Return home

Native Americans and fiber

Cindy Chan Phillips, Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 10/4/22

Oct. 8 is Native American Day. To recognize and celebrate this, try eating like the Native Americans did and have an active lifestyle. Have you ever heard the story of the “Three Sisters?”

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Native Americans and fiber


Oct. 8 is Native American Day. To recognize and celebrate this, try eating like the Native Americans did and have an active lifestyle.

Have you ever heard the story of the “Three Sisters?” The next time you enjoy a piece of fresh, tender squash, corn or beans, know that you are eating vegetables that date back as far as 8,000 years.

Squash is one of the “Three Sisters” crops, referring to an Iroquois myth about three inseparable sisters. Nearly every Native American tribe planted squash, corn and beans. During growth, bean vines can climb corn plants while fixing nitrogen on their roots, improving the soil’s fertility. Squash’s long stems and large leaves retain ground moisture and repel pests.

Squash became a staple for early Native Americans. Then in the 19th century, merchant seamen returned with new varieties from other parts of the Americas. This resulted in the many colors, shapes and sizes available today.

In addition to the “Three Sisters” vegetables - beans, corn and squash, Native Americans planted buckwheat seeds - which, unlike their name suggests, are a fruit, not a grain. Planted around the world, triangle hard hull, fresh seeds can be sprouted, ready-to-eat in about five days.

Below are some of buckwheat’s best-kept dietary secrets on how it can help protect your health, keep your blood flowing, become a useful source of protein and help with your digestion:

Buckwheat contains a variety of compounds called flavonoids that have been shown in studies to help block the spread of cancer. Two compounds in particular, quercetin and rutin, are especially promising because these substances appear to make it difficult for cancer-promoting hormones to attach to healthy cells. Should cancer-causing substances get into cells, these compounds may be able to reduce damage to DNA, the body’s chemical blueprint for normal cell division.

The rutin in buckwheat plays yet another protective role. Working in concert with other compounds, it helps prevent platelets (the components in blood that assist in clotting) from clumping together. By helping to keep blood fluid, buckwheat can play an important part in any heart-protection plan.

There’s another way in which the rutin in buckwheat can help keep blood flowing. It appears to shrink particles of the dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This makes them less likely to stick to artery walls, further reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. Rutin has also been reported to stabilize blood vessels and check excessive fluid accumulation in the body, which may help lower blood pressure.

Research suggests that when flavonoids are combined with Vitamin E, which is also found in buckwheat, the benefits are even more pronounced. Fat-soluble Vitamin E can neutralize dangerous free radicals, harmful oxygen molecules that can damages cells, in the fatty portions of cells.

Flavonoids, on the other hand, are water soluble; they attack free radicals in the watery parts of cells.

“That puts an antioxidant in both the watery and fatty portions of cells,” said Dr. Timothy Johns, associate professor in the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal.

Here’s great news for vegetarians and others trying to cut back on meat. Buckwheat is the best known grain source of high-quality protein. We need protein for everything from healing wounds to producing brainpower. Yet buckwheat protein does more - it helps lower cholesterol as well.

One of the most valuable aspects of buckwheat is its ability to help control blood sugar levels in people with adult-onset diabetes, the most common form of the disease. The carbohydrates in buckwheat, amylose and amylopectin, are digested more slowly than other types of carbohydrates. This causes blood sugar levels to rise more evenly. While this is good for everyone, it’s especially important for those with diabetes, whose blood sugar levels tend to rise steeply and stay high too long.

Even if you don’t have diabetes, buckwheat can help. Because it’s absorbed more slowly than other grains, it leaves you feeling full longer. This makes it easier to eat less and help control your weight. And don’t forget buckwheat if you or someone you know has celiac disease. This is a potentially serious intestinal problem that occurs in people sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. Because buckwheat is free of gluten, you can eat it.

One of the main ways buckwheat is consumed is called kasha, which is simply roasted dehulled buckwheat grain. Kasha can be steamed, boiled, baked or served with seasoning for a delicious side dish. Mixed with sweetening and cream, it makes a fine cereal (often a breakfast choice in Eastern Europe). Added to soups and stews for thickening and flavor, it is as good when used as a stuffing for vegetables, meat or fish. Kasha comes in four granulations - whole, coarse, medium, and fine.

Try this recipe for great taste and fiber:

Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Sauce (makes 6 servings)

1 cup cooked kasha (any granulation)

1 cup chicken or turkey broth

1 beaten egg

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. grated lemon peel

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 ½ lbs. ground raw turkey

1 small carrot, finely shredded

2 tbsp. cooking oil

1 green onion, diced

Prepare kasha according to package directions, using chicken broth. Combine first five ingredients in mixed bowl, blend well. Shape into 12 balls. In large skillet, heat oil and brown turkey on all sides. Add broth, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Use slotted spoon to transfer turkey to serving dish. In a small bowl, combine yogurt, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Combine with pan juices in skillet and cook until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Add carrot and onion. Pour sauce over turkey.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here