Health benefits of quinoa

Health benefits of quinoa

by Sheila Nyakiamo

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) declared 2013 to be The international Year of the Quinoa. It is now 2015, and despite the increasing popularity of this grain, quinoa still remains relatively unfamiliar to most people.
So what exactly is quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a grain that is indigenous to the Andes region of South America. It is not a member of the true grass family, and is therefore recognized as a pseudocereal. The term pseudocereal is used to describe seeds that are prepared and eaten similarly to grain.
The most common type of quinoa you will find in the market has an off-white coulour. However, there are red varieties, black ones and sometimes a mix of the three sold in packages. Just like other grains, quinoa should be stored in an airtight container.

Tips for preparing quinoa

Tips for preparing quinoa
The raw seeds have saponins on the outer coat which tend to give the grain a bitter taste. It would be best to place the seeds in a fine mesh strainer then run cold water over them while gently rubbing them together in your hands. This will help to eliminate the bitter residue.
Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice. Thus, the general ratios apply; one part grain to two parts water. I do recognize that different people have mastered specific ratios for their rice cooking, and therefore the 1:2 ratio of grain to water is not written in stone. I personally prepare my rice with an almost equal ratio of grain to water, but then I also have to manipulate my temperatures accordingly. So I believe the ratios for quinoa can also vary.
It normally takes about 15 minutes to complete cooking quinoa. You will notice that the grains have become transparent and the white germ will have partially detached itself, appearing like a white spiraled tailed. Once cooked, fluff it gently with a fork. Do not stir, or else you will break the starch granules and end up with a gluey mess.
I find that quinoa has a very delicate flavour. If you would like to give it a more intense flavour, you can dry roast the grain before cooking to give it a nutty flavour. Roast it on a medium low heat for 5 minutes.

Benefits of quinoa

Benefits of quinoa
1. It is incredibly nutritious – The Inca Empire called it the mother of all grains, and is considered a superfood. The nutrient breakdown for 1 cup of quinoa (185 gm) is: protein (8 gm), fiber (5 gm), manganese (58% of RDA*), magnesium (30% of RDA), phosphorous (28% of RDA), folate (19% of RDA), copper (18% of RDA), iron (15% of RDA), zinc (13% of RDA), potassium (9% of RDA), over 10% of RDA for Vitamins B1, B2 and B6, small amounts of Calcium, B3 (Niacin) and Vitamin E.

2. It contains potent bioactive substances called Quercetin and Kaempferol – these have anti inflammatory, anti viral, andti cancer and anti depressant effects in animal studies. It is likely we can safely extrapolate these results to humans.

3. It is higher in fibre than in most grains – 17-27 gm of fibre per incooked cup of quinoa.

4. It is gluten free – using it quinoa instead of typical gluten free ingredients can increase the antioxidant and nutrient value of a gluten free diet.

5. Quinoa has a low glycemic index – glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index can stimulate hunger and contribute to obesity. It is important to remember that quinoa is still pretty high in carbs, so it is not the best for a low-carb diet, at least not in large amounts.

*RDA – Recommended Dietary Allowance


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