Are you familiar with quinoa? The chances are, if you know how to say it, you are, and may well be familiar with the nutritional benefits that it brings.
However, if you’ve never used it, you can be left feeling a bit bewildered about how to use this rather gritty looking food, and even more bemused about how you can add it into foods.
Look no further! Here’s a quick guide to help you get to grips with this super nutritious grain.
The what and the where from?
Quinoa is a versatile and nutritious pseudo grain, cultivated mainly in South America where it’s revered as a source of food and medicine for thousands of years. The whole plant can be eaten, the leaves like spinach and the seeds used like rice or ground to form a flour for sweet or savoury baked goods. It has enjoyed increasing popularity in the West for the last few decades because of the potential health benefits it brings.
Although commonly described as a wholegrain, quinoa has a superior nutrient content to most cereals. It is high in protein (12-16%) and has an excellent profile of essential amino acids, comparable to dried milk, making it a good alternative to animal-based protein. It is also free from the proteins collectively known as glutens, making it a suitable addition to a gluten-free diet.
The carbohydrates in quinoa are easily digestible with a low glycaemic index so are a good choice for people with diabetes, metabolic syndrome or following a FODMAPs diet. The seed contains approximately 10% fibre, most of which is insoluble. Fibre is beneficial for the microbiome and supports gut health. It can promote feelings of fullness after eating, reduces cholesterol and fat absorption and lowers the risk of infection and inflammation in the gut, which in turn decreases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
Concentrations of vitamins and minerals are higher than most grains and include Vitamin A, E, C and B, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. Recent assessments of diet in the UK population indicate that many people do not achieve the recommended daily amounts (RDAs) of important vitamins and minerals so quinoa is a cost-effective and nutritious addition to the menu. It is easy to use and benefits from the addition of spices, herbs or stocks during cooking to create a range of very palatable dishes.
The seed’s oil contains predominantly polyunsaturated fats with a good ratio of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. These EFAs play a beneficial role in the growth of cell membranes, brain and heart health, immunity, and inflammatory responses.
Fantastic for phytonutrients
Quinoa also contains an impressive range of phytonutrients which act as antioxidants and help the body manage the effects of free radicals that have the potential to do cell damage.
DID YOU KNOW?
You can buy organically grown Quinoa.
It can also be used to create sustainable packaging.
For more information about organic eating, go to our organic food section.
Feature by Kim Cowan