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Diet & Nutrition > Foods > Quinoa

A super grain high in protein

Quinoa or Kinwa has been an important food for 7,000 years in the Andes of South America and was considered sacred by the Inca Empire, but after the Spanish conquest, quinoa was relegated to the status of animal feed by Spanish colonists and almost disappeared as barley, wheat, potatoes and corn became dominant.

Nutritional value

An alkaline food with a high (12%–18%) protein content and being gluten free, quinoa is highly appreciated for its nutritional value making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat and rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron and it's *35 on the Glycemic Index. (*From the Glycemic Index in the book ‘Eat Yourself Slim' by Michel Montignac.)

Cooking

Quinoa can be cooked and used very much like rice by boiling with a ratio of two cups of water to one cup of grain. Use a heavy pot and bring to the boil, salt to taste then cover and simmer for 10–20 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed and here it will look as though the grain has sprouted. As an alternative, one can use a rice cooker treating the quinoa just like white rice (for both cooking time and water volume). As with rice, vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of healthy and tasty dishes. Quinoa flour can be used alone or added to other grains to create a nutritious baking mix; i.e. pancakes, breads and even cakes.

Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content. In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2–4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours overnight with wheat. This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

In Summary

A delicious easy to prepare food with a light almost nutty flavor and a short cooking time; quinoa is ideal for any occasion from breakfast to snacks, lunches, dinners or desserts and it's an excellent food for people with wheat and gluten related food allergies as well as those on senior and diabetic diets.

Purchasing

Quinoa is available through many health stores however demand often outstrips supplies in many regions and good quality quinoa will be viable seed and can be grown in your own garden.

Note: ensure your purchase has not been subjected to irradiation (GMO) or ethylene oxide (ETO) gas as these treatments designed to kill any live organisms. This makes the seed non viable and reduces its nutritional value.

Growing

To grow quinoa as a crop, it is generally undemanding, it grows best in well-drained soils and requires a relatively long growing season, but it will grow to an altitude of 4,000 meters. If you plan on growing this crop, it may be advisable to contact your organic gardening or farming association.

References:
Quinoa Corporation
The Quinoa Cookbook
The Whole Grain Cookbook
Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood
Quinoa the Supergrain: Ancient Food for Today

 



 

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