Quinoa: the new super food!


Quinoa

There is a new pseudo-cereal crop in the food market which is keeping researchers very busy trying to figure it out. By pseudo cereal, I mean it’s a non-cereal crop whose seeds can be ground into flour and otherwise be used as cereals.

It is considered extremely nutritious given that it’s a grain with proteins and healthy fats like oleic acids. In 2013, FAO in a 2013-be-a-quinoa-year swag singled out this grain as highly nutritive food with a role to play in curbing world food insecurity.

History of this wonder cereal is deeply rooted in South America with Peru being its largest producer. In 2010, Peru harvested 41,079 metric tons of quinoa followed by Bolivia with 29,500 metric tons. The total amounts from these two countries represent a 99% share of the total word quinoa output.

Interest in this crop has spread to India and parts of Asia as well as Africa lately. With FAO announcing 2013 as ‘the international year of Quinoa’, the crop is highly likely to get attention from many economies especially the developing ones whose main not-yet-achieved-economic menu is a food secure haven.

Quinoa is a warm season crop that requires temperatures of approximately 24°C for good germination. It requires a very little amount of rainfall and soil PH ranging from 6 to 8.5. It does well in areas of high attitudes with cool night temperatures and hot days.

If well taken care of, it can produce up to 5 tons per hectare. It is rarely attacked by pests due to its bitter taste hence minimizing its maintenance cost.

It is a versatile crop. The seeds are good for human consumption with the leaves and stalk being used as livestock feed. Saponin, which covers the seed and contributes to its bitter taste (should be washed off before cooking) has enzymes that contribute to root growth.

When it comes to cooking, different ways apply; it can be boiled as rice, popped like popcorn or milled to be used as flour. Quinoa is among the least allergenic of all the 'grains', making it a fantastic wheat-free choice. Like buckwheat, quinoa has an excellent amino acid profile, as it contains all nine essential amino acids making it a complete protein source. Quinoa is, therefore, an excellent choice for vegans.

Quinoa is high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which make it potentially beneficial for human health in the prevention and treatment of disease. Quinoa contains small amounts of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and, in comparison to common cereal grasses has a higher content of monounsaturated fat.

As a complete protein, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids – including the elusive lysine and isoleucine acids, which most other grains lack. Naturally high in dietary fiber, quinoa is a slowly digested carbohydrate, making it a good low-GI option.
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