Quinoa – The not so new kid on the block
Did you know that quinoa is related to spinach! Well, yes it is! Botanically quinoa belongs to the same family as that of spinach, beets and amaranth or rajgira. Qunioa is an annual, flowering plant grown as a crop and called a “pseudo cereal” since it is a non-grass plant and we use it like a cereal as its nutritional content is similar to that of a cereal. The grain that we use is actually the seed of the plant, the leaves of which can also be eaten just like spinach leaves.
In the ancient times, primarily grown in the Andes Mountains of South America, and the staple food of the inhabitants of that region, this grain is now cultivated across several countries like the US, India, Kenya and several European nations. The United Nations had declared the year 2013 as “The International Year of Quinoa” to recognize the ancestral practices used by the people of the Andean region to preserve quinoa in its original state.The UN has called quinoa a “super crop” since “it can grow in poor soil without fertilizer or irrigation” and also its nutritional makeup has the possible ability to fight the malaise of hunger and malnutrition across the world.
Known as “chisaya mama” or the mother of all grains among the native Incans, quinoa is tagged as super food in today’s time due to its ability to slip in to the various kinds of diet trends floating around the world. So, what are these nutritional and health benefits? Why is this not so new food, touted to be a super food and the solution to all the weight watcher’s woes?
Quinoa is perhaps the only vegetarian source of complete protein providing one with all the nine essential amino acids. It therefore is a rich source of protein. This makes it a great food to improve the body’s metabolism. Quinoa is a low glycemic index food and hence helps in the management of Diabetes as well as weight. It has the ability to fill one up and provide more satiety when compared with other grains. Quinoa is also rich in dietary fiber though most of it is insoluble, it has decent amounts of the soluble kinds too.
This helps in the feeling of fullness. It therefore becomes a good choice for people watching their weight. Dietary fiber present in quinoa also helps in reducing the levels of cholesterol. Small studies have shown quinoa to improve metabolic health by reducing triglycerides, blood sugar and insulin levels. It is gluten free and therefore a boon for all those suffering from GI disorders due to gluten.
It also is abundant in manganese, magnesium, folate, phosphorous, iron, copper, several kinds of B vitamins, especially B1, B2 & B6 and also has small amounts of calcium. Studies have shown that quinoa is among the best grains in terms of having the highest antioxidant levels. Sprouting of quinoa further increases the levels of antioxidants and their absorption in the body. Consequently it plays a good role in fighting inflammation in the body which often is the cause of several diseases. It also has anti –viral, anti – depression and anti-cancer properties.
Being a rich source of magnesium, quinoa also plays a role in prevention of osteoporosis. The B vitamins in quinoa not only help in better energy metabolism in the body, but they also improve skin elasticity and help in treating acne and pigmentation. The nutrient profile of quinoa makes it a great food option for those looking to improve their hair health. It helps instrengthening and protecting the hair.
It is important to wash it well and keep it soaked for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking so that all the vitamins and minerals are efficiently absorbed in the body.
Quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor and is comparatively easy to incorporate in your daily routines. Add it to your salad or make a breakfast porridge with milk. Use it to up your protein quotient for those of you looking to bulk up or simply to improve your overall health, quinoa has something for all.
Wishing all of you a Very Happy Dusshera & Shubh Diwali!!
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(The writer is a gold medalist in Food & Nutrition with more than 12 years experience. She manages various ailments through lifestyle and dietary modifications and specializes in weight loss & management. She practices at 102, Crystal Center, Raheja Vihar, Powai or Smile Craft, 23, Annapurna Industrial estate, Opp. CCD, Ghatkopar East. For appointments: 022 2857 6537 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)