Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) has been increasing in popularity over the past few years. It is an ancient crop from South America which has extremely high nutritional properties and is versatile enough to be grown in a variety of climates. It is no surprise that it is often referred to as a Super-Grain.
Here are 5 great reasons why you should be eating it:
1) Quinoa is the only plant food that is a complete protein (it contains all nine essential amino acids)
Protein is made up of small components called amino acids. There are 21 amino acids, 12 of which are made by the human body (referred to an non-essential amino acids since it is not essential to get these amino acids from food). However, 9 of the amino acids must be gotten from food sources (referred to as essential amino acids since it is essential to get these from food). A complete protein is one which contains all 9 essential amino acids. Most complete proteins are from animal sources. However, quinoa is the only plant food which is a complete protein on its own.
2) Quinoa is Gluten-free
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Quinoa is a a gluten-free grain, which is great for people who need to avoid gluten due to an allergy or intolerance. Even if you are not allergic to gluten, quinoa makes a nice alternative to what you usually eat.
3) Quinoa contains high levels of the minerals magnesium, iron, zinc and phosphorous
There are 16 essential minerals required by the human body for various processes. Magnesium is needed for many important bodily functions including converting blood sugar into energy, maintaining a normal heart rhythm, and blood clotting. Iron is essential for the production of haemoglobin which helps transport oxygen around the body. Zinc helps maintain a healthy immune system. And phosphorous is important for strong bones and teeth.
4) Quinoa is inexpensive to buy and has a long shelf-life
Considering its nutritional value and ease of cooking, quinoa is relatively inexpensive to buy. It has a shelf-life of several years as long as it is kept in an air-tight container (check packaging for expiry date).
5) Quinoa is Easy to cook
Quinoa is an easy and fast grain to cook. However, you should remember that it has a slightly bitter coating (called saponin) which must be rinsed off before cooking. The saponin is naturally present to prevent the quinoa from being eaten by small animals, like birds and insects. Once rinsed, you can cook quinoa in large batches and then freeze some for upto 3 months.
5 simple steps to cook Quinoa (1 cup dried becomes 3 cups cooked – enough to make the base of a salad for 4-6 people):
- Rinse 1 cup (160g) of quinoa well and then drain.
- Put the drained quinoa (1 cup) in a pot. If you like your quinoa to absorb all its cooking water, add 1&1/4 cups boiled water (I boil the water in a kettle before measuring it and adding it to the pot). If you prefer using more water and draining your quinoa at the end of cooking, you can add around 2&1/2 cups of water.
- Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the quinoa if necessary and return it to the cooking pot.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit (covered) for 5 minutes.
- Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Eat immediately (ie. as a substitute for rice), or spread it on a platter and allow it to cool in order to make a salad with it. Can be frozen for upto 3 months.
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