by Geri Walton ~ February 3rd, 2009
If you’ve heard of quinoa you might think it’s a grain, but it’s not. In fact, it often gets miscategorized as a grain, despite the fact it’s a seed and a relative of leafy green vegetables, such as Swiss chard or spinach. Quinoa originated in South America, and the Incas regarded it as a sacred grain, naming it quinoa, meaning the “mother of all grains.”
If you haven’t tried quinoa, you might want to try it. I recently did, and I have to admit, I was impressed. It’s not only highly nutritious but also mild tasting. It also has a fluffy, creamy, texture and a slight crunchy, nutty flavor. Some people consider its protein quality superior to other grains. Additionally, it’s highly versatile and gluten free. You can easily substitute it in dishes designed for rice, or eat it as a tasty side dish.
Another advantage to quinoa is it is rich in minerals and vitamins. For instance, according to Nutrition Data, 1 cup contains 58 percent of your daily value of manganese, 30 percent of the daily value for magnesium, and 28 percent of the daily value for phosphorus. It also contains good levels of zinc, folate, iron, copper, and thiamin.
Quinoa may offer these health benefits:
- Aid Against Migraine Headaches. Magnesium has been linked to a reduction in certain migraine headaches, and as quinoa contains 58 percent your daily value, it may be one of the best components needed to help reduce or eliminate migraines.
- Benefits Cardiovascular Health. Magnesium has been also touted to relax blood vessels and as low levels of magnesium are connected to an increased risk of hypertension, magnesium-rich quinoa may improve cardiovascular health. In addition, because quinoa is fiber-rich, the Nurses’ Health Study seems to suggest fiber reduces cardiovascular health risks.
- Prevent Gallstones. Quinoa, besides being a vitamin and mineral packed food, is also a fiber-rich food, and the Sichieri study seems to indicate a low-fiber diet may increase your risk for gallstones and that “fiber and moderate consumption of alcohol reduce the risk.”
- Protects Against Heart Disease. Quinoa has lignans, which are phytoestrogens, and here’s one study showing they aid against heart disease.
- Provides Antioxidant Protection. Quinoa contains extremely high levels of manganese and good levels of copper and zinc. All of these minerals help the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), which protects the mitochondria from oxidative stress and protects cells from disease-causing free radical damage.
Although one web site claimed there are over 1800 varities of quinoa, it is regularly cultivated in Colorado and can easily be obtained at health food stores, as well as grocery stores, such as Trader’s Joe’s or Whole Foods. You can also find quinoa in bulk bins or in prepackaged containers, but when purchasing it in bulk, make sure it is fresh and that it doesn’t contain moisture. Also, remember when you cook it, it expands, so adjust how much use accordingly. If you’re looking for quiona recipes, click here.