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Quinoa

Quinoa Ancient superfood

QUINOA – WHAT IT IS

Quinoa [Keen-wah] is an ancient plant that produces tiny highly nutritious ivory coloured seeds. It was a staple food of the Incas, called the “mother grain” which has been rediscovered and grown in western cultures only since then 1990’s. It is a cousin of amaranth, having some of the same impressive characteristics.

In this new world, along with amaranth, quinoa is hailed as the “super grain of the future”. Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal, not a true cereal as it is not a grass, it is actually related to spinach and swiss chard with the leaves of the quinoa plant also eaten as a vegetable green although their commercial production as a green is currently limited.

The seeds, when cooked, have a delicate nutty flavour and are fluffy and creamy with a slightly crunchy texture.

WHAT IS IN IT

Quinoa has the highest protein content of all the grains (having a protein profile similar to that of amaranth) it is a complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa has more calcium than milk and has the highest unsaturated fat content of any grain with fewer carbohydrates than most grains. 

It is a very good grain for those craving nutrient-concentrated foods. Quinoa is a very good source of manganese, and a good source of magnesium, iron, tryptophan, copper and phosphorus.

WHAT IT IS GOOD FOR

Quinoa is strengthening for the whole body. 
• Protects against heart disease and promotes heart health
• Strengthens and relaxes blood vessels
• Lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
• Helps prevent kidney and gallstones
• Assists tissue growth and repair

WHEN YOU GET IT

Quinoa is available in stores as a seed all year around.

WHICH TO SELECT

Choose only whole grains. Once the grains have been processed they will begin to degrade.

Quinoa can usually be bought packages or in bulk containers. For the freshest product buy grains that are stored well in sealed airtight containers in markets or shops with good turnover. Be sure that there is no evidence of moisture or mould. 

Buy only organic grains as poisons and toxins seem to concentrate in the grains of cereal grasses.

WHERE TO STORE

Store quinoa in a well-sealed container away from light and heat. If stored correctly they can keep well for up to 1 year. Once they have been cooked, store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator where they will keep for a few days keep for a few days.

Flour and other ground products should be produced as close as possible to the time it is needed. Once milled it should be stored in the refrigerator.

If stored well, the whole grains should keep for up to one year and the flour or rolled grains for several months.

HOW TO USE

Wash the seeds thoroughly to remove any saponin residue. Rub between your hands in cold water. To ensure that all saponins have been removed taste a few seeds. If the seeds still have a bitter taste continue to rinse.

Prepare quinoa in a similar way to rice, adding one part quinoa to 2 parts water or stock, bring the boil then reduce to simmer until the water is totally absorbed. This takes about 15 minutes. It is lighter than rice and is cooked in a similar way, taking about half the time to cook.

Quinoa expands to about 4 times its original volume and has a light delicate, almost bland nutty taste.  If you would like a nuttier flavour, dry roast the seeds over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes before cooking.

• Add to soups
• Sprinkle through salads
• Use to make dessert puddings

Grind the seeds into flour. This low gluten flour can be used in baking bread and cakes if mixed with higher gluten flour, it is also great for making pasta.

The greens of the quinoa plant can be used as a salad green.

HOW MUCH YOU NEED

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well-balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. 
 
Grains (Carbohydrates):  6 – 8 
Meat and beans Protein:  1 – 2 
Fats: 1
Dairy:     2 – 3
Fruit: 2
Vegetables: 5
Water: 6

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Quinoa contains Purines. This is a commonly found substance in plants and animals that breaks down to form Uric Acid. It is noted that people with gout or kidney problems best avoid purines. Although is thought that the purines from fish and meat increase the risk of gout while purines from plants do not increase the risk.

REFERENCES

The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition, http://jn.nutrition.org, retrieved 05/2009.

W R Easy, Quinoa: caviar for birds? http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1663472. retrieved 01/2009

Wikipedia, Quinoa, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa, Retrieved 01/2009

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)

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