Golden linseeds (also known as flaxseeds) are powerhouses of nutrition. They have a subtle nutty, slightly earthy flavour and are a cheap superfood that everyone can include in their diet. They are available whole or – for easier absorbtion – split, ground or as linseed or flaxseed oil.
I particularly love the oil, as it is such a fantastic natural skin moisturiser. Drink a couple of spoonfuls a day, by either adding it to a juice or smoothie, mixing it into milk for your cereal, or making a quick salad dressing.
Linseeds are the richest plant source of omega 3 fats, which are essential for a healthy brain, heart, joints and immune system.Due to the high content of plant chemicals known as phytoestrogens, linseeds have been called nature’s answer to hormone replacement therapy. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring forms of the female hormone oestrogen and are found in certain foods. They help to either reduce high levels of oestrogens or to boost low levels. This can have a positive impact on the unpleasant effects of the menopause, such as flushing and night sweats.
There is ongoing research into the benefits of including phytoestrogens in diets aimed at preventing cancer. With a history of colon cancer in my family I am keen to keep my colon healthy. The high-fibre content of linseeds can help.
A good way to get the best from them is to soak them first. Put one heaped desertspoonful of seeds into a glass, cover with water and leave overnight. Add the swollen seeds and water to a drink such as fruit juice or a smoothie, or to your cereal or yogurt, or drink it on its own. You can eat linseeds in this way every day. They are a good cure for constipation, but avoid eating the seeds if you have bowel problems, such as diverticulitis.
Alternatively, you can grind linseeds in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder before adding them to food. Never cook with linseeds or their oil – as the heat will render them unstable. To keep them fresh, store airtight in the fridge.
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Total Time:35 min
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger (6 ounces)
Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt and then combine the mixture with your hands. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 1 more minute. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.
Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. Bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
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Ginger, with its spicy, warm aroma and taste, is most frequently associated with South East Asian cuisines, although it is now more widely consumed than ever. Rich in a number of essential nutrients, ginger also has several health benefits, especially for your digestive system. Crystallized ginger, also known as candied ginger, is made by boiling ginger in a simple syrup and then letting the candy dry out. While the health benefits of ginger are preserved, the sugar content is greatly increased. Pay attention to your consumption of candied ginger to avoid getting too much sugar.
Treating Motion Sickness
If you get motion sickness, eating crystallized ginger, or eating some ginger chews can help alleviate the symptoms. Ginger naturally helps prevent nausea, especially when it results from dizziness or motion sickness. If you have motion sickness regularly, try one or two small to medium-sized pieces of crystallized ginger before or during travel.
Treating Morning Sickness
In addition to nausea from motion sickness, crystallized ginger can also help with nausea and upset stomachs resulting from morning sickness. Morning sickness is no fun to deal with, and the same amount of ginger per day, one to two small to medium-sized pieces, may help reduce the vomiting or nausea that comes with pregnancy. If you have extreme morning sickness, or experience it over a prolonged period of time, speak with a medical professional as there may be other factors at play.
Helping with Muscle Pain and Inflammation
Consuming ginger every day or on a regular basis can help reduce muscle pain from exercise related effort or injury. In a 2010 study published in the “Journal of Pain,” ginger was shown to help relieve some muscle pain due to exercise. A daily dose of 2 grams of ginger reduced pain and inflammation due to exercising. Ginger can also help reduce inflammation of the joints, which may be helpful also in treating conditions such as arthritis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
For over 5,000 years, ginger has been prized and used for its “warming” properties. In Asian medical practice, historically and in the current-day, ginger is used to treat a number of conditions, from arthritis and migraines, to sore throats. It is also used as a general health tonic, thought to help reduce overall body fat and improve circulation. In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical practice of India, ginger has been used in the treatment of anorexia and cholera.
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This imported crystallized ginger is ideal for a spicy snack, a unique cup of tea, or an ingredient in your cooking.
