Quinoa is considered a grain but technically, is a seed & related to beets, chard, & spinach plants. Coming in many varietals, its most popular version is light yellow. Not only are they nutrient dense but are also very tasty highlighting a slightly nutty flavour, & when cooked, have a fluffy texture. It's great as a rice or pasta substitute. Its leaves are not a common find in North America but are edible & similar in flavour to chard.
It was first domesticated some 3000 years ago, in South America, but is fairly new to the North American scene. For generations it was a staple of the South American Natives who called it 'the Mother seed' & the 'gold of the Aztecs'. In recent times though, North American demand has raised prices to such an extent that most locals can no longer afford it. Keep this in mind when choosing your grain! North American farmers are beginning to produce it & fair trade options are available so keep your eyes open for these!
Quinoa is a great choice as it is gluten free & among the least allergenic of all grains. It also possesses a complete amino acid profile—as in, it's a complete protein, making it an excellent choice for vegans & vegetarians. It also contains almost double the iron of other grains. It's high-content of flavanoids (Quercitin & Kaempferol) give it anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-depressant effects—it has more quercitin than cranberries. It has a low-glycemic index so is good for those who struggle with heart disease & diabetes. Quinoa is extremely high in anti-oxidants, fighting against those troubling free-radicals & its high fiber, high protein, low glycemic index assists with weight loss.
Quinoa also contains Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin E, iron, phosphorous, copper, zinc, magnesium, & manganese.
Why Are These Important?
Proteins repair & build tissues, make enzymes, hormones, & other body chemicals. It is an important building block of hair, nails, muscles, skin, cartilage, & blood.
Riboflavin, part of the B-vitamin group (B2), is required for many enzyme reactions including the activation of other vitamins.
Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant component protecting cells from cancer & heart-disease causing free-radicals.
Dietary Fibre normalizes bowel movements & helps maintain bowel health. It lowers cholesterol, maintains weight, & aids in glucose regulation.
Iron is a key ingredient in the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is in your red blood cells & carries oxygen through your body.
Phosphorous " is a mineral that makes up 1% of a person's total body weight. It is the second most abundant mineral in the body. It is present in every cell of the body. Most of the phosphorus in the body is found in the bones & teeth." (Medicine Plus) It is important for the use of carbohydrates & fats in the body. It is needed for the protein production responsible for growth, maintenance, & repair. It aids in the production of ATP (energy) & is required for kidney function, muscle contractions, healthy heartbeat, & nerve signals.
Copper is a trace element aiding in the proper function of organs & metabolic processes. It aids in the absorption of iron.
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in cellular metabolism. "It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes & it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, & cell division." (National Institutes of Health). It supports growth & is necessary for proper sense of taste & smell. The body is unable to store zinc, so it needs to be consumed daily.
Magnesium helps regulate a diverse range of biochemical reactions in the body including: energy production, structural development of the bones, it’s an antioxidant, transports calcium & potassium. It also aids in the regulation nerve impulses, muscle contraction, & the maintenance of normal heart rhythms. It is an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body.
Manganese assists in bone production & the maintenance of skin integrity & health. It also fights against free radicals & blood sugar control.