Chilean Merlin (Chenopodium quinoa), better known simply as quinoa, is often described as a superfood or supergrain. It is a pseudocereal, i.e. a seed that is prepared and consumed in a similar way to grains.
It comes from the Andean region of South America and was already known to the ancient cultures there, for which it was one of the foundations of their diet. Today, it is increasingly popular among followers of healthy eating, and there are a number of good reasons for this. In addition to being literally full of quality nutrients, it is also recommended for people who cannot consume gluten for health reasons.
The name quinoa translates as mother of grains or mother of grains in the language of the ancient Incas, who considered it a sacred food. It is botanically related to, for example, spinach or amaranth.
You won’t find so many vitamins anywhere else
It is considered an excellent source of protein, fiber, iron, copper and many vitamins. It also contains a significant amount of magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and folic acid (folic acid).
According to an article from the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, quinoa has an unusually balanced composition and content of minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins. A 2017 study found that compared to other grains and pseudocereals that people around the world rely on as a source of macronutrients, quinoa has more protein and a greater balance of essential amino acids. It also surpasses many in the amount of fiber, lipids, calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, vitamins C, E and group B.
How to cook and combine quinoa
Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that is a source of complete protein, as it offers all nine necessary essential amino acids. Its inclusion in the diet can help meet daily protein needs, especially for those who focus on a plant-based diet, i.e. vegans.
How are you with quinoa?
It is very easy to include in the diet, has a pleasant taste and goes well with many foods. However, before preparing it, you must rinse it well with water or soak it in water for about 10 minutes to get rid of the saponins that could give it an unpleasantly bitter taste.
Preparation is quick and relatively easy. Use 2 parts water to 1 part pre-rinsed quinoa. In addition to salt, various herbs and spices can be added during cooking. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. During this time, it absorbs most of the water and takes on a “fluffy” appearance.
During cooking, quinoa increases its volume to about three times the amount of raw material. If prepared correctly, it has a soft, delicate taste and is slightly crunchy.
There are many recipes for using this natural goodness for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For example, you can try a spicy quinoa salad with vegetables and grilled chicken or a sweet porridge for breakfast with coconut milk, fresh fruit, walnuts, cinnamon and a little honey.
What is the difference between the color versions?
There are countless varieties of quinoa that have different colored seeds. Three colors are considered basic and best known in sales: red, white and black.
The most common type is white quinoa with a mild buttery taste. It is considered the tastiest among the entire basic trio. Red quinoa has an earthy, nutty flavor and is crunchier. Since it keeps its shape even after cooking, it is suitable for salads and other cold dishes, while the white one is more used as a side dish or as a base for porridges. Black quinoa has the most distinct taste, which does not lose its crispness even after cooking.
Quinoa is excellent as a base for salads and as a side dish
All types are prepared in the same way, and if you make a mix of individual colors, you will surely get only one. It also has another plus: for people who have to eliminate gluten-containing foods from their diet for health reasons, it can sometimes be difficult to get all the essential nutrients from their diet. Since healthy and nutritious quinoa is naturally gluten-free, its nutritional parameters make it an ideal choice for a gluten-free diet.
Also, adding quinoa to gluten-free products significantly increases the content of polyphenols (chemical substances that protect the body from free radical damage) compared to typical gluten-free products made from rice, corn or potato flour. They also have more antioxidants.
Thus, quinoa quite rightly became the object of interest of NASA, which, thanks to its properties, sees it as a culture suitable for maintaining the health of astronauts during space travel and for cultivation in space.
Studies have shown health benefits
Quinoa also has a number of health benefits. Two flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol, which quinoa contains, have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. According to research results, thanks to its composition, quinoa can significantly help reduce the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood, and also contribute to the regulation of triglycerides, both of which help prevent cardiovascular diseases.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, volunteers who ate more than 16 grams of quinoa each day had lower cholesterol levels (without lowering HDL, the “good” cholesterol) than those who took statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs). without consuming quinoa. It also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy body weight by providing a feeling of fullness for a long time, allowing for lower calorie intake. Last but not least, its high fiber content contributes to the health of the intestines and digestive tract.