ABOUT CRYSTALLIZED GINGER
Crystallized ginger is pungent with a spicy-sweet flavor and is moist and chewy. It is embraced as a natural remedy for reducing hot flashes – huge numbers of women swear by it. It helps alleviate indigestion and colds…and don’t forget to take it with you on boat trips for sea sickness! (Some of us here know from experience that it’s an absolutely essential part of your travel kit…)
Interestingly, ginger itself is as old as the recorded history of man. A native to southern Asia and India, it is spoken of in the Jewish Talmud, written about by Marco Polo, and even recommended by Henry VIII as a remedy against the plague.
CRYSTALLIZED GINGER HEALTH BENEFITS
1) Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Crystallized ginger can reduce inflammation and relieve the pain associated with it. A 2012 study published in the journal Arthritis compared the anti-inflammatory effect of ginger extract to that of common drugs used in the treatment of arthritis, such as cortisone and ibuprofen. The researchers observed that ginger extract was as effective as cortisone at relieving arthritic pain, and that ginger can treat inflammation without the negative side effects associated with the common drugs.
2) Treatment for Nausea: Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy to alleviate nausea caused by motion sickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy. A study funded by the National Cancer Institute examined over 600 people who had experienced nausea after a chemotherapy treatment. Those patients who received ginger supplements throughout the rest of their treatments experienced a 40 percent reduction in nausea symptoms.
3) Immunity-Booster: During flu season, make sure you have crystallized ginger on-hand! Ginger contains active compounds that can relieve sinuses and protect the body against toxins and viruses. A 2008 article published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine discussed ginger’s ability to activate T-cells, a group of white blood cells that help destroy viruses and tumor cells.
OUR REGISTERED DIETITIAN’S TOP PICK
Our Registered Dietitian and Health Nut likes to add crystallized ginger to stir fries (throw in some cashews, too!). Also, keep a bag of this on hand to boost immunity and to eliminate nausea!
Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) has also been classified as an aid to quit smoking. It has a soothing effect on the lining of the mucous membranes and helps prevent nausea.
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Crystallized ginger looks appealing as the sugars glisten in the light, but be cautious of how much you eat. It’s often referred to as candied ginger and actually contains more sugar per serving than most gummy candy. However, there are potential benefits of eating ginger. It has been used in traditional medicine and as a culinary spice for thousands of years. The most common use of ginger is to treat upset stomachs. When eating crystallized ginger, do so in moderation and consider the amount of sugar it contains.
Often referred to as ginger root, the part of the plant you ingest is actually the stem that grows underground. Typically the root is peeled and the yellow flesh is used in medicine, teas and cooking. Young ginger root is tender and often used for making crystallized ginger because the more mature root tends to be fibrous and stringy. The flavor of ginger alone is pungent and spicy and is prevalent in Asian and Indian cuisines. Crystallized ginger can be made at home or purchased in most health food stores.
According the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory, 1 ounce of ginger root contains only 22 calories and under 1 gram of sugar. One ounce of crystallized ginger has 100 calories and 21 grams of sugar. Candied ginger typically contains 5 grams more sugar per serving than gummy candies. High amounts of sugar cause blood glucose to rise and over time may lead to diabetes. The Mayo clinic notes that the added sugar may also cause tooth decay and increase calorie intake leading to weight gain.
Eaten in place of traditional candy, crystallized ginger may offer benefits. While it may be high in sugar, crystallized ginger does not contain ingredients like food dyes, corn syrup or other additives found in traditional candy. In addition, the University of Maryland Medical Center states that ginger can reduce symptoms of nausea, vomiting and stomach upset coming from motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy. The center also notes that current research suggests ginger may aid in lowering cholesterol, preventing clogged arteries and killing cancer cells.
Possible Side Effects
The sweet and spicy flavor and chewy texture of crystallized ginger make it a delicious snack, but there are potential side effects to consuming too much. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that side effects are rare in most people, but may include stomach irritation, heartburn or diarrhea. Ginger is not recommended for children under 2 years of age and may also lower blood sugar and blood pressure. If you are taking medications to treat these conditions, consult your health care provider prior to eating ginger.
