Quinoa may have started as just another one of those health food fads but it will be a superfood that sticks around. Evidence has shown that unlike other grain products, this little seed is naturally gluten free and packed with protein! So, what’s all the fuss about? What is it exactly?

What is Quinoa

quinoa-405538_1280Quinoa is a whole-grain, this means that the entire grain seed remains intact. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and fiber. It is one of only a few plants that’s considered a complete protein source and that contains all 9 essential amino acids. Quinoa has a slight nutty taste that can be crunchy depending on how it’s prepared. When rinsed properly, the quinoa seed will look very similar to a sesame seed.

The origins of quinoa as a food can be found over 4,000 years ago in Peru and Colombia. It became a staple in most meals during this time and has earned names such as “mother grain” and later “Food of the Gods”. It is how many people of the area survived during periods of minimal crop growth.

In modern times, quinoa made its return in the 1970’s in other parts of the world. This has brought even more unique colors and species of this plant. Because quinoa has such a high nutritional value and a natural ability to grow in tough environments, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) made 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. Not good enough for you? NASA scientists are now testing quinoa for it’s suitability to be grown on other plants – a nutritious meal for astronauts and the conditions it requires to grow!

How Quinoa is Grown

quinoa-897678_1280Unlike many crops, quinoa can grow in less than fertile soil. The quinoa plant grows to approximately 3-9 feet tall with very broad leaves and seed heads coming in many different colours. (red, yellow, black and magenta just to name a few.)

The quinoa plant itself prefers cooler temperatures and shorter days with less sunlight and in most cases can survive a few nights with a mild frost. What makes the quinoa plant unique is the fact it will not continue to germinate in extended periods of hotter temperatures. If provided the perfect conditions, cooler temperatures, the plant can germinate in as a little as 24 hours and produce seedlings within 3-5 days!

Health Benefits

Quinoa is packed full of everything the body needs! It’s one of very few plants that contains so many essential nutrients in one seed. This all-in-one super seed has many health benefits which include:

  • Very nutritious – One cup of cooked quinoa contains Protein: 8 grams, Fiber: 5 grams, Manganese: 58% of the RDA, Magnesium: 30% of the RDA, Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA, Folate: 19% of the RDA, Copper: 18% of the RDA, Iron: 15% of the RDA, Zinc: 13% of the RDA, Potassium: 9% of the RDA, Over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6, Small amounts of calcium, B3 (niacin) and vitamin E. 222 calories, with 39 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fat.
  • Contains plant compound quercetin and kaempferol – that currently being studied but evidence is proving to have anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-cancer and anti-viral effects.
  • Much higher in soluble fibre than most grain – soluble fibre has been proven to reduce blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, increase fullness and help with weight loss.
  • Has a low glycemic index – because of its low index, it will help those with diabetes control blood sugars but still take in their daily carbs.
  • Naturally gluten-free – because it is naturally gluten-free, it’s a great alternative for those with an intolerance. Quinoa can be added to a gluten-free diet in order to increase antioxidants and daily nutrition.

How to Cook with Quinoa

The only question left is, how can I enjoy some of this nutrient dense super food with my family? The options are almost endless!

Because of its versatility, quinoa can be used as a side dish much like a rice or pasta dish. Quinoa can be added to soups in replace of noodles or rice. It can also be added to a meatless salad for the extra protein.

Quinoa can be found in grocery stores, health food stores and specialty gourmet stores. When preparing quinoa for a meal, you should always rinse off the seed to remove the exterior. Quinoa can be prepared very similarly to rice. Boil in water either on a stove top or in the microwave. It will only take 8 to 15 minutes depending on your cooking method! A good indication you’ve properly cooked your quinoa is when it turns a slight golden brown.

Quinoa can be a quick, fun alternative or addition to your meals to get your extra nutrients. Endless recipes and flavor combinations are possible! But if you don’t feel like cooking, there are a tone of great off the shelve products that will let you pack in this nutrient dense super food and have you wanting more!

 

Resources

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274745.php

http://www.ancientgrains.com/quinoa-history-and-origin/

http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/283429/

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-benefits-of-quinoa/

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Christine Burdzel