Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has more than 5,000 years of history, and was so prized by the Incas that it earned the designation "the mother grain." Quinoa is also one of the main staples (i.e., corn, quinoa, wheat, barley, potatoes, yucca, and sweet potatoes) of Vilcabamba, one of the world's healthiest and most long lived people.
When it comes to whole grains for humans, quinoa is as good as it gets, providing all the benefits of other whole grains, such as whole wheat or oats. Resembling a round sesame seed, quinoa can be ivory beige, rusty red, deep purple, or black. It is an Essential Best choice because it provides complete protein, i.e., all eight essential amino acids, a rarity among grains. WHO has rated the quality of quinoa's protein as equivalent to milk. For a complete nutrient facts of quinoa, check here.
The light texture, mild flavor, and short cooking time of quinoa make it a perfect introduction to whole grains. Nature protects the seeds of this plant, which is related to Swiss chard and spinach, with a coating of saponin. Too much of this soapy substance leaves a bitter taste, so the grain is milled or washed to remove most of it. However, saponins are shown to have anti-tumor and antiangiogenic activities.[4,9]
In , it suggests to prepare quinoa in this way:
- Put it in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it under running water to remove the fine powder you see.
- Put 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
Cooked (beige quinoa cooks in 15 to 20 minutes, red and black varieties in 20 to 25), the grains turn into translucent mini pearls. Each has a tiny, yellowish "tail," formed when its outside germ spins away from the grain. Quinoa is amazingly light and fluffy rather than heavy and starchy like rice or barley. The flavor is very mild, maybe even bland. So, it's perfect to mix it with rice and cook them in the rice cooker. That is the way our family consume our daily quinoa and it's the only whole grain doesn't get rejected by our teen-aged daughter. Other than using it as a supplement to rice, you can also:
- Blend cooked quinoa with sauteed vegetables
- Mix cold cooked quinoa with chopped fresh vegetables and your favorite dressing for a cool summer salad
- Stir a tablespoon or two of dry quinoa into soup a few minutes before serving
- Cook quinoa in fruit juice instead of water and serve it with chopped nuts for breakfast
- Quiona flakes make an almost instant hot breakfast cereal
- Check out this tasty recipe for Quinoa Cakes
In summary, Quinoa provides the following health benefits:
- High-quality protein helps the body build tissue and strength
- Loaded with three times the vitamin E and twice the calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium of other grains, and it even has a little more zinc
- Its 2 grams of fat per 3/4-cup serving are the heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated kind
- Contains as much fiber as oats
- Quinoa's insoluble fiber stimulates bowel function, staving off constipation and diverticulosis
- Quinoa flour boosts protein in baking and helps reduce gluten
- Quinoa pasta is gluten-free
- Quinoa is one of the lower-glycemic starchy foods
- Quinoa is abundant in cancer-fighting compounds[3,4]
- Many of the phenolic substances identified in quinoa, including genistein, quercetin, and kaempferol, have antiangiogenic properties, or the ability to inhibit new blood vessel growth, and also suppress the proliferation of cancer cells.
- While saponins—bitter-tasting chemicals—can be mildly toxic, they also have anti-tumor and antiangiogenic activities and are sometimes used as an adjunct to chemotherapy
- The Essential Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi
- The New Healing Foods by Colleen Pierre, M.S., R.D.
- Quinoa, a Highly Nutritious Grain, is Abundant in Cancer-Fighting Compounds (Eat to Defeat Cancer)
- Man S, et al. Chemical study and medical application of saponins as anti-cancer agents. Fitoterapia 2010;81:703-714.
- Quinoa cakes (Recipe)
- Quinoa Tabbouleh (Recipe)
- Gluten-free diet: What's allowed, what's not (Mayo Clinic)
- Classification of Dietary Phytochemicals (Travel and Health)
- Naturally-Occurring Antiangiogenic Substances (Travel and Health)
- Quinoa isn’t the only ancient crop falling prey to Western gluten-free appetites