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- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- sea salt to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1/4 red onion, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Prep: 15 m
Cook: 10 m
Ready In: 25 m
- Toast the pine nuts briefly in a dry skillet over medium heat. This will take about 5 minutes, and stir constantly as they will burn easily. Set aside to cool.
- In a saucepan, combine the quinoa, water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly, then fluff with a fork.
- Transfer the quinoa to a serving bowl and stir in the pine nuts, lemon juice, celery, onion, cayenne pepper, cumin and parsley. Adjust salt and pepper if needed before serving.
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- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup diced (yellow or purple) onion
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups quinoa
- 3/4 cup diced fresh tomato
Tomatoes Regular Grape
- 3/4 cup diced carrots
- 1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 cup diced cucumber
- 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Prep: 20 m
Cook: 25 m
Ready In: 1 h 30 m
- Heat the canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir the garlic and 1/4 cup onion in the hot oil until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and bring to a boil; stir the quinoa into the mixture, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any remaining water from the quinoa with a mesh strainer and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate until cold.
- Stir the tomato, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, corn, and 1/4 cup red onion into the chilled quinoa. Season with cilantro, mint, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad; gently stir until evenly mixed.
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Quinoa is the world’s most popular “superfood.”
It is loaded with protein, fiber and minerals, but doesn’t contain any gluten.
Here are 11 proven health benefits of quinoa.
1. Quinoa is Incredibly Nutritious
Quinoa is a grain crop that is grown for its edible seeds. It is pronounced KEEN-wah.
It technically isn’t a cereal grain, but a pseudo-cereal (1).
In other words, it is basically a “seed” which is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain.
Quinoa was an important crop for the Inca Empire back in the day. They referred to it as the “mother of all grains” and believed it to be sacred.
It has been consumed for thousands of years in South America, although it only became trendy and reached “superfood status” a few years ago.
These days, you can find Quinoa and products made with it all over the world… especially in health food stores and restaurants that emphasize natural foods.
There are three main types of quinoa… white, red and black.
This is what they look like:
Here is the nutrient breakdown for 1 cup of cooked quinoa, or 185 grams (2):
- Protein: 8 grams.
- Fiber: 5 grams.
- Manganese: 58% of the RDA.
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
- Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA.
- Folate: 19% of the RDA.
- Copper: 18% of the RDA.
- Iron: 15% of the RDA.
- Zinc: 13% of the RDA.
- Potassium: 9% of the RDA.
- Over 10% of the RDA for Vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
- Small amounts of Calcium, B3 (Niacin) and Vitamin E.
his is coming with a total of 222 calories, with 39 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fat. It also contains a small amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Quinoa is non-GMO, Gluten Free and usually grown organically. Even though not technically a grain, it still counts as a “whole grain” food.
NASA scientists have been looking at it as a suitable crop to be grown in outer space, mostly based on its high nutrient content, ease of use and how easy it is to grow (3).
The year 2013 was actually called “The International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations (UN), based on its high nutrient value and potential to contribute to food security worldwide (4).
Bottom Line: Quinoa is an edible seed that has become very trendy among health conscious people. It is loaded with many important nutrients.
2. Quinoa Contains Potent Bioactive Substances Called Quercetin and Kaempferol
The health effects of real foods go way beyond the vitamins and minerals we’re all familiar with.
There are thousands of trace nutrients in there… and some of them are extremely healthy.
This includes interesting molecules called flavonoids, which are plant antioxidants that have been shown to have all sorts of beneficial effects on health.
In fact, the quercetin content of quinoa is even higher than typical high-quercetin foods like cranberries (6).
By including quinoa in your diet, you will significantly increase your total intake of these (and other) important nutrients.
Bottom Line: Quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids, including Quercetin and Kaempferol. These are potent plant antioxidants with numerous health benefits.
3. It is Very High in Fiber… Much Higher Than Most Grains
Another important benefit of quinoa is that it is high in fiber.
One study that looked at 4 varieties of quinoa found a range of between 10 and 16 grams of fiber, per every 100 grams of uncooked quinoa (11).
