Quinoa is a pseudo-grain crop similar to buckwheat—the homeland of the plant in South America. Like buckwheat, quinoa is not a cereal but a flower seed – so it does not contain gluten. The simplest cooking method is to boil porridge.
The benefit of quinoa is that its amino acid composition is complete (unlike wheat or rice). Also, quinoa has a low-calorie content, a moderate glycemic index, a lot of protein – up to 14-16 g per 100 g of dry cereals, fiber, and several microminerals.
Quinoa is a pseudo-grain crop of the Amaranth family. The homeland of quinoa is Central America – this cereal, along with corn and chia seeds, was the basis of the Inca’s diet. Quinoa now grows in many countries around the world.
Because quinoa is not a cereal, it is free of gluten, a wheat protein that can cause food allergies. Also, quinoa is an example of complex carbohydrates that are beneficial for weight management and weight-loss diets.
The unique taste and crumbly texture makemake it possible to prepare delicious dishes from quinoa – both boil porridge and use it in salads or garnishes for vegetable dishes. Vegetarians especially love quinoa for its complete amino acid profile.
Description – in short:
- pseudo-grain crop
- has a complete amino acid profile
- rich in vitamins and minerals
The cultivation of the valuable herbaceous plant has been going on for over 3 thousand years, and today quinoa grows in Chile and Peru. Despite its centuries-old history and invaluable benefits, the plant became undeservedly forgotten and replaced by more modern food products.
The second birth of quinoa in the United States and Europeans’ full acquaintance with the valuable product dates back to 1987. The Spanish King Juan Carlos and his wife appreciated the “peasant product”. The kingdom actively exported the cereal to Western Europe and the Commonwealth states’ territory.
Today, quinwa (quinoa), or the “golden grain” of the ancient Aztecs, grows in Bolivia, Peru, and Uruguay. Almost 90% of the total crop goes to the United States, and only a fraction of the valuable product ends up in other countries of the world.
The uniqueness of the grain crop is famous not only in the historical homeland, but also in Europe, Asia, North America, and Canada. Quinoa is one of the few naturally pure plant foods: all over the world, genetic experiments with crop grains are illegal, even to increase yields and protect against pests.
The value of the ancient plant grains is so high that UNESCO declared 2013 the year of quinoa.
Composition and calorie content
100 g of dry quinoa contains 102% of manganese’s daily value, 49% of the value of magnesium, 46% of phosphorus, 30% of copper, 25% of iron, 21% of zinc, 16% of potassium, and 12% of selenium. Indicators surpass not only wheat and rice but even buckwheat. Quinoa is one of the most iron-rich plant foods.
- Proteins: 14.12 g.
- Fat: 6.07 g.
- Carbohydrates: 57.16 g.
The calorie content of quinoa is 368 calories per 100 grams.
The benefits of quinoa
Quinoa contains antioxidants and phytonutrients that fight free radicals and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The main antioxidant of the red quinoa variety is the flavonoid quercetin – it is also found in buckwheat and is also found in many red berries.
With regular use, quercetin builds up in the body, gradually increasing the potency of quinoa. Besides being effective as an antioxidant, it is beneficial for its mild anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, analgesic, and sedative effects.
Health benefits of quinoa
Quinoa has a rich nutritional profile as it does not lose nutrients during cooking. The role is played by the fact that, unlike rice, in which nutrients are concentrated in the shell (not used in conventional cooking), each grain of quinoa is a source of vitamins and minerals.
- has an average glycemic index
- gluten-free and serves as a wheat substitute
- the leader in protein content in cereals
- complete amino acid profile – important for vegetarians
- a high content of lysine, necessary for collagen synthesis
- contains a lot of soluble fiber
How to choose
While light-colored quinoa is great both for use as a side dish and for adding to baked goods (in the form of flour). The red and black varieties have a bitter, nutty flavor – plus a crunchy shell on the teeth. Moreover, the darker the color, the more quinoa crunches.
On the other hand, tricolor quinoa (a mixture of three different types) also tastes more bitter – you need to consider this before buying. This variation is more suitable for salads – however, if you like a brighter flavor, it can be used as regular white quinoa.
Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal crop close to buckwheat with health benefits. It has an average glycemic index and is high in protein, vegetable fats, fiber, and natural antioxidants. All this makes quinoa an important dietary supplement for vegetarians and those looking to lose weight.
In some cases, quinoa, in addition to benefits, can also be harmful: reduce the absorption of certain minerals and provoke stones. But such problems usually arise if the we improperly process cereal before cooking; or if it is overused. To avoid unpleasant consequences, you must rinse and soak well the quinoa.
Saponins have a double effect on the body. They have choleretic properties, improve the functioning of the pancreas, and remove cholesterol. At the same time, saponins are toxic. But they show similar properties only if they are used in large quantities. In moderate doses, the substances will not harm the body. The concentration of saponins in the refined grain is significantly reduced.
Lactating women, especially in the first month, are should not consume exotic cereals. Although quinoa may not harm babies, we know little about its effects on newborns.
Contradictions for quinoa appear in individual intolerance to the product, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, exacerbation of ulcers, gastritis, and age less than two years. You should use it with caution in case of gout, cholelithiasis and urolithiasis, renal pathologies.
After meeting quinoa, many gourmets may conclude that the dish does not have an expressive taste and special aroma. But the uniqueness of this product lies in the ability to complement the taste of the main dishes of meat, fish, or vegetables, to reveal its aroma in combination with butter or cream fully.
“The aroma of fresh herbs, the strength of the mountain wind with a subtle nutty background” – this is how we can characterize the taste of quinoa. The easy-to-prepare cereal is an excellent base for hot and cold main courses, snacks, and pastries.
Quinoa in the culinary arts of different countries
In Aztec and Inca cooking, there are hundreds of recipes with purposeful and processed grains of quinoa. Almost all dishes included this valuable plant product. But culinary experts from different countries create products that are unique in taste and nutritional value, which are national:
- In Spain, quinoa is a popular replacement for rice in paella;
- For Italy, boiled grains are abundantly flavored with olive oil, and a large number of piquant peppers and sun-dried tomatoes are added;
- In Greece, a red or black grain salad with low-fat soft cheese, tomatoes, and spices is included in the nutritional system.
The product’s preparation practically does not differ from the culinary processing of traditional rice. First, we wash cereals from the saponin residues, and the slight bitterness removed, filled with hot water in a ratio of 1: 1.5, and boiled for 15-20 minutes.
Uses of quinoa:
- As a filling in first courses;
- For preparing mass for stuffing poultry and vegetables;
- As light side dishes and warm salads;
- For adding a special airy texture to sweet and fresh baked goods.
Soups and side dishes should use creamy quinoa grains, and in salads, black and red varieties of the product look original.
How to cook quinoa?
First, the cereals should be well rinsed to get rid of the bitterness and dried. After that, you can start cooking. It would help if you cooked quinoa in the same way as the usual rice or buckwheat porridge. For one glass of cereal, you need to take two glasses of water. Cook the cereal for about 15 minutes over low heat until all the water has evaporated. Then add oil to the porridge and salt. You can also fry the cereal in a pan to enhance the flavor.