Quinoa is an interesting form of pseudocereal that is not technically a grain, or a traditional cereal. It is a crop that has been grown for thousands of years, and is grown mainly for its edible seeds. Quinoa is related to spinach and beetroots, and is a becoming a major food in America, Europe, China, and Canada, despite the fact that it must be imported.
This plant is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa), which originated in the area surrounding Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia.
The plant dates back 3,000 to 5,000 years BC when it was domesticated by the peoples of America, according to existing historical evidence.
Moreover, archeological evidence exists of quinoa in tombs of Arica in Chile, Tarapacá, Calama, and in different regions of Peru.
Pre-Columbian civilizations cultivated and used quinoa as a staple food in their diet at the time.
The Incas called quinoa the “mother grain.”
An Incan emperor would break ground with a golden implement at the first planting of the season in recognition of what the plant provided them.
Eventually, quinoa was replaced by cereals after the Spanish arrived.
But the Incas weren’t the only ones ahead of the game on quinoa. In 1993, NASA researchers — who were looking for ways to keep astronauts healthy on long journeys — suggested quinoa as sustenance for long-term space missions because it’s rich in protein, versatile enough to mix with other foods, and easy to grow in controlled environments.
High in protein, with all the essential amino acids. Protein is made out of amino acids. Some of them are termed "essential" because we can not produce them and need to get them from the diet. If a food contains all the essential amino acids, it is seen as a "complete" protein. The problem is that many plant foods are deficient in certain essential amino acids, such as lysine.
However, quinoa is an exception to this, because it contains all the essential amino acids. For this reason, it is an excellent source of protein. It has both more and better protein than most grains. With 8 grams of quality protein per cup, quinoa is an excellent plant-based protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
High in fiber. Fiber is most widely known to relieve constipation. It also helps to prevent heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and diabetes. Fiber lowers cholesterol and glucose levels, may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and may help you to lose weight as it takes a longer time to chew than does other foods because it makes you feel fuller for longer and is less “energy dense” which means it has fewer calories for the same volume of food.
The fiber content in Quinoa is what gets many people interested in eating it. If you have trouble thinking of ways to increase your fiber and have resorted to buying and eating fiber bars or fiber fortified cereals to get the job done, you might be better off getting a supply of Quinoa. It contains a fifth of how much fiber you need each day in every one cup serving. That’s pretty impressive considering that most Quinoa recipes are filled with other foods like black beans that have a good amount of fiber so you can get a substantial portion of your fiber needs met in one meal.
High in Iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. Iron carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction. Iron also increases brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. There are many benefits of iron some more of which include neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, aids enzyme activity and energy metabolism.
For those that have trouble keeping up with their iron needs, Quinoa can be a big help with that, and it also is a tastier option than taking an iron supplement. In just a one cup serving you’re getting 15% of how much iron you need each day. That’s a good boost to your system and can assist with any deficiencies.
High in Magnesium. Magnesium doesn’t get as much attention as some other vitamins and minerals do, but it’s still an important mineral that your body needs in order to help prevent things like osteoporosis and heart disease, while helping to balance blood pressure and helping with diabetes. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.
You can get one third of your RDA of magnesium from just one full serving of Quinoa. That’s pretty impressive since many foods only contain a trace amount of it, or none at all. If you feel like your levels could use a boost, try these other foods that are high in magnesium.
High in Riboflavin. Riboflavin is also known as Vitamin B2, part of the family of B Vitamins and responsible for providing much needed antioxidants to assist the body with a number of functions. It also helps with enzyme performance and oxygen delivery throughout the entire body. It’s a pretty important vitamin.
Six percent of your daily needs per 100 grams of Quinoa might not sound like a lot, but many foods contain a bit of riboflavin, so it adds up throughout the day, Quinoa just gives it a nice contributing boost.
Rich in Manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.
Manganese is something you definitely don’t want to go without for any stretch of time, and with Quinoa you won’t have to because it provides almost half of what you need in just one serving. The symptoms of being low on manganese include having high blood pressure levels, high cholesterol levels, neurological problems, hearing impairments, and more. The number one cause of running a manganese deficiency is not eating enough foods that are rich in it. That’s why making Quinoa a part of your lifestyle is a good idea.
Contains Lysine. One special amino acid that Quinoa contains is called Lysine. Lysine is mainly essential for tissue growth and repair.
Lysine is usually found in sports supplements by those trying to add lean muscle to their body. It’s been said to also help strengthen the immune system, so Quinoa is great to eat during those months when everyone seems to be getting sick. It’s also been proven to help raise serotonin levels, which is a way to help you feel more relaxed and get into a calm state. Instead of using a supplement to get it, you can simply start eating more Quinoa.
Very high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals and are believed to help fight aging and many diseases.
Quinoa also happens to be very high in antioxidants. One study looked at antioxidants in 10 foods: 5 cereals, 3 pseudocereals and 2 legumes. Quinoa had the highest antioxidant content of all 10. Allowing the seeds to sprout seems to increase the antioxidant content even further.
Contains fatty acids. Close to 30 percent of the fatty acids in quinoa come from oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil and linked to reduced blood pressure and heart disease risk. About 5 percent of quinoa’s fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a beneficial form of plant-based omega-3s.
Most foods lose their healthy fatty acids when oxidized, but quinoa’s nutrients hold up to boiling, simmering, and steaming.
Prebiotic. In a 2016 study, quinoa and amaranth were assessed for their function as prebiotics. Prebiotics are undigestible fiber compounds that work with probiotic enzymes to become “fuel” for the beneficial bacteria living in your gut, and are associated with lowered disease risk, lowered inflammation levels and a better functioning immune system.
Scientists found that both of these pseudocereals (which they referred to as common superfoods) have prebiotic potential and can serve to improve gastrointestinal health by balancing the levels of good bacteria functioning there.
Has Antiseptic Properties. During the processing of Quinoa there are saponins which are removed from it and then reused as an antiseptic, as well as a detergent. This shows just one more aspect of this superseed. There is some misperception as to what Quinoa is exactly, whether it’s a grain or a seed. The part that is edible is the seed, which makes it great for grain-free diets and diet plans. But the plant that it grows on is grain-like which causes the confusion. There are many benefits to the plant, and it shows just how versatile it can be, much the same way aloe can be eaten, and used to treat the skin.
Supports a Gluten-Free Diet. When you’ve gone gluten free either for medical reasons or for dietary ones, you’ll quickly find out that while there may be more GF options than there were a decade ago, there is still a lot of room for more products. In the meantime you can stay gluten-free by using Quinoa. It’s not a grain, it’s a seed, and it doesn’t contain any wheat or gluten in it, so you can feel free to enjoy it in loads of different Quinoa recipes without worrying if it’s going to upset your system.
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