This equals 17-27 grams per cup, which is very high… more than twice as high as most grains. Boiled quinoa contains much less fiber, gram for gram, because it absorbs so much water.
Unfortunately, most of the fiber is insoluble fiber, which doesn’t appear to have the same health benefits as soluble fiber.
That being said, the soluble fiber content is about 2.5 grams per cup (or 1.5 grams per 100 grams), which is still decent.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is much higher in fiber than most grains, with one source finding 17-27 grams of fiber per cup of uncooked Quinoa.
4. Quinoa is Gluten Free and Perfect For People With Gluten Intolerance
According to a 2013 survey, about a third of people in the U.S. are currently trying to minimize or avoid gluten.
A gluten-free diet can be healthy, as long as it is based on foods that are naturally gluten free.
The problems arise when people eat “gluten free” foods made with refined starches instead.
These foods are no better than their gluten-containing counterparts, because gluten free junk food is still junk food.
Well… many researchers have been looking at quinoa as a suitable ingredient in a gluten-free diet, for people who don’t want to give up staples like breads and pasta.
Studies have shown that by using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free ingredients like refined tapioca, potato, corn and rice flour, it can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of the diet (15, 16).
Bottom Line: Quinoa is naturally free of gluten and using it instead of typical gluten-free ingredients can increase the antioxidant and nutrient value of a gluten-free diet.
5. Quinoa is Very High in Protein, With All The Essential Amino Acids That we Need
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, being particularly high in in all the essential amino acids. For this reason, quinoa is an excellent source of protein. It has both more and better protein than most grains (17).
With 8 grams of quality protein per cup of cooked quinoa (or 4.5 grams per 100 grams), quinoa is an excellent plant-based protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is high in protein compared to most plant foods and contains all the essential amino acids that we need.
6. Quinoa Has a Low Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels.
Such foods have also been linked to many of the chronic, Western diseases that are so common today… like diabetes and heart disease (20).
Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, which is considered low (21).
However… it’s important to keep in mind that quinoa is still pretty high in carbs, so it is not a good choice for a low-carb diet, at least not in large amounts.
Bottom Line: The glycemic index of quinoa is around 53, which is considered low. However, it is still relatively high in carbohydrates.
7. It is High in Minerals That Most People Don’t Get Enough of, Especially Magnesium
There are many nutrients in the modern diet that people tend to be lacking in.
This is particularly true of some minerals… especially Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc and (for women) Iron.
Interestingly, quinoa is very high in all 4 minerals. It is particularly high in magnesium, with one cup having about 30% of the RDA.
However, by soaking and/or sprouting the quinoa before cooking it, you can reducethe phytic acid content and make these minerals more bioavailable.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is very high in minerals, but the phytic acid can partly prevent them from being absorbed. Soaking or sprouting quinoa degrades most of the phytic acid.
8. Quinoa May Have Some Major Benefits For Metabolic Health
Given the high amount of beneficial nutrients, it makes sense that quinoa could lead to improvements in metabolic health.
Although this needs to be studied more thoroughly, I did find two studies (one in humans, the other in rats) that examined the effects of quinoa on metabolic health.
The human study found that using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free breads and pastas significantly reduced blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels (25).
Bottom Line: Two studies, one in humans and the other in rats, show that quinoa can improve metabolic health. This includes lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels.
9. Quinoa is Loaded With Antioxidants
Quinoa also happens to be very high in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals and are believed to help fight ageing and many diseases.
One study looked at antioxidants in 10 foods… 5 cereals, 3 pseudocereals and 2 legumes.
Quinoa had the highest antioxidant content of all 10 (27).
Bottom Line: Quinoa appears to be very high in antioxidants, which are increased even further after the seeds are sprouted.
10. Quinoa Has Several Important Characteristics That Make it a Weight Loss Friendly Food
In order to lose weight, we need to take in fewer calories than we burn.
It is known that certain properties of foods can facilitate this process… either by boosting metabolism (increasing calories out) or reducing appetite (lowering calories in).
