Super food profile: Quinoa

Superfoods-Quinoa

qui·noa 
[keen-wah, kee-noh-uh] a tall crop plant, Chenopodium quinoa, of the amaranth family, cultivatedmainly in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile for its small, ivory-colored seed, which is used as a food staple.

There is a lot of hype worldwide about quinoa as a superfood. The term superfood is thrown around a lot (even by me) but quinoa is perhaps the most super of all of the super foods. Considered the ‘mother of all grains’ by the Incas, the Spanish forbade the cultivation of quinoa when they conquered South America. Luckily the species was not extinguished and thrives, feeding the worlds insatiable desire for quinoa in all of its forms (many different colours from white to red and black).

For more than 4,000 years quinoa was cultivated in the mountainous regions of Eastern South America… it has taken the rest of the world a long time to discover this amazing and delicious energy source.

Quinoa is an edible starchy seed not a true grain or cereal, it is considered a pseudo-cereal. It is packed with nutrients and is a versatile food that can be served as a rice alternative, be used to replace Bulgur wheat in tabbouleh, added to soups and sauces, toasted through salads and in its flaked form replace flour in some baked goods boosting protein and nutrients.

SOME OF THE REASONS THAT MAKE QUINOA A SUPERFOOD:
Gluten free: naturally gluten free and easy to digest.
High in protein: protein content is very high for a pseudo-cereal (14% by mass). This is higher than brown rice, potato, barley and millet but less than wild rice, oats, beans and legumes.
Complete protein: quinoa is considered a complete protein. A complete protein contains an adequate amount of all 9 of the essential amino acids necessary for humans (and even other animals). Specifically it contains Lysine, an essential fatty acid not usually found in many grain crops. We need all of the essential fatty acids for good health.
Vitamins and minerals: a good source of calcium and magnesium (for a healthy nervous system), phosphorus (for healthy bones and teeth), iron (needed to oxygen transport) and vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant). Quinoa is a valuable source of calcium and iron for vegans and allergy sufferers who are missing out on milk and animal protein.
Fibre: quinoa is a good source of dietary fibre, containing almost twice as much fibre as most other grains. Fibre relieves constipation, makes you feel fuller for longer, helps prevent heart disease (by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol) and assists with the management diabetes (by lowing glucose levels).
Whole grain: a gluten free diet can lack whole grains and we need them for good health, to protect against chronic disease. As little as one serve a day can benefit health but 3 servings of whole grains is ideal.
Many forms: there are 120 varieties of quinoa the most common being white, red and black. Quinoa comes in seed form, flakes and flour. This makes it very versatile and easy to incorporate into many different meals.

Quinoa is very easy to cook. I cook as I would rice, with a few quantity adjustments. When cooking quinoa, I allow 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa per person. The recipe below is for 4 people.

Most people wash their quinoa but the variety that I buy is not bitter. The theory is that washing or soaking quinoa removes the bitter outer casing. You will only know if you need to wash your quinoa if it tastes bitter when cooked.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED
1 cup of quinoa
1 1/4 cups water
salt or herbamare to taste
white pepper

WHAT TO DO
Put the quinoa and water into a medium sized heavy based pot. Add your seasoning and turn the heat up to medium.
As soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to low, put on the lid (cover any holes in your lid with an upside down egg cup) and set your timer for 15 minutes.
Once the timer has sounded, turn off the heat and let it sit, off the stove and closed for 5 or so minutes.
Remove the lid and fluff it up with a fork. You can add some olive oil at this point and mix it through.
Serve it as you would rice.
Delicioso!

Note: Red quinoa has a bitter taste even if washed. I do not cook red quinoa on its own, instead I will mix 10% red quinoa and 90% white quinoa and mix well.

2013 is the year of quinoa: The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa”. It’s endurance and durability as a crop contributes to the worlds food security, now and in the future.

Quinoa and the NASA connection: as early as 1993 NASA was researching the viability of quinoa crops on long-duration missions. The vitamin and mineral rich, high protein seed that it is a complete protein is considered a viable food source for astronauts on long space journeys. They have conducted studies and have had success growing quinoa crops in controlled conditions. If it’s good enough for NASA, then it’s good enough or me :)

Sources: dictionary.com, Wikipedia, Quinoa Super Food and NASA

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