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Monday, September 15, 2008

what is Quinoa ?




A) Quinoa is 100% whole grain and is close to being a perfect food source in the balance of nutrition it provides. Technically it's not a grain but the seed of a leafy plant related to spinach. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein - 12% to 18%. According to The National Academy of Sciences, quinoa is "one of the best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom". Quinoa contains the amino acid lysine which helps the body produce protein. It also helps the body process the protein in the quinoa and in other foods. The World Health Organization has rated the quality of protein in quinoa to be equivalent or superior to that found in milk products.

B) Quinoa is a source of all essential amino acids according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. It's a great source of B vitamins containing niacin, thiamin and B6.It contains high levels of potassium and riboflavin. It's also good source of zinc, copper, and manganese, and magnesium. It contains folic acid and vitamin E.

C) Quinoa is a great food for people who must follow wheat-free/gluten-free diets because Quinoa doesn't contain gluten. Quinoa can be substituted for almost any other grain.

D) Quinoa has a nutty, smoky flavor and is less filling than other grains and pastas.

E) Quinoa has been one of the primary foods of the Inca Indians for more than 5,000 years. The Incas referred to Quinoa as "Mother Grain". Most quinoa is grown in the Andes in South America. Some quinoa is now being grown in the Colorado Rockies. The fact that quinoa will row in extremely poor soil together with its great nutritional value makes it a true super grain to feed the world.

F) Quinoa seed are covered with bitter tasting saponins that naturally repel insects and birds. Removing the saponins is a somewhat involved process but is already done for you when you buy a quality brand like Ancient Harvest Quinoa. It's believed that the bitter tasting saponins are what discouraged the Spanish from using Quinoa.

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Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and followed in third place by maize. In contemporary times this crop has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights

In its natural state quinoa has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. Some have speculated this bitter coating may have caused the Europeans who first encountered quinoa to reject it as a food source, since they adopted other indigenous food plants of the Americas like maize and potatoes. However, this bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and thus requires minimal protection. There have been attempts to lower the saponin content of quinoa through selective breeding in order to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties. However, when new varieties were introduced by agronomists to native growers in the high plateau, the native growers rejected the new varieties, despite their 'magnificent' yields. Because the seeds no longer had a bitter coating, birds had consumed the entire crop after just one season.

The saponins in quinoa can be mildly toxic, as can be the oxalic acid in the leaves of all the chenopodium family. However, the risks associated with quinoa are minimal, provided it is properly prepared and leaves are not eaten to excess.



Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to white rice or couscous.

The first step in preparing quinoa is to remove the saponins, a process that requires soaking the grain in water for a few hours, then changing the water and resoaking again, or rinsing it in ample running water either in a fine strainer or in cheesecloth. Boxed quinoa typically has been pre-rinsed for convenience.

A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). Alternatively, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa. To that end, one volume of quinoa should be combined with two volumes of water.

Vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of dishes. Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted for water during cooking, adding flavour. It is also suited to vegetable pilafs, complementing bitter greens like kale.

Quinoa can serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds, or berries; it is also sold as a dry product, much like corn flakes.

Quinoa flour can be used in wheat-based and gluten-free baking. For the latter, it can be combined with sorghum flour, tapioca, and potato starch to create a nutritious gluten-free baking mix. A suggested mix is three parts quinoa flour, three parts sorghum flour, two parts potato starch, and one part tapioca starch. Quinoa flour can be used as a filling for chocolate.

Lastly, quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content. In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: only 2-4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g. 12 hours overnight with wheat. This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

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