Interestingly, quinoa has several such properties.
It is high in protein… which can both increase metabolism and reduce appetite significantly (29).
The fact that quinoa has a low glycemic index is another important feature, but choosing such foods has been linked to reduced calorie intake (31).
Although there is currently no study that looks at the effects of quinoa on body weight, it seems intuitive that it could be a useful part of a healthy weight loss diet.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is high in fiber, protein and has a low glycemic index. These properties have all been linked to weight loss and improved health.
11. Quinoa is Easy to Incorporate Into Your Diet
The last one is not a health benefit, but still incredibly important.
It is the fact that quinoa is very easy to incorporate into your diet.
It is also tasty and goes well with many foods.
Depending on the type of quinoa, it can be important to rinse it with water in order to get rid of saponins, which are found on the outer layer and can have a bitter flavor.
However, some brands have already been rinsed, so this may not be necessary.
You can buy quinoa in most health food stores and many supermarkets. It is also available on Amazon, with many reviews, testimonials and usage tips from real customers.
Quinoa can be ready to eat in as little as 15-20 minutes:
- Put 2 cups of water in a pot, turn up the heat.
- Add 1 cup of raw quinoa, with a dash of salt.
- Boil for 15-20 minutes.
It should now have absorbed most of the water and gotten a fluffy look. If done right, it should have a mild, nutty flavour and a satisfying crunch.
Then there are dozens of other delicious ways to use quinoa.
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What’s New and Beneficial About Quinoa
- The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Proposed by the government of Bolivia and receiving strong support from many Central and South American countries, quinoa has now been singled out by the FAO as a food with “high nutritive value,” impressive biodiversity, and an important role to play in the achievement of food security worldwide. We realize that quinoa remains unfamiliar to many people, especially in the practical sense of cooking and recipes. But we hope that situation will change, given the remarkable nature of this easily-prepared, nutrient-rich food.
- Researchers have recently taken a close look at certain antioxidant phytonutrients in quinoa, and two flavonoid—quercetin and kaempferol—are now known to be provided by quinoa in especially concentrated amounts. In fact, the concentration of these two flavonoids in quinoa can sometimes be greater than their concentration in high-flavonoid berries like cranberry or lingonberry.
- Recent studies are providing us with a greatly expanded list of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa. This unique combination of anti-inflammatory compounds in quinoa may be the key to understanding preliminary animal studies that show decreased risk of inflammation-related problems (including obesity) when animals are fed quinoa on a daily basis. The list of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa is now known to include: polysaccharides like arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans; hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids; flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol; and saponins including molecules derived from oleanic acid, hederagenin and serjanic acid. Small amounts of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are also provided by quinoa.
- In comparison to cereal grasses like wheat, quinoa is higher in fat content and can provide valuable amounts of heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated fat (in the form of oleic acid). Quinoa can also provide small amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Given this higher fat content, researchers initially assumed that quinoa would be more susceptible to oxidation and resulting nutrient damage. However, recent studies have shown that quinoa does not get oxidized as rapidly as might be expected given its higher fat content. This finding is great news from a nutritional standpoint. The processes of boiling, simmering, and steaming quinoa do not appear to significantly compromise the quality of quinoa’s fatty acids, allowing us to enjoy its cooked texture and flavor while maintaining this nutrient benefit. Food scientists have speculated that it is the diverse array of antioxidants found in quinoa—including various members of the vitamin E family like alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol as well as flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol—that contribute to this oxidative protection.
Overall Nutrient Richness
Perhaps the most striking health benefit provided by quinoa is its overall nutrient richness. When the nutrient composition of this food is analyzed in depth, the results are unusual and striking. While quinoa can be eaten in the same way as a grain, or ground into flour like is so commonly done with grains, it lacks some important nutritional shortcomings of grains.
