Japanese pastas have unique characteristics and health promoting properties that are not found in traditional Western-style pasta. For example, buckwheat, the main ingredient of soba, is a primitive grain that is rarely eaten in the United States. However, buckwheat is the best, and in some cases the only, source of some bio-compounds that are vital to the healthy functioning of cells and enzymes.
This is why adding soba, particularly 100% buckwheat soba, to your diet can have a positive effect on your health.
Buckwheat is uniquely rich in proteins (12-15%) and the essential amino acid lysine (5-7%), which is lacking in most cereal grains. Buckwheat is also abundant in lipids, minerals (iron, phosphorus and copper), and vitaminsB1 and B2.
Buckwheat is very high in rutin (4-6%), an essential nutrient that is not found in other grains, such as rice and wheat, or beans. Rutin is important because it strengthens capillaries and thus helps people suffering from arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure. Rutin belongs to a group of plant compounds called bioflavonoids that also include the important catechins of green tea and polyphenols of red wine. Recent studies have shown that bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals. Free radicals are said to be responsible for as much as ninety percent of diseases, such as cancer, arteriosclerosis, strokes, and age-related senility. Research in Japan has shown that 30 mg of rutin per day meets the body’s needs. Since one serving of high protein soba contains about 100 mg of rutin, one serving of soba a day is more than enough.
Vitamin P is similar to rutin in that it increases capillary strength, but it also has an important synergistic effect on vitamin C absorption. Although vitamin P is found in trace amounts in some vegetables, buckwheat is the only significant source.
Choline, another important micro-nutrient found in buckwheat, plays an important role in metabolism, particularly regulating blood pressure and liver function. As a neutralizing agent, choline can support the liver when it is overburdened by alcoholic beverages. It makes sense that soba noodles and broth are often served in Japan after big parties.
After centuries of eating soba noodles, the Japanese have come to respect the healing power of soba, some aspects of which have been confirmed by medical researchers in Japan. The high dietary fiber in 100% buckwheat soba helps the body eliminate cholesterol, and stimulates the intestines to promote bowel movement. The regular consumption of high protein soba has also been associated with reduction in body fat.
Although eating soba noodles that are made with 80-100% buckwheat is the best way to get the nutritional benefits of buckwheat, there are several varieties of soba, such as cha soba, mugwort soba, and jinenjo soba that add the powder of important medicinal plants to a basic soba recipe. Cha (tea) soba, which is made by adding one of nature’s most medicinal foods, green tea powder, to soba is both colorful and healing. Mugwort soba is made with the addition of wild mugwort (yomogi) powder, which gives this noodle a striking green color. Mugwort is high in several minerals and is often recommended for anemic conditions. Jinenjo (mountain yam) soba is a very popular noodle in Japan. Mountain yam is considered an important Japanese folk remedy for people with weak digestion. A strengthening food rich in digestive enzymes, jinenjo helps bind the buckwheat flour, resulting in smooth, soft noodles that are easy to digest.
Japanese wheat noodles, such as udon and somen, are low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. Although udon and somen do not have the high protein and mineral content of some soba noodles, they are an excellent source of high quality protein, and brown rice udon contains the complementary amino acids of rice and wheat.
However, all Japanese pastas are not the same. Only noodles made by the slow, time-honored methods outlined above have the mouth feel, flavor and healing energy of traditional Japanese pastas. The drying process is very important, and quick, commercial drying with hot air can destroy some of pasta’s healing qualities and flavor. In fact, research in Italy has shown that drying pasta too quickly can cause wheat protein to break up into toxic substances. On the other hand, careless, prolonged drying can cause mold and bacteria to grow on noodles. Only careful, natural drying, such as in Mitoku’s traditional noodle shop, will produce a high quality product with all the flavor and health benefits of traditional noodles.
Health Benefits of Buckwheat Soba
The following is the summary of the major health benefits of buckwheat.
- Cardiovascular Benefits – lowers blood pressure & decreases cholesterol
- Reduced Risk of Diabetes – can lower your blood glucose levels
- Prevents Gallstones – the fiber reduces the amount of bile acids your digestive system, large amounts of bile acid in your digestive system can lead to the formation of gallstones
- High in Protein – buckwheat soba noodles contains all eight amino acids, including lysine, an essential acid that helps your body convert amino acids into energy
- Gluten Free – Soba noodles are made from 100 percent buckwheat and are gluten free
- Reduces fat accumulation
- Promotes healthy bowel movements
- Fits a well-balanced and low-calorie diet
Nutritional data per 100g (approx) Cooked Soba Noodles:
- Alanine – 0.248 g
- Arginine – 0.317 g
- Ash – 0.39 g
- Aspartic acid – 0.372 g
- Calcium, Ca – 4 mg
- Carbohydrate, by difference – 21.44 g
- Copper, Cu – 0.008 mg
- Cystine – 0.094 g
- Energy – 414 kj
- Energy – 99 kcal
- Fatty acids, total monounsaturated – 0.026 g
- Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated – 0.031 g
- Fatty acids, total saturated – 0.019 g
- Folate, DFE – 7 mcg_DFE
- Folate, food – 7 mcg
- Folate, total – 7 mcg
- Glutamic acid – 1.096 g
- Glycine – 0.332 g
- Histidine – 0.119 g
- Iron, Fe – 0.48 mg
- Isoleucine – 0.195 g
- Leucine – 0.330 g
- Lysine – 0.214 g
- Magnesium, Mg – 9 mg
- Manganese, Mn – 0.374 mg
- Methionine – 0.072 g
- Niacin – 0.510 mg
- Pantothenic acid – 0.235 mg
- Phenylalanine – 0.217 g
- Phosphorus, P – 25 mg
- Potassium, K – 35 mg
- Proline – 0.306 g
- Protein – 5.06 g
- Riboflavin – 0.026 mg
- Serine – 0.260 g
- Sodium, Na – 60 mg
- Thiamin – 0.094 mg
- Threonine – 0.177 g
- Total lipid (fat) – 0.10 g
- Tryptophan – 0.072 g
- Tyrosine – 0.105 g
- Valine – 0.249 g
- Vitamin B-6 – 0.040 mg
- Water – 73.01 g
- Zinc, Zn – 0.12 mg
- 6 ounces uncooked soba (buckwheat noodles)
- olive oil (1st press, cold press, extra virgin)
- 1 (1-pound) sushi-grade tuna steak
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup finely chopped English cucumber
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup julienne-cut radishes
- 1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons organic tamari sauce
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar (or natural sweeteners)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted or Gomasio
- Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and rinse under cold water. Drain; set aside.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of tuna with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Place tuna in pan, and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Transfer to a platter; cool slightly. Cut tuna into 6 equal pieces.
- Combine noodles, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cucumber, and remaining ingredients except sesame seeds in a large bowl; toss well to combine. Arrange 1 cup noodle mixture onto each of 6 plates. Top each serving with 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and 1 tuna piece.
- 8 oz. buckwheat soba noodles
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 c. tahini
- 3 tbsp. tamari sauce
- 2 tsp. maple syrup
- 1 tbsp. brown rice or apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 c. prepared bancha kukicha tea
- 1 tsp. chili oil or about 10 shakes Tabasco (to taste)
- any green/asian vegetable (optional)
- Gomasio or roasted sesame
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