East County Natural Medicine
|Posted on August 23, 2014 at 12:05 AM|
The Advantages of Quinoa
Why quinoa? Perhaps first, what is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and why should anyone with celiac or gluten sensitivity want to know about it?
Quinoa is not a grain, truly, but more closely related to beets and spinach—and it is actually the seeds of the quinoa plant. It is native to the Andes and was domesticated for human use over 4000 years ago—and may have been used as food for over 7000 years! The Incans believed quinoa to be a sacred food and called it chisaya mama or 'mother of all grains'. The Spanish conquistadores actually prevented the native Incans from growing it because quinoa had been such an important part of their religion and culture! It’s a tough plant—grown in the high Andes with times of both intense heat and cold—and little rainfall.
Quinoa has a very high protein and amino acid content (~18%)-and, it contains all the essential amino acids. It also is high in fiber (almost 12g per cup), and contains the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and magnesium. It contains all the B vitamins, as well as Vitamins A, E and beta carotenes. It is also rich in a number of essential fatty acids, but with zero cholesterol. In fact, quinoa is such a complete food and is so easy to grow and cultivate, NASA is considering using it for prolonged space flights. And, the United Nations has designated it as a “super crop” because of its nutritional value.
Cooked, quinoa is light and fluffy—most people describe it as having a slightly nutty, earthy flavor. It has a low glycemic index and a low glycemic load—making it a great addition for diabetics as well! There are three main types of quinoa—white, red and black. All have a slightly different flavor and all can be cooked very quickly—it’s almost an instant food! Generally, you can use two parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, bring it to a boil and turn down the heat—about 15minutes usually! Quinoa can be used just like you would use rice or pasta—in soups, stews, on the side, with a sauce, in a cold salad or as a breakfast cereal. You can even sprout the seeds and use it in salads as a raw, live food. Quinoa flour can be used to make breads and pastas. You can add your favorite herbs and spices (I always add some garlic and onions and usually some basil….as a breakfast cereal, I add some cinnamon and a touch of honey)
Most importantly for those of us with celiac or gluten sensitivity—quinoa is totally gluten/gliadin free! It came as a welcome relief to me when I first went gluten-free. I love to roast the quinoa in olive oil and then either add directly to vegetables or use it alone. My personal favorite is the red quinoa because it adds some color to the dishes. Very few people are sensitive to quinoa—and often, it is because the quinoa has not been properly washed—the raw quinoa has a coating of saponins which can give the quinoa a bitter taste—the saponins work well for quinoa because that bitter taste keeps birds, insects and fungus away from it. All you need to do with the quinoa before you cook it is put a cup in the strainer and rinse with cold water for a minute or two—that generally is sufficient to remove any residual saponins.
Most stores and many restaurants now carry quinoa—sometimes in the “nutritional section”…meaning the organic foods section. I laugh at that—and even one time asked one of the grocery clerks “If the organic section is the nutritional one, what do you call the other sections?” I thought it was funny….he didn’t….
So, if you haven’t tried quinoa already—please do! Add it to your menu of gluten-free, delicious foods.
Categories: Gluten and Digestive Issues