One of the shortcomings overcome by quinoa involves its protein content. Most grains are considered to be inadequate as total protein sources because they lack adequate amounts of the amino acids lysine and isoleucine. The relatively low level of both lysine and isoleucine in the protein of grains is what causes these amino acids to be considered as the limiting amino acids (LAAs) in grains. In other words, these LAAs prevent grains from serving as complete protein sources in our diet. By contrast, quinoa has significantly greater amounts of both lysine and isoleucine (especially lysine), and these greater amounts of lysine and isoleucine allow the protein in quinoa to serve as a complete protein source.
In terms of fat content, quinoa once again overcomes some of the shortcomings of most grains. Since it takes nearly 350 calories’ worth of whole wheat to provide 1 gram of fat, whole wheat is not generally regarded as a significant source of fat, including essential fatty acids or heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (like oleic acid). By contrast, since it only takes 63 calories’ worth of quinoa to provide 1 gram of fat, quinoa is typically considered to be a valuable source of certain health-supportive fats. About 28% of quinoa’s fatty acids come in the form of oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and about 5% come in the form of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA—the omega-3 fatty acid most commonly found in plants and associated with decreased risk of inflammation-related disease.
Neither quinoa nor any grains qualify as good vitamin E sources in our WHFoods rating system. However, in the case of quinoa, or rating system does not do full justice to the fact that quinoa contains significant amounts of certain tocopherols (vitamin E family members) largely absent from most grains. For example, one cup of quinoa provides 2.2 milligrams of gamma-tocopherol—a form of vitamin E that has been more closely associated with certain anti-inflammatory benefits in health research. Quinoa is also a good source of RDA nutrients like folate, zinc, and phosphorus in contrast to whole wheat, which does not qualify as a good source in our rating system.
Quinoa is an equally impressive food in terms of its overall phytonutrient benefits. In many Central and South American countries, the leaves of the quinoa plant are valued for their betacyanin pigments, which provide some of their bright reddish shades. But even the seeds themselves can be phytonutrient-rich and can provide significant amounts of antioxidants like ferulic, coumaric, hydroxybenzoic, and vanillic acid.
The antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol are also especially plentiful in quinoa. In fact, the concentration of these two flavonoids in quinoa can sometimes be greater than their concentration of high-flavonoid berries like cranberry or lingonberry.
Considered in combination, these diverse nutrient benefits of quinoa give it uniqueness among grain-related foods. For us, this high overall level of nourishment provided by quinoa may qualify as its greatest health benefit.
Most of the quinoa studies that we’ve seen in this area have been animal studies. However, we believe that the preliminary indications for humans are very promising. Research has shown the ability of daily quinoa intake to lower levels of inflammation in fat (adipose) tissue in rats and in the linings of their intestine as well.
We’re not surprised at either of these results because a wide range of anti-inflammatory nutrients is already known to be present in quinoa. This list of anti-inflammatory nutrients includes phenolic acids (including hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids), members of the vitamin E family like gamma-tocopherol, and cell wall polysaccharides like arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans.
Somewhat more controversial in this anti-inflammatory nutrient list are the saponins found in quinoa. Saponins are the bitter tasting, water-soluble phytonutrients found in the outer seed coat layer of quinoa. (More specifically, the saponins found in quinoa are derived from hederagenin, oleanic acid, phytolaccagenic acid, and serjanic acid.) The quinoa saponins have been shown to have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, soaking, boiling, and milling can reduce their presence, and, in general, this reduced presence is usually regarded as a good thing since it can make the quinoa much more enjoyable for most people to eat. In research to date, the relationship between and anti-inflammatory benefits of quinoa and saponin levels has yet to be clarified. However, even though more research is needed in this particular phytonutrient area, the list of anti-inflammatory nutrients in quinoa remains impressive.
We have yet to see large-scale human studies on intake of quinoa and risk of type 2 diabetes or risk of cardiovascular disease. However, we would expect such studies to show significantly reduced risks. With respect to type 2 diabetes, quinoa simply has too many things in common with other foods known to decrease risk. At the top of the list here would be its fiber and protein content. Quinoa is a good source of fiber—one of the key macronutrients needed for health blood sugar regulation. It also provides outstanding protein quality, even in comparison to commonly-eaten whole grains. Strong intake of protein and fiber are two dietary essentials for regulation of blood sugar. Because chronic, unwanted inflammation is also a key risk factor for development of type 2 diabetes, the diverse range of anti-inflammatory nutrients found in quinoa also make it a great candidate for diabetes risk reduction.
