Why I’m keen on Quinoa
I make no apology for it, I’m a big fan of Quinoa.
Still, I can’t help feeling disappointed that this remarkable seed has become so associated with trendy food fads that I feel I must almost excuse myself for writing about it. Quinoa is of course gluten-free, so while this is wonderful news for the genuinely gluten intolerant, this means it became the focus of the general gluten free obsession that has swept so much of society. Yet it’s wider benefits are genuine, while it turns out we are fortunate to have it at all.
The quinoa story
Originating in the mountains of modern day Bolivia, Chile and Peru, it was a sacred food crop for the Inca civilisation and a critical staple of nourishment for thousands of years; until the arrival of Francisco Pizarro. In his eagerness to plunder and destroy the Incan culture, he ordered quinoa fields destroyed. Fortunately, the resilience of the plant meant that small amounts survived high in the mountains, where the Spaniards were unable to settle, because of the thinness of the air.
Then, in the 1970’s, the modern world rediscovered it…
A seed not a grain
Quinoa (keen-wah) is usually considered a whole grain, but it’s really a seed, a relative of spinach and chard. It’s an extraordinary little package of nutritional goodness. High in nutrient value and a useful source of certain health-supportive fats, it’s also high in fibre and protein and contains all the essential amino acids (including lysine, which is crucial for growing and repairing body tissues).
It is easily digested, which means the body can readily access its vitamins and minerals. Studies have also provided an expanded list of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa, suggesting it may offer significant assistance in decreasing risk of inflammation related problems, including obesity and associated chronic diseases.
What to do with it
You can purchase quinoa in most supermarkets and health food stores. It comes in red, white and black – choose whichever you prefer – or even mix them up. Also, keep an eye open for quinoa flour and noodles, which are a great alternative to white pasta.
It’s very easy to cook – just follow the instructions on the packet – and it’s also incredibly flexible when it comes to including it in your eating routine.
- Quinoa is perfect as a hot breakfast cereal (like porridge) – add a small teaspoon of honey and some fruit – berries, a banana, or a fresh fruit salad.
LUNCH & DINNER
- Substitute quinoa for rice and couscous in salads and stuffed peppers or courgettes.
- Add to soups and stews.
- Mix with vegetables and a light dressing of your choice.
- Use quinoa noodles instead of white pasta.
It really is a super seed – and for those over 18 (or 21 in some states of the USA) I’d add that it makes the most extraordinary vodka. No wonder the Incans thought it sacred!
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