Quinoa (“Qin-wah”) originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. It was important to the diet of ancient Andean civilizations. The small round grains ( actually they are seeds) are pale brown in colour. The taste of Quinoa is mild and its texture is firm and slightly chewy. When cooked, the grains sweeten and become translucent, ringed with white.
The nutrient composition is very good compared with common cereals. Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and is also high in magnesium, calcium, and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and therefore it is easy to digest. For these reasons, quinoa is called a superfood.
100 g quinoa seeds (grains) provide 368 calories. The grains are moderate sources of energy, and their calorie content may be compared to that of major cereals such as wheat, maize, rice, and that of pulses like chickpea, mung bean, cowpea (black-eye pea), etc.
- Quinoa grains carry 14-18 g of protein per 100 g. They compose all the required essential amino acids for the human body in excellent proportions, especially in lysine, which is otherwise a limiting amino acid in grains like wheat, maize, rice, etc.
- Quinoa is one of the gluten-free staple foods. It is a rich source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre. 100 g provide 7 g or 18.5% of daily requirement of fibre. Fibre increases the bulkiness of the food and helps prevent constipation by speeding up its movement through the gut. Fibre also binds to toxins, aiding in their excretion from the gut, and thereby, helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancers. In addition, dietary fibres help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels.
- Quinoa grains are indeed very good sources of B-complex group of vitamins, vitamin E (α-tocopherol) and essential fatty acids such as linoleic and α-linolenic acid (18:3).
- Quinoa acts as a powerful anti-oxidant by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus protecting from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
- Quinoa is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Copper is required for the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels leading to brain and found to have curative effects on depression, and headache. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Quinoa seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes.