Super foods you may not have heard of (yet) – Quinoa

Quinoa, which can be cooked and consumed just like rice, looks more like couscous, has a nuttier taste and chewy texture than either of them. Let’s find about more about this seed which is being touted as a super food.

What is quinoa?

Quinoa – (pronounced keen-wah) which is actually a seed, rather than a grain, is presently in the spotlight for being ‘the wonder grain’. Quinoa, which is high in proteins and unsaturated fat content when compared to other grains, is said to be a nutritional treasure.

Quinoa is said to have more calcium than cow’s milk, rich in dietary fiber, a good source of manganese, potassium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, vitamin E and B6, thiamine and niacin. It is said to be beneficial for people suffering from migraine headaches as it is a good source of magnesium.

Quinoa, which was apparently the staple food of the ancient Inca civilization, has been around for more than 5,000 years. It is said that the Incas called it ‘Chisaya mama’ – mother of all grains.

Health benefits of quinoa

Powerhouse of proteins: Our body needs proteins for almost all functions – growth, digestion and building and repair of tissues. Quinoa beats most grains such as wheat, barley and other major grains in protein content. It has more protein (9 grams) than the protein-rich egg (6 grams). In addition to its life-sustaining nutrients, the proteins from quinoa have all eight essential amino acids.

Dream food for dieters: Quinoa is rich in fiber and digests easily. As it is a low-cholesterol source of carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index, it helps in keeping your blood-sugar under control. Quinoa’s heart-friendly polyunsaturated fats will make you feel full and provides more nutritional content than rotis/bread/cereals made of refined grains. If you are on diet or planning to go on a diet, make quinoa a part of your diet and see the difference. While it is high in vitamins, minerals and protein, it is low in fat and calories which makes a dream food for any dieter.

Detoxifying properties: Quinoa, if used regularly in your diet, will not just act as an internal cleanser but also help you keep constipation and the feeling of bloating at bay. It also acts as a colon-cleansing fiber when used in soups, breads and along with other foods where grains are a primary ingredient. Quinoa is gluten-free and can be consumed by people suffering from digestive disorders. In addition, the vitamin B and folate in quinoa detoxifies the body by helping the liver in eliminating wastes from the body.

Strong bones: Quinoa is a source of plant-derived calcium. It is a boon for vegetarians or for people who are lactose intolerant and for those who are looking for calcium from non-diary sources. One cup of cooked quinoa is said to contain 30 milligrams of calcium which helps in building and maintaining your bones and teeth.

Mood stabilizer: The vitamin B content in quinoa helps you maintain your brain volume, keep your mind sharp and also stabilize your mood.

How is it consumed?

Quinoa is cooked just like you cook rice – two parts of water and one part of quinoa. The appearance of white tail looking much like a sprout is the indication that quinoa is cooked. It can also be cooked in a pressure cooker or rice cooker.  You can replace rice with quinoa and it can be eaten with the usual vegetable curry or a side dish. It also makes a great breakfast dish – just throw in some dried fruits, milk and honey and it’s good to go!

Availability in India

Though quinoa is hard to find in India, it is available at the Godrej Nature’s Basket stores.

Photograph by Christian Guthier via WikiCommons

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