Most people are well aware of quinoa as a grain, having probably eaten it at least once or twice in their lifetime. More and more people are discovering the many health benefits of this ancient cereal. If you’re curious about this somewhat strange-looking grain, then this article will introduce you to it. So let’s get to it.
Quinoa: A History Lesson
Quinoa is actually more than 1000 years old, with evidence of cultivation dating back to the 8th century in Peru. The Inca civilization of South America developed a method of dehydration that made it easier to transport and store, leading to its wide distribution and consumption throughout the whole country. The Spanish colonizers later introduced it to Europe, where it was widely grown during the 16th and 17th centuries. In the early 1700s, English farmers started producing it for the sake of animal feed, since carrion birds made a big demand for it. Although it’s rarely found in traditional English cuisine nowadays, you can still most likely spot some in your local supermarket.
How Is It Prepared?
Quinoa comes in a pale yellow in color and is typically available in either large or small quantities. You can purchase it in its entirety or in bite-sized pieces from most supermarkets. It tastes fairly bland and has a very high nutritional value, containing all nine essential amino acids and more than 70% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin A. So, as you can see, there are a lot of perks to this little seed.
Unlike most grains, you shouldn’t need to cook quinoa; rather, all you need is a bit of water. So if you’re at all concerned about whether or not you’ll get the right consistency after just heating it up, don’t worry. Follow the instructions on the package and you’ll be fine. In some instances, you might need to add a pinch of salt to the water, but the grain will still taste incredible.
Where Does It Come From?
Most of the world’s quinoa is grown in the Andes mountains of South America, especially in Peru and Bolivia. There are actually five different varieties of quinoa, which provide the plant with its distinguishing colors: red, black, green, white, and violet. The seeds are typically hand-harvested by farmers and processed into flour, which is then either sold in large quantities to food processors and wholesalers or used directly by bakers and cookbook authors.
What Are The Health Benefits?
Quinoa has been known to fight and cure a number of ailments. Its high nutritional value supplies the human body with essential nutrients that combat deficiencies and disease. Some research even suggests that quinoa may have cancer prevention properties. It boasts impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities.
If you’re not familiar, inflammation occurs when our bodies’ natural defense systems are triggered by toxins or pathogens. This response can cause damage to our cells and tissues. A study published in the journal Nutrition reveals that quinoa consumption helps reduce chronic inflammation in humans, demonstrating that its health benefits may be attributed, in part, to decreased cytokine levels.
A Rich Source Of Energy
One of the most distinctive advantages of quinoa is its high energy content. There’s actually more than twice the amount of energy in a serving as compared to most other grain products. It has a relatively high glycemic index and can be digested quickly by the body, which makes it a valuable source of fuel for active individuals on the go. In fact, a study from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that quinoa is the only food besides potatoes to register positive energy values for both the body and the brain. This unique combination of qualities makes it an ideal nutrition boost for body builders and other athletes.
A Healthier Option Than Most Grains
Another important factor to consider regarding quinoa is its comparative healthiness to other grains. As mentioned earlier, quinoa is a complete source of nourishment, containing all essential nutrients in adequate amounts. This makes it easier for the body to maintain optimum health. Plus, it has a relatively low calorie count and is virtually fat-free, as it is highly fiber-rich. This combination of factors makes it a more preferable choice than most other grains in terms of human health. In fact, according to the International Health Federation (IFF), quinoa is the only food besides potatoes that can be called a complete source of nutrition.
To make matters even more interesting, quinoa is gluten free, which means that those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can eat it without suffering adverse effects. So, if you have one or more of these disorders, you know that you can include quinoa in your diet without worrying about harming your health in any way.
One of the things that make quinoa so special is its high protein content. In fact, it contains more than double the amount of protein as compared to most other grains, making it a complete protein source. It is also a complete source of essential amino acids, which are compounds that our bodies can’t produce themselves but must get from outside sources. This is another important factor in terms of human health, especially for those who suffer from protein deficiencies. Those with kidney problems, in fact, can also benefit from high-quality protein, as it is usually well-tolerated by the body. This can help improve kidney function.
Most humans are not born with the ability to synthesize all the essential amino acids needed for growth and activity. So it’s truly remarkable that quinoa is high in both protein and essential amino acids. This is also why it’s become so popular amongst athletes and body builders, who often need the extra boost of nutrients to build and maintain muscle mass.
Rich In Vitamins And Minerals
Quinoa is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, containing over three times the daily recommended dose of vitamin E and twice the daily recommended intake of magnesium. This mineral is vital for proper body function and relaxation, especially in older adults. Vitamin E along with iron help fight off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. So it’s truly wonderful that quinoa is not only a complete source of protein but also contains such important nutrients that contribute to overall human health and wellness.
Another significant benefit of quinoa is the fact that it’s highly versatile. This foodstuff can be eaten both raw and cooked, and it does not require much preparation beyond washing. You can also use it in a variety of ways, from simply adding it to your diet to making an entire meal out of it. All you need is a bit of water, a high-quality protein source, and some fruits to make a decent-sized portion, which is around three to four ounces. In this way, you can eat the whole grain like a cereal, make it into a slurry, or cook it like rice.
Good For Babies
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you can include quinoa in your diet without worrying about its effect on your child. This is because it has a high content of both iron and folate, two nutrients vital for the proper growth and development of the baby. Studies have also shown that quinoa can be beneficial for decreasing the risk of autism in children. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies iron deficiency as one of the leading causes of disability in the world today, afflicting an estimated 80 million people globally. The good news is that due to its significant nutritional value, you may be able to combat this deficiency and its various maladies simply by adding more high-quality food items and supplements to your diet.
A Perfect Snack
Although quinoa has been around for a very long time, it still enjoys something of a novelty factor, which might explain why people are discovering its many health benefits so recently. This seed is perfect for snacking on, as it is low in calories and has a high content of nutrients. If you’re looking for a nutritious and filling snack that won’t break the bank, then consider buying some quinoa or making your own. You can use this little seed to create delicious and healthy snacks, such as trail mix, burgers, or even cake balls.
So, what exactly is the deal with quinoa? This foodstuff possesses a number of remarkable qualities: it is gluten free, high in protein, and contains more than enough nutrients for the human body. If you’re not familiar, quinoa has been known to combat a variety of ailments, from Alzheimer’s disease to diabetes. It also has a relatively high energy content and is easy to digest, helping to fuel your body’s repairs and growth.