Quinoa – An Ancient Grain Providing Health To Modern World

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Quinoa is a pseudocereal which means though most people consider it to be one among other cereals it is not a cereal.  Usually cereals are seeds of plants belonging to grass family.  In fact it is more closely related to Spinach or beetroot than other grains like wheat.  This grain is native to Central and South America and it is mostly produced in Peru and Bolivia.   It has been consumed for thousands in that region which was part of Inca empire.

It is so extensively consumed in those regions that it is known as “mother grain”.  This seed is considered so important that United Nation’s Food and Agricultural organization declared 2013 as the year of Quinoa.  This was awarded as a recognition that Quinoa can contribute to food security of native communities.  Since it is still grown mostly on South and Cental America where native species is cultivate it is mostly Non GMO and usually grown in organic farms.

Nutritional Value in Quinoa

raw quinoaQuinoa is a rich source of protein.  In fact it contains around 14% protein which is considered to be among the highest protein content in non animal based foods.  It also contains around 7 grams dietary fiber per 100 grams of uncooked seeds.

It is excellent source of minerals such as Manganese and Phosphorus.  It also contains moderate quantities of Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Folate.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

Compared to white rice, Quinoa contains slightly higher amount of calories.  However it also contains higher amount of protein, fiber and manganese which makes it more beneficial.  White rice also contains far less protein (less than half), less amino acids and even less fiber which makes it quinoa excellent choice as compared to White rice.

It is rich in Amino acids which help the body convert food into energy and build muscles.  Quinoa has all 9 amino acids hence it is considered as clean protein food.

One of the problems with many grains including wheat is the presence of gluten.  Gluten is a protein present in many grains which can cause severe reactions in many people.  In fact it can be a serious health hazard.  However quinoa is gluten free which makes it an excellent choice if people suffering from gluten allergy.

Fiber Benefits

cooked quinoaSingle serving of quinoa can almost meet the quarter of your daily fiber need.  Taking sufficient amount of fiber is one of the secrets of losing extra weight and maintaining a healthy weight.  Fiber also keeps the digestive system healthy and lowers the bad cholesterol level.  It is comparatively easier to digest and also keeps you full for longer time.

Reduced Headache

Since 1 cup of quinoa contains around 60% needs of your daily manganese it can reduce the chances of headaches.

Less Chances of Insecticides

Quinoa has a natural coating of chemical called Saponin.  This is bitter in taste and discourages birds and insects from eating quinoa in the fields.  Hence quinoa is not sprayed with insecticides which makes it a healthy choice for you.

Anti Oxidants

Quinoa contains anti oxidants which fight free radicals and help build up the immune system.  They also help in keeping inflammation down which prevents many diseases such as arthritis or gout.

Medical Research Related To Quinoa

A study published in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) mentions that there was improvement in weight loss, increase ability of the body to fight oxidative stress and improved lipid profile.  The report can be accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26249220.  Another research which was published at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26775979 mentions that although milling decreases the beneficial phenolic quantities, still it is available in sufficient quantities to be beneficial to human health.

How To Eat Quinoa

Since Quinoa contains a bitter compound called Saponin it is better to eat it after washing it.  Keeping it soaked in water for half an hour to one hour is very good as it becomes easier to boil.  After soaking remove the water as it will help wash away the Saponin.  Usually it is boiled and then you can stir fry it with some veggies and eat it.  You can also boil it and mix it with other vegetables.  Then eat it as salad.

The advantage of Quinoa as a food is its almost neutral taste. This makes it easy to mix and match with many types of other vegetables and fruits.  It also allows it to be consumed in many forms such as bread, salad or in a boiled form like rice.

Is Quinoa Powder Good Option For Breads

Quinoa powder makes for an excellent flour.  This provides gluten free alternative to one of the most common foods used by mankind – Bread.  Many people also use this flour to make pasta.  Good thing about this flour is the amount of protein it contains compared to other grains.  Quinoa powder contains 50% more protein than other grains and it is also a good source of dietary fiber.  Quinoa flour is easy to digest and good for your digestive system also.

Apart from protein and fiber it also contains all amino acids which are the basic building blocks of our body.  Quinoa flour is ideal for vegetarians who need fiber and protein and gluten free alternatives.

quinoa powderIf you do not like the bread made entirely from quinoa flour, you can experiment and add quinoa flour to wheat flout in different quantities.  For example you can add 75% quinoa flour and 25% wheat flour and make bread.  If you still do not like it than adjust the ratio few times and see which is best suited in taste and flavor for you and your family.  You can also add flax seed powder to the bread flour.  This will add Omega 3 fatty acids and add more fiber to your bread making it much more healthier than the traditional bread flour.

Another way to consume Quinoa powder is to add one tablespoon to a glass of milk with some blueberries and make a smoothie.  This will keep you full and provide lot of nutrients and energy.  This smoothies is excellent for people who are looking for weight loss while not dieting too much.

You can also use flour made with mixture of wheat, quinoa and flax seeds to bake cookies. Just ensure to replace sugar with stevia.

Whole Quinoa vs Quinoa Flour Which is Better

Both whole Quinoa and Quioa flour are nutritionally same.  Using Quino flour increases the flexibility of making bread but cooking Quinoa as whole seeds allow you to use it as rice replacement or using it as salad ingredient.  The choice is yours depending on your food habits and liking.

Some Interesting Facts About Quinoa

  • Quinoa is considered so nutrient rich that is is sent to space with Astronauts.
  • Quinoa is now becoming so popular that the prices have tripled between 2006 and early 2013.
  • Amount of protein in Quinoa is more than Egg, milk or meat when compared with same weight.
  • There are more than 120 type of quinoa.  Most common are brown and white and they are quite similar in health benefits.

Best Quinoa Products

Here are top rated Quinoa products which you can buy online.

Viva Labs Organic Whole Grain Quinoa

This product comes from Bolivia which is one of the original places where Quinoa was grown thousands of years ago.  Viva labs organic whole grain Quinoa is grown organically without pesticides which makes it healthier.  It has larger grain size and it makes it suitable to be used as rice substitute.

Quinoa is coated with Saponin which is bitter in taste.  Saponin can alter the taste of Quinoa.  To remove Saponin you would need to soak the seeds in water for few hours.  However Saponin is already removed from the seeds in this product without harsh chemical process.  They use mechanical process to remove Saponin.  Due to this taste and flavor is enhanced and cooking time is reduced.  You can buy this product as Amazon.


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