Animal studies have already demonstrated the ability of quinoa to lower total cholesterol and help maintain levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). While we would expect these results in humans as well, we would also expect the anti-inflammatory nutrients in quinoa to help protect human blood vessels from inflammatory damage. Protection of this kind would also provide reduced risk of many cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis. We expect to see future, large-scale human studies demonstrating the benefits of quinoa for risk reduction in this area of cardiovascular disease.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa also make it a likely candidate for cancer risk reduction in humans. Given the preliminary animal results involving the digestive tract, risk reduction for colon cancer may turn out to be a special area of interest.
A final area of likely benefit involves decreased risk of allergy—especially for individuals who have adverse reactions to certain grains and seek practical alternatives. Already, several public organizations have recommended quinoa as a substitute for wheat whenever the avoidance of this gluten-containing grain is required. The low-allergy potential of quinoa—coupled with its relatively high digestibility—has also made it a food of special interest in the diet of children and toddlers.
Because quinoa is typically consumed in the same way as the cereal grasses (wheat, oats, barley, and rye), we group it together with those foods on our website. However, quinoa is not a cereal grass at all, but rather a member of the same food family that contains spinach, Swiss chard, and beets. Many researchers refer to quinoa as a “pseudocereal.” This term is typically used to describe foods that are not grasses but can still be easily ground into flour. The scientific name for quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa.
Researchers date the popularity of quinoa to approximately 3000 BC, when its consumption became widespread in the Andes mountains regions of South America. About 250 different varieties of quinoa were already present at that time, giving quinoa a remarkable tolerance for different growing conditions. Quinoa is able to survive high altitudes, thin and cold air, hot sun, salty or sandy soil, little rainfall, and sub-freezing temperatures. In addition, all parts of the plant could be eaten, including not only the seeds that we buy in the store and that may also have been dried and ground into flour, but also the leaves and stems. Betacyanin pigments presemt in some quinoa leaves given them their bright reddish color, but it’s also possible to find orange, pink, purple, tan, and black quinoa as well. Quinoa leaves taste similar in flavor to the leaves of their fellow chenopods, namely, spinach, chard, and beets. Cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy and creamy, yet also slightly crunchy. They may also sometimes have an amazing translucent appearance. The flavor of the cooked seeds is delicate and somewhat nutty.
The word “quinoa” is pronounced “KEEN-wah.” It comes from the Spanish word, quinua, which itself comes from the word “kinwa” or “kinua” in the Quechua dialect.
The history of quinoa is clearly rooted in South America, in the Andes region that is currently divided up between the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Along with maize, quinoa was one of the two mainstay foods for the Inca Empire that had its start around 1200 AD. As previously mentioned in the Description section, quinoa was a food that could survive in a wide variety of growing conditions. Along with its unusual nutrient richness, its adaptability helped it gain popularity among the Incas for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Most quinoa consumed in the United States still comes from South America. Peru remains the largest commercial producer of quinoa, harvesting 41,079 metric tons in 2010. Bolivia was the second largest producer with 29,500 metric tons. Together, these two South American countries produced nearly 99% of all commercially grown quinoa in 2010. In terms of export sales, quinoa has risen to the level of an $87 million dollar business in these two countries.
Some commercial quinoa production takes place in the United States, although total cultivation remains under 10,000 pounds. The Colorado Rockies have been a place of special interest for quinoa production, and some production has also occurred in the states of California, Washington, and Oregon.
Interest in quinoa has recently spread to India (including the North-India Plains and high-altitude areas of the Himalayas), other parts of Asia (including Japan), as well as to Africa and part of Europe. Designation of the year 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa” by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) may also trigger greater attention to this food worldwide.
