Although sometimes packaged and sold as a ‘grain’, Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa or Kin-wa) is actually a pseudo-cereal, meaning unlike grains and cereals it is not a member of the grass family. This means that among other things, Quinoa is gluten-free and generally fantastic for people who have any allergies with regards to foods like wheat, barley or corn. This grain is positively fantastic for vegetarians and vegans, being a complete protein and containing massive doses of magnesium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. It’s also a little powerhouse filled with fibre, too. Being a pseudo cereal also means it can be ground into flour, you can do this at home with mortar/pestle or blender.
You can prepare Quinoa by boiling like rice, or can even put in cold water for 2-4 hours to toss through cold foods like salads. This will make the nutritional value much higher and adds a delicious fluffy bite to any salads. The seed itself is covered in a high level saponin, so even though it is prepared and washed before being sold (mostly) in Australia it’s still a good idea to give it a quick rinse before use.
Eating the grain can be compared to cous cous or cooked barley. There is a slight crunch or ‘pop’ and then a soft almost creamy texture. Although hard to explain, it’s almost like brown rice – but less ‘hard’. The flavour is very slightly nutty, but almost like rice. Quinoa can also be found flattened or puffed like corn or as previously stated in flour form.
Whilst researching this article I was amazed to find the additional health benefits of quinoa. Migraine sufferers can benefit from the high levels of Riboflavin (Vitamin b12) which is said to reduce the frequency of headaches. Not only is it jam packed with high levels of much needed nutrients, but it is said that the high levels of magnesium can help reduce migraines too. This works by relaxing blood vessels, preventing constriction and rebound dilation that is commonly associated with headaches. Increased magnesium intake can also reduce the frequency of headache episodes. Not only does this relaxing of the blood vessels help migraine sufferers but is also fantastic for our cardiovascular system.
These couple of benefits merely scratch the surface of the many, many health related boosts you can get from quinoa. It is said to reduce the risk of certain cancers, help with blood pressure and drastically lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, to name a few. There is a reason quinoa is sometimes referred to as “Incan gold”. As usual, the Mayans had it right and quinoa was served to its warriors. In fact, it is said to be one of the most important dietary supplements, second only to potatoes and more important than maize.
I could talk about quinoa all day, and I sincerely recommend you jump online and check out some of the many interesting articles on the stuff. There is a lot of information out there, and a lot more coming through now than there was even a little while ago. Try some out today, grab a recipe booklet I’ve put together from recipes found online – or try your own search!