Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen'wa) is called the mother plant by the Incas and is considered sacred by them. It thrives in cold climates at very high altitudes up to 4000m or more. Archaelogical studies in Ayacucho in Peru discovered a domestic variety of quinoa that has been grown for over 6000 years.

On a recent trip to Bolivia (where the quinoa that Community Foods sells originates) we visited an organisation that although privately owned, supports over 300 local families who grow quinoa (and its cousin cañahua - pronounced kanya'wa) organically, and sell overseas (primarily Europe) a range of quinoa products including the whole grain, pasta, spaghetti, flakes (rolled) and the puffed grain as well as cañahua products. All manufactured products are made locally employing local people and the whole organisation seems to be run on a very egalitarian basis that supports the community. Unfortunately the crops had all just been harvested a month before we arrived so we couldn't see the beautiful pink/red/purple fields of quinoa in flower but the people who administer the organisation agreed to give us some photographs of the quinoa at different stages of growth which I have included (although they will be in black and white in this newsletter).

Nutrition

Quinoa has an excellent nutrient profile and is the most nutritious of all grains (it is in fact not a grain but a member of the Chenopodium family and cousin to amaranth) and contains no gluten.

The following table illustrates some nutrients in comparison to other common grains.

Per 100g Quinoa Wheat Rice Barley
Protein (g) 13.8 11.5 8.7 10.6
Fat (g) 5.0 2.0 2.2 2.1
Carbohydrate (g) 59.7 59.4 74.6 57.5
Minerals (g) 3.4 1.8 1.2 2.2
-- Calcium (mg) 85.0 41.0 39.0 26.0
-- Magnesium (mg) 204.0 91.0 119.0 57.0
-- Iron (mg) 7.0 3.3 2.0 2.0

Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients.

QuinoaQuinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorous, B vitamins and vitamin E as well as essential fatty acids. Used alone it has an amino acid profile that is more than adequate for most people and particularly helpful for pregnant and lactating women, children and people doing heavy physical work.

Not only is quinoa's amino acid profile well balanced, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Lysine is low in wheat and most other grains, so that in combination with other grains it presents a very high protein profile and also reduces the relative cost.

It cooks in the same time as white or basmati rice and can be included with it when cooking, expands to two or three times its size when cooked and has a light fluffy texture and slightly nutty taste. Ground to a flour it can be used to make pancakes or dumplings and added to breads or cakes at a ratio of about 1:2 to wheat, spelt or rye etc. for increased nutrition and delicious flavour.

Healthy Quinoa Recipes