(Health Secrets Newsletter) Whole grains have been praised for their many health benefits, however many people who are gluten intolerant have found their whole grain choices limited. Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is an increasingly popular gluten free grain-like vegetable that offers the same benefits as whole grains and then some.
Quinoa is a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) and is grown primarily for its edible seeds, which have a mild, nutty flavor. Though the seeds are grain-like, quinoa is not a true grain or cereal and it is actually closely related to beets, spinach and chard.
The origins of quinoa trace back over 5,000 years ago to the Andes Mountains. The Incas used quinoa in ceremonial rituals and cultivated it as one of their staple crops, believing that it gave their warriors power and stamina. In the 16th century, Spanish Conquistadors burned and destroyed the quinoa fields. However, quinoa survived by growing wild in the mountains and by secret cultivation. In the 1980s, two North Americans stumbled upon this ancient food and began cultivating it near Boulder, Colorado. Since then, quinoa’s popularity has exploded.
Quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it contains amino acids necessary for our nutritional needs. Quinoa is an excellent source of magnesium, manganese and calcium. It’s a very good source of protein, vitamin B2, vitamin E, and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of iron, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.
Complete protein plants are rare, making quinoa an excellent food for vegetarians and anyone else looking for a healthy protein source. Quinoa is also naturally gluten-free. making it an excellent food for celiac patients or other people following a gluten-free diet.
Quinoa has also been used for weight loss and malnutrition.
The seeds of the quinoa plant make a great substitute for rice and pasta. Quinoa flakes can be substituted perfectly for oatmeal and quinoa flour is great for baking cookies, breads and muffins.
Quinoa is usually cooked by adding it to boiling water or stock (about 1 1/2 cups of water or stock to 1 cup of quinoa), reducing the heat and cooking until the liquid is absorbed (about 15-20 minutes).
Natural health advocate Dr. Michelle Schoffro listed a dozen reasons to love quinoa in a recent article.
1. Unlike most grains quinoa is a complete protein. Most grains lack one or more of the essential amino acids, making them incomplete. Quinoa packs an amino acid punch.
2. Quinoa is rich in nutrients, including: manganese, iron, magnesium, B-vitamins, and fiber.
3. In studies, quinoa is a proven aid for migraine sufferers, likely due to its magnesium and riboflavin content. Magnesium helps relax muscles and riboflavin helps reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells.
4. Like its grain counterparts, quinoa lessens the risk for heart disease and helps with heart arrhythmias.
5. Quinoa contains the building blocks for superoxide dismutase (SOD) – an important antioxidant that helps protect the energy centers of your cells from free radical damage.
6. Quinoa cooks in under 20 minutes, making it a much healthier alternative than white rice and a much faster one than most whole grains.
7. Quinoa is versatile. Add coconut or almond milk to cooked quinoa for a delicious hot breakfast “cereal”. Add cooked vegetables like onions, red peppers, and squash with a few herbs for a delicious meatless meal. Or, add finely chopped onion, cucumber, green peppers, tomatoes with some oregano and lemon juice for a delicious and satisfying take on Greek salad.
8. It is gluten-free for anyone suffering from celiac or autoimmune disorders.
9. Quinoa is a good source of the amino acid tryptophan. You know, the one that helps with melatonin production which helps improve sleep quality.
10. Quinoa is high in lysine, which helps with tissue repair and growth. It also helps ward off cold sores.
11. Quinoa is rich in fiber, which may help protect against gallstones, according to the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
12. Quinoa may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes thanks to its magnesium stores. Magnesium helps activate over 500 enzymes in your body, including those involved in insulin secretion and the bodyâ€™s use of sugar.
Here are twp recipes in The Best Years in Life healthy recipes collection which feature quinoa: