Quinoa commonly referred to as a grain is technically a seed not a grain. It is the seed of an herbaceous plant related to leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. Among the Aztecs and Incas it is considered a sacred food, known as the mother seed, recognized for its value in increasing the stamina of their soldiers.
For thousands of years quinoa has been a staple in the diet of South American Indians but was not introduced to America until the 1980s. Two Americans, after discovering this small seed that had the potential of being a nutritional dynamo, started to import quinoa to the United States and cultivating it in Colorado. Quinoa is becoming more and more popular as people recognize it for both its nutritional value and great taste.
Why is quinoa such a super food?
Not only is quinoa high in protein, but it supplies a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids normally only found in meat. This makes it a great choice for vegans, vegetarians or anyone wanting to limit their intake of animal foods.
Quinoa is a concentrated source of dietary iron, an essential part of several enzymes necessary for energy production and metabolism. Other health promoting minerals found in quinoa are phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and copper. Why are these minerals important? They build strong bones, protect your body from free radicals and promote cardiovascular health. The dietary fiber in quinoa keeps both your digestive system and your heart in great working order.
You can purchase quinoa prepackaged or in bulk. If you purchase in bulk there are two important things to remember. Make sure there is no evidence of moisture present and that the store has a good produce turnover. This is your insurance that your are getting maximal freshness.
Quinoa is coated with saponin compounds, a natural insect repellent, this can give it a soapy taste. To prevent this place in a large bowl, cover with cold water and swish the quinoa around, the soapy residue should float to the top. Drain.
Quinoa comes in a rainbow of colors and various forms. You can prepare it as you would rice, use quinoa in salads, add it to your favorite soups or stews. Quinoa flour is a great addition to your favorite cakes or muffins. When using quinoa flour you must combine it with a gluten containing flour to make leavened baked goods.
You can find quinoa at health food stores, in the health food section of your supermarket or on line at Bob’s Red Mill. Http://www.bobsredmill.com/search.php?mode=search@page1