluffier

Stephan Guyenet @ WHS also has
a recipe for buckwheat crepes

both are made in the WAP style.

i have it occasionally. i serve it with sour cream & no sweetener. they’re pretty yummy & nuttier than regular (wheat) pancakes.

cheers,

sienna
sienna
1 year 8 months ago

Oh, your dishes all sound so delicious! I just made my first buckwheat recipe today and like the bread quite a lot.

Could you share your ricipes with me or maybe tell me where you got them from? I’d appreciate your generosity a lot!

Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 11 months ago
I haven’t had this experience yet as most of my family live abroad but for a dinner I would make Roast Chicken with sides of broccoli, mashed together carrot and swede (believe it’s rutabaga or yellow turnip in the U.S., I’m in the U.K.) and roasted parsnip wedges, roasted until crispy. I think that the mash and parsnip fries would satisfy any carb eater. For breakfast I would make pancakes and bacon. I’ve tried just about every paleo/primal pancake recipe there is and have found the very best tasting and texture one! Here’s the recipe for anyone who wants it:… Read more »
Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 11 months ago

p.s. the roast chicken and sides is exactly what we’re having for dinner this evening, yum!

Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 11 months ago

p.p.s, for people in the U.K. who are wondering where they would get pumpkin puree, they sell it in large Tescos in the world foods section in the American foods bit, although I got loads of it much cheaper in a special in Aldi!. You only use about a quarter can in the recipe, so seeing as it’s quite expensive here you’re probably best off freezing the rest in 3 portions so you can just pull out and defort one portion every time you want to make the pancakes.

Ok, I’m done now!

Michael
Michael
2 years 10 months ago

You can also get the same pumpkin purée (Libby’s 100%) in Waitrose for the same price.

tag heuer watches Buy
2 years 9 months ago

I have rad some good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
I wonder how a loot attemplt you put to make such a excellent informative web site.

jake3_14
jake3_14
2 years 3 days ago

Banning something on the basis of its glycemic index makes zero sense. That index measures the blood sugar effects of foods eaten *alone*. In the real world, nobody eats grains/groats/quinoa alone.

Zero Kazama
1 year 11 months ago
Buckwheat is probably the most confusing “grain” out there – not a grain, but a fruit/seed…apparently both according to what I’ve read :P. I’m confused at Mark’s recommendation…especially after he labeled v8 with it’s traces of BPA in the can as “primal” and glass noodle made from mung bean the same because of it’s resistant starch – something that buckwheat is high in, not to mention it’s 20% protein, which is pretty damn high compared to most other grains and near identical to seeds and nuts, and almost 100% daily recommendation of magnesium per cup? That’s awesome, isn’t it?Ok. So… Read more »
trackback

[…] for you in health care matters. There are often instances when a living will may be contested by family members (even with the best planning and prior discussion) or when a situation might not be entirely clear […]

JJ Popski
JJ Popski
1 year 4 days ago

Can’t say I agree with the conclusions drawn in this post. Buckwheat is included in the Perfect Health Diet (Jaminet) not as an eat all the time food, but as a regular food to stave off boredom with your diet. Personally I like the taste of it and I find it really agrees with my digestive tract. As with everything, listen to your body first and foremost.

trackback

[…] those of you who follow a grain-free/paleo diet, check out what Mark Sisson has to say about buckwheat. Basically he says it’s a no-no but lots of 80/20 primal people still eat it on rare […]

wpDiscuz