The world has much more to offer than fast food! While fast food can relieve our hunger in a satisfying way, it’s all made of grease and processed products. From meats, burgers, fried chicken to sodas, milkshakes and fries, they all make us fat, especially if eaten on a regular basis. Remember that too much of something can be bad for you, and this includes food.
Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular issues and other chronic diseases are increasing due to unhealthy lifestyles and the processed foods included in today’s western diet. Because everything can be bought ready to eat, people have become lazy and dependent on TV dinners, microwave foods and other ready to eat garbage. We have to be conscious of the effects and go back to cooking and eating natural or organic foods.
One of the biggest excuses for not eating healthily is that the food is too expensive. But you don’t have to spend so much to be healthy. You can go to your local farmers market and start from there. One type of food that is getting attention today is quinoa. Let’s get the lowdown on this healthy alternative:
The Quinoa Lowdown
Quinoa has come a long way in the last few years. During the early years when it was introduced into western markets, quinoa was always placed at the back of shelves of health food stores, but now this humble seed is being sold out in supermarket isles. Quinoa is high protein, gluten-free, tolerant of dry soil, has a nutty and sweet flavor and has a delicate texture. Because of this, it has become a popular substitute for rice and pasta.
Quinoa (KEEn-wah) has been cultivated for over 5,000 years in the Andes and has been dubbed the “mother grain”. Although quinoa is a type of seed and not a grain, it is used, prepared and eaten the same way as other whole grains. The quinoa plant is in the same family as spinach, swiss chard and beets. Over the last couple of years, quinoa’s popularity has grown steadily as people have discovered its pleasant nutty taste and many healthy qualities. As a complete protein source, the seed is also high in magnesium, iron and fiber. Because of its resilience, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has designated quinoa as a “super crop” because of its ability to grow under different and unfavorable conditions. It also has the potential to feed the hungry around the world.
There are five different quinoa products being sold today:
1. White quinoa. This is the most common quinoa type. You’ll often see it labeled as plain quinoa, white quinoa or ivory quinoa.
2. Red quinoa. Cooks and chefs have stated that red quinoa holds its shape better than white quinoa after cooking. Thus, this type is more suitable for cold salads and other recipes where a specific grain is required or preferred.
3. Black quinoa. This quinoa type is a bit sweeter and earthier to taste as compared to the first 2 varieties. It also holds its black color even when cooked.
4. Quinoa flakes. Just like barley flakes and rolled oats, quinoa flakes are made by steaming the whole grain kernel. These flakes cooks faster but since the rolled quinoa is a quick-cooking grain, these flakes are great instant breakfast.
5. Quinoa flour. Quinoa flour looks like regular flour, but if you’re unsure ask the health food store clerk for quinoa flour if you need it.
Quinoa Health Benefits
1. Vitamins And Minerals
Quinoa contains many vitamins and minerals including:
- Omega-3 fatty acids and other monounsaturated fats
- Antioxidant phytonutrients known as flavonoids
- Essential minerals magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper, zinc and calcium
- Essential vitamins B1, B2, B3, B9 & E
- Fibers both soluble and insoluble
2. Reduces Risk Of Diabetes
Quinoa seed germ makes up 60% of the entire seed as compared to only 3% germ on a wheat kernel. The high ratio of protein to carbohydrates helps in regulating the body’s blood sugar. Quinoa is also an excellent source of soluble fiber that helps control blood sugar and slowing the breakdown of carbs to glucose. Vitamin E, phenolic acids and cell wall polysaccharides all help reduce any inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes.
3. Lowers Cholesterol
The high fiber content of quinoa helps reduce cholesterol. Soluble fiber combines with bile acids that are excreted by the body and in turn, lowers the total cholesterol and bad LDL levels. Quinoa is also known as a good substitute for animal protein.
4. Helps Control Blood Pressure
Quinoa contains high levels of potassium as compared to many grains. Potassium helps in balancing sodium blood levels and maintaining blood pressure. The seed is also a good source of magnesium that also helps in lowering blood pressure.
5. Helps Weight Loss And Weight Maintenance
Since quinoa is high in protein and fiber, it helps you to feel full longer and can help in curbing your appetite. It also helps in balancing blood sugar levels while fibers promote gastrointestinal health and regular bowel movements.
Quinoa can be purchased in small pre-packaged containers or in bulk depending on how much you need. Keep in mind that quinoa, just like rice, expands when cooked, so you may not need that much. Quinoa can last for months when stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. Because of the essential fatty acids in quinoa, you can store it in your fridge for up to 6 months.
Useful Tips In Preparing And Cooking Quinoa
Before you cook quinoa, you have to rinse it thoroughly because it has a coating of natural-forming chemicals called saponins. The coating serves as protection during cultivation, but it can leave a bitter taste that does not go well with the palate. Most commercially sold quinoa is already rinsed and ready to cook, but if you’re buying in bulk, you have to rinse it well. To rinse the seeds, place them in a strainer and run cold water over the seeds while gently rubbing them with your hands.
When cooking quinoa, the general rule is to use 1 part seeds and 2 parts water. It means that for every cup of quinoa, you need to use 2 cups of water. The yield will give you 3 cups of cooked quinoa. Just like cooking rice, cooking quinoa is a delicate process. If you put too much water or overcook it, it will become mushy.
To properly cook quinoa seeds, you need to add the water to a medium pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and set to a low heat. Let it simmer until all the water has evaporated (about 12-15 minutes). The quinoa will become translucent and the white germs will show white spiral strands. This means that quinoa is cooked and ready to eat.
Quinoa can be easily added to your diet. It doesn’t take a long time to develop a taste for this wonderful and healthy food. For some healthy recipes including quinoa and other superfoods, check out this article. Enjoy!