Sunday, April 12, 2015

Quinoa, a Superfood from the Andes

Quinoa is today the main focus of this post and why? Yesterday, I was asked about this superfood, from a nutritional value and kitchen use standpoint. My reply was that I would do some more in depth research about the very popular seed and, as soon as possible, share my findings.

Henceforth, I decided to turn my research into a post and share it with my followers.

Well, I believe it is in order to start with the benefits to our health, and then yes, offer suggestions on how to include it in our daily lives.

Technically, Quinoa is not a grain, more of a pseudo-cereal, a ‘seed’ prepared and enjoyed as if a cereal.

It used to be cultivated during the Inca Empire, in Bolivia and Peru, being ergo very well-known in South America, until the arrival of the Spanish, who introduced the European crops, having Quinoa fallen into mild oblivion.

In more recent years, farming and intake grew significantly after several studies confirming its health benefits.

Quinoa can be found in three different varieties: red, black or white.

Below is a breakdown of the average nutritional value of 85g of cooked quinoa (one cup):

Protein: 8 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Manganese: 58% of the GDA
Magnesium: 30% of the GDA
Phosphor: 28% of the GDA
Folic Acid: 19% of the GDA
Copper: 18% of the GDA
Iron: 15% of the GDA
Zinc: 13% of the GDA
Vitamines B1, B2 and B6: above 10% of the GDA
Vitamines E, Omega 3 and calcium: small percentage
Total KCAL: 222
GDA (Guideline Daily Amount)

Quinoa is gluten-free, being very useful in celiac or gluten intolerant diet, or even to someone that wishes to reduce their daily gluten intake.

Various studies have been carried out (US and Canada), having given proof that using Quinoa as a substitute to gluten free ingredients, such as highly refined tapioca flour, potato, corn and rice flour, can raise a diet nutritional value.

Quinoa is acknowledged as a whole protein, since it possesses all the body essential amino acids. The molecules are so-called ‘essential’ because our body cannot create them, and requires a dietary compensation in order to sustain itself.

Whenever we chose to follow a vegetarian or even vegan diet, there is seldom alarm regarding where to get protein such as the one found in red meats, since most protein sources are vegetable (as opposed to animal), and fail in delivering the aforementioned essential amino acids, like Lysine (plays a major role in calcium absorption, building muscle, recovering from injuries or physical injuries, and also helps our body`s production of enzymes, antibodies and hormones. There are also studies showing the correlation between low levels of Lysine and anxiety. You can find Lysine at pulses in general, eggs, pumpkin seeds, amaranth and quinoa).

Quinoa is however an exception to the rule, considering it is positively rich in essential amino acids (as mentioned, 8 grams of high quality protein per cup of cooked quinoa). It is equally considerably rich in antioxidants, which counteract free radicals, fighting aging and the spread of unsound cells.

It is common belief that, when consumed moderately, and part of an active lifestyle and healthy diet, quinoa can help weight loss. Why?

Quinoa is so rich in fiber that it will make us feel ‘full’ for longer.

It is also rich in protein, which helps speeding up the metabolism (protein helps to build muscle, and the muscle burns more calories than fat. At same time proteins decrease the absorption of carbohydrates during the digestive processes.

It helps lower the appetite because of its low glycemia index, meaning blood sugar levels are kept in check for longer, and the liver works better .

Nevertheless, it is important to clarify that Quinoa is still very much a carbohydrates rich food and it should not, therefore, be eaten in large quantities (its current cost is also not very inviting).

All the mentioned attributes are connected with an overall health improvement.

So now, time to focus on its use and introducing it into our diet (including our kids’).

From the beginning:

Where to buy?

It is already available in several groceries chains, or in specialized shops, organic or online.

How to cook?

Start by washing it in a sieve, under running water, until the bitter taste it sometimes has disappears. 2 minutes should be enough.

In order for it to cool well, the ratio is 1to2, meaning, one quinoa cup per two of water.

Personally, I sometimes use 2 and half.

In a pot you’ll add the two, up to boiling point. Once there, lower the heat and let it to steam point
further 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, lid on the pot and let it cool down for five minutes. Then, use a fork to prevent lumps and voilà.

Yes, you can sprinkle the cooking water with salt, herbs, seasoning; cook it in chicken or vegetable stock. It will all depend on your main course.

How to use?

In almost everything, from sweet to savoury, breakfast, snacks, main courses, takeaway options, etc.

- It can be simply cooked in plain water, adding seasoning and main ingredients afterwards (vegetables, prawns, chicken, beef, eggs).

- It can be added to a nice fresh salad with tomato, cucumber, red onion, apple, cottage cheese and nuts.

- As breakfast with yoghurt, dried or fresh fruit and seed mix.

- Used as base for a dessert or savoury pie (recipe soon to come).

- As pizza base (great for celiac disease).

One more thing, one cup of raw quinoa makes up 3 cups once cooked (in a similar fashion to couscous).

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