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The Health Benefits of Quinoa
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is one of the world’s healthiest foods naturally grown in South American countries since the time of the Incas who regarded this mothergrain as their sacred food. Today due to its popularity, quinoa is commercially cultivated throughout the United States, Canada, Asia and Europe. Quinoa offers a perfect profile of nutrients, ideal for providing a great start for children and has abundant protein that is easily digestible. It is almost always organic and full of fibre.
Types of Quinoa
Quinoa seeds, although often referred to as grains, are easy to come by due to the increasing interest among those who are heath conscious, vegetarians, physically active individuals or who may have food intolerances. Quinoa is available in red, black, golden or white coloured varieties, which may all be mixed together in recipes for a dramatic effect.
A Complete Source of Protein
Quinoa’s abundant protein content is its source of power. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the nutritional quality of quinoa compares to that of dried whole milk. Quinoa is classified as a complete source of protein boasting a 20% protein composition – containing all essential amino acids necessary to support growth and development. This is extremely rare for a vegetable or plant.
In addition, quinoa’s amino acid composition is of higher quality than that of wheat, barley, rice or soybeans and is comparable to casein, the protein found in milk. Also, quinoa makes an ideal meat substitute – 1 cup of quinoa has the protein equivalency of a small steak.
Uniquely special among other grains, quinoa contains the amino acid lysine. Typically a variety of legumes and grains are necessary to acquire a complete source of protein whereas the grain quinoa (technically a seed) is naturally complete. For example legumes are limited in the amino acids cysteine and methionine and most grains are missing lysine.
Research has shown that quinoa has lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of mono and polyunsaturated fats. Quinoa also has a high concentration of the fatty acids linoleic and linolenic.
NASA is Impressed with Quinoa
NASA is considering quinoa as a crop for Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) because of its high concentration of protein, versatility in preparation, convenient use and potential for high crop yields.
Super Nutrition for Adults, Children and infants
Although quinoa would aid any weight loss program, there is nothing skinny about the nutrient levels of this food. Quinoa is a rich source of iron, vitamin E, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B6, folic acid, biotin, potassium, manganese, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, beta carotene, zinc, copper, and sodium. In addition to quinoa’s wonderful protein status, it’s a complex carbohydrate – the good one. Unlike simple carbohydrates from high sugary and processed foods, quinoa digests slowly making it ideal for low carbohydrate diets.
Quinoa met the nutritional requirements for having the key components for baby nutrition as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian requisite. Quinoa is a great alternative to traditional “first” foods that have inferior nutrient value, such as rice. The increasing incidence of allergies to dairy and wheat can be safely avoided with the choice of quinoa. Quinoa has several applications to assist children and infants who require a restrictive diet or have gluten sensitivity. Such diets are often associated with autism and attention deficit disorder.
Quinoa is a superfood for babies providing whole food to promote a healthy pregnancy, enhances mother’s milk and is a great option for weaning babies. Quinoa is rich in the amino acid histadine, which must be provided directly by the diet. Histadine is considered an essential amino acid in children because it is necessary for human development. Solid food is normally introduced to infants from 8 months of age.
Homemade quinoa cereal consists of 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer covered for 15 minutes – let stand for 5 minutes and then fluff lightly.
How to Buy and Prepare Quinoa
Commercially grown quinoa has weaved its way into pasta, cereals, nutrition bars and baked goods. Quinoa is most commonly consumed as a whole grain but is also available in flour or flake form. It has a light nutty flavour that may be slightly bitter which is the result of its protective coating called saponin, found in the outer coating of the seeds. Saponin is mostly removed during commercial processing. Still, many people feel the taste is improved by first washing the seeds before cooking to further reduce any bitterness. To retain maximum freshness, store quinoa flour in the refrigerator or freezer. As an alternative, incorporate quinoa into your other flour mixtures when baking or cooking.
Quinoa is quick to prepare. If you have fifteen minutes, you have time to make quinoa and it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Bring to a boil 1 cup of water, add 1/2 cup of quinoa grain – simmer covered for 10 minutes – then turn the heat off . Do not remove from the burner. Let stand for 4 to 7 minutes depending on desired texture – al dente for salads would be 4 to 5 minutes.
Sprouting enriches our diets with living foods full of enzymes and nutrients that increase energy, cleanse the body, boosts the immune system and leads to the road of optimal health. Quinoa sprouts may be eaten alone, or added to salads and sandwiches. Place the seeds in a shallow dish of water – for example, 1/3 cup of seeds to 1 cup of water will yield 1 cup of sprouts. For the best results allow 12 to 14 hours for germination.
Quinoa is easily integrated into a multitude of delicious recipes to enhance everyday cooking with superior nutritional value.
Michelle Honda PhD is a holistic doctor practicing at Renew You Holistic Health located in Ancaster Meadowlands. In addition to her doctorate, she holds an advanced degree in nutrition (RNCP), is a Master Herbalist and an IIPA Certified Iridologist. Visit her website at: www.renewyou.ca