Centuries ago, high in the Peruvian mountains, the Incas consumed a grain so important that they called it quinoa – which means: “mother grain”. All grains are good for your health, but quinoa stands head and shoulders above the rest. It contains more protein than any other grain, and it is such a rich and balanced source of essential nutrients that food experts have called it the super grain of the future.
Quinoa is a rich source of protein, which is complete. That means it contains all nine amino acids that the body needs from food. This makes quinoa the ideal grain for people who don’t have meat in their diets and who may find it a problem to get enough protein.
A half-cup of cooked quinoa contains 5 grams of protein or 10% of the Daily Value (DV). It’s particularly high in the amino acid lysine, which is important for helping tissues grow and repair themselves.
In order to carry oxygen, your blood must contain iron. When the amount of iron in your blood is not enough, your red blood cells actually shrink and reducing the amount of oxygen they can carry. To make up the difference, the heart and lungs have to work harder. Over time, this extra exertion causes fatigue.
Quinoa is a very good source of iron. For example, a cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 milligrams of iron, which is 80% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for men and 54% of the RDA for women. Compared with an equal amount of brown rice, which contains only 1 milligram of iron.
In addition to supplying a mine full of iron, quinoa supplies two more nutrients: magnesium and riboflavin, which stimulate your cardiovascular system to work more efficiently. People with not enough magnesium in their diet have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, doctors have found that when people, who are deficient in magnesium, start getting enough, their blood pressure improves, the blood is less likely to clot, and the heart beats more regularly. Magnesium also helps to keep the linings of your blood vessels supple, keeping blood pressure under control.
Quinoa can help restore your magnesium content to heart-healthy standards. A cup of cooked quinoa contains 180 milligrams of magnesium, which is 44% of the DV. Because quinoa is rich in fiber, it can help avoid atherosclerosis – the clogging of artery walls with fatty substances such as cholesterol. It also prevents arteries from narrowing.
As a bonus added to this: getting sufficient magnesium as well as riboflavin, another vitamin found in quinoa, can also reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.
The American and Canadian Dietetic societies released a recommendation that people with gluten intolerance could safely include quinoa in their diets. The grain has long been the subject of controversy among people with gluten intolerance.
Getting the most out of it. Grains are often used as side dishes because people don’t know what else to do with them. But quinoa is soft and somewhat bland, that means you can include it in almost any recipe. You can add quinoa in soups, pasta dishes, or stuffings, for example, which makes it easy to get more of its nutritional power in your diet every day.
Keep it in the refrigerator In contrary to other grains, quinoa spoils quickly. It’s best to buy quinoa only in small quantities and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator to maintain the nutrients and the good taste.
Doctor’s Top Tip
Add quinoa to your arsenal of blood sugar-lowering foods. Instead of bread with your dinner, prepare a quick-cooking pot of quinoa. This fast grain’s fiber and protein give it a low glycemic load, according to researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia. That’s good news: Carbohydrates with a low glycemic load help keep blood sugar low and steady, reducing between meal cravings and cutting the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Kitchen guide. Because quinoa is smaller and more delicate, it must be treated differently than other grains.
Wash it well. As quinoa grows, it develops a natural, protective coating called saponin, which sometimes has a bitter taste. To wash away the residue, rinse quinoa before you start cooking.
Watch the time Quinoa cooks more quickly than other grains. Watch for overcooking, as it gets twice as mushy when you overcook it. To get the proper consistency, bring 2 cups of water to the boil, add 1 cup quinoa, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the grains are tender but still slightly crunchy and all the water has been absorbed.
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