Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a seed / grain that originated in ancient Peru.
Quinoa is rich in proteins and contains all possible amino acids. Quinoa resembles couscous, can be used like rice in the varied dishes. It tastes richer than both rice and couscous and can be eaten during all meals. Quinoa has a nutty, rich flavor and comes with a hard shell that is bitter.
This prevents birds from eating this seed and it is usually soaked before cooking to remove the outer coating. Usually quinoa sold in stores is pre-soaked although you can check the label before cooking it.
Where does quinoa grow?
Quinoa has its origins in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – in the Andes regions of these countries. It was cultivated for human consumption more than 3000 years ago. The Chenopodium quinoa is one species of quinoa that is used widely.
Quinoa : Chemical Composition
Quinoa is considered a complete food because of the quantity and quality of proteins in it. Apart from the 15% protein content in quinoa, it also has excellent balance of amino acids.
It contains vitamins and minerals and compounds like phytosterols, polyphenols and flavonoids. It is also said to possess nutraceutical benefits.
Quinoa also has water-holding capacity and solubility, foaming, emulsifying and gelation properties, which mean it can be used for a wide variety of purposes.
The physiochemical properties of quinoa like freeze stability and viscosity means that t can be put to novel uses. It also contains significant quantities of vitamin E and omega-6.
It is rich in lysine that helps maintain the health of all body tissues. Quinoa is rich in nutritional value and apart from proteins, it is also dietary fibers, phosphorous, iron and magnesium.
Apart from this it also contains calcium and can be eaten by vegans who shun dairy products and people who suffer from gluten intolerance. Since it is easy to digest and is gluten-free, it is being considered by NASA to be included in diets of long-duration space flights of humans.
Some Uses of Quinoa
Since quinoa is a food that contains almost every required nutrient required by the body, eating it every day will provide many benefits.
It is one of those rare plant-based foods that is rich in proteins and all amino acids. Hence, it is a good option for vegetarians. Being gluten-free it is an ideal food for those with wheat intolerance.
Quinoa can be combined with various fruits and vegetables and made into delicious salads. Quinoa soup is enjoyable during cooler season especially when combined with black beans.
Add some quinoa to stir fry recipes to give a unique flavor. Quinoa can be used in casserole recipes similar to pasta or rice. If you wish to avoid foods rich in white carbohydrates, one way is to use quinoa.
Those who enjoy their meatloaf or meatballs can use quinoa to act as a binding agent for meat in place of breadcrumbs.
Cooked with milk, quinoa makes a tasty and nutritious breakfast cereal. Add some dried fruits and nuts to make the cereal tastier. Quinoa flour can be used to make pancakes as a good gluten-free option. It can also be mixed with vegetables to make an excellent side dish.
Quinoa flour can be used to bake as a substitute for wheat flour. This is especially beneficial to those with celiac disease. Quinoa is usually ground into flour or the grains, toasted or boiled and then added to food. Sometimes, quinoa can even be fermented with beer before cooking.
The light nutty flavor and its versatile nature means that it can be mixed with any meat, flour or vegetable, potatoes, wheat or barley to make nutritious and filling foods. The leaves of quinoa plant as also used fresh, cooked or as animal feed.
The health benefits that quinoa provides is numerous and it is effective in treating a wide range of conditions like breast cancer, atherosclerosis and diabetes. It has anti-oxidant properties and the protein and amino acid content ensures that quinoa acts as a building block for muscles.
Nutrients are absorbed quickly for quinoa is easily digested. So, find ways to include this ‘superfood’ in your diet.