How to Select and Store
Quinoa is generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the quinoa are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Whether purchasing quinoa in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture. When deciding upon the amount to purchase, remember that quinoa expands during the cooking process to several times its original size. If you cannot find it in your local supermarket, look for it at natural foods stores, which usually carry it.
The most common type of quinoa you will find in the store has an off-white color but red and black quinoa are becoming more available. You may even be able to find a tri-color mixture sold in packages or bulk bins.
Store quinoa in an airtight container. It will keep for a longer period of time, approximately three to six months, if stored in the refrigerator.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Tips for Preparing Quinoa
Processing methods used in the commercial milling of quinoa usually remove most of the saponins found in the outer coat of the quinoa seeds. Because the quinoa saponins are largely responsible for its bitter taste, many people chose to rinse and rub the seeds after purchase to remove any bitter taste that may remain in the seeds. An effective method to do so is to place the quinoa seeds in a fine-meshed strainer and run cold water over the quinoa while gently rubbing the seeds together in your hands. After completing this process, you can taste a few seeds to determine if a bitter taste remains. If it does, simply continue this rinsing and rubbing process until you no longer taste a bitter residue.
The Healthiest Way of Cooking Quinoa
To cook the quinoa, add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan. After the mixture is brought to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover. One cup of quinoa cooked in this method usually takes 15 minutes to prepare. When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself, appearing like a white-spiraled tail. If you desire the quinoa to have a nuttier flavor, you can dry roast it before cooking; to dry roast, place it in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes.
Quinoa is a perfect food to include on a gluten-free diet, since it not only lacks gluten but doesn’t even belong to the same plant family as wheat, oats, barley, or rye. Some studies also show quinoa flour to have higher-than-expected digestibility. Both of these factors would be expected to decrease the risk of an adverse reaction to quinoa—especially in comparison to a cereal grass like wheat. While it is possible to make baked goods and pastas out of 100% quinoa flour, most companies combine quinoa flour with other flours (like tapioca flour or rice flour) or with oatmeal to produce a lighter texture. (Products made with 100% quinoa flour typically have a heavy and dense texture, sometimes referred to as “truffle-like.”) When combined with rice flour or tapioca flour, however, quinoa-based products definitely qualify as gluten-free and should help reduce risk of adverse reactions.
How to Enjoy
- Combine cooked chilled quinoa with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander. Season to taste and enjoy this south-of-the-border inspired salad.
- Add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa and serve as breakfast porridge.
- For a twist on your favorite pasta recipe, use noodles made from quinoa.
- Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts.
- Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups.
- Ground quinoa flour can be added to cookie or muffin recipes.
- Quinoa is great to use in tabouli, serving as a delicious (and wheat-free) substitute for the bulgar wheat with which this Middle Eastern dish is usually made.
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.
Quinoa is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of purines. Because quinoa does not belong to the plant family containing wheat, oats, barley, and rye, it is also a gluten-free food. Some studies also show a higher-than-expected digestibility for quinoa, making it a food less likely to produce adverse reactions. However, like all members of the Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae plant family (including spinach, chard, and beets), quinoa does contain oxalates, and sometimes in substantial amounts. The oxalate content of quinoa ranges widely, but even the lower end of the oxalate range puts quinoa on the caution or avoidance list for an oxalate-restricted diet.
Quinoa is food of high protein quality and is typically regarded as an adequate source of all essential amino acids, including lysine and isoleucine. It provides a variety of antioxidant phytonutrients, including ferulic, coumaric, hydroxybenzoic, and vanillic acid. Antioxidant flavonoids including quercetin and kaempferol are also especially plentiful in quinoa. Anti-inflammatory polysaccharides in quinoa include arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans. Many members of the vitamin E tocopherol family are provided by quinoa, including important amounts of gamma-tocopherol. Quinoa is a very good source of manganese. It is also a good source of phosphorus, copper, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate, and zinc.
For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Quinoa.
In-Depth Nutritional Profile
In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Quinoa is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.
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