Health Food Trends: What’s up with Quinoa?

Quinoa – A Puzzling Grain

There are certain foods that are part of the fad dieter’s bandwagon. You know the ones I am talking about. Superfoods, foods that come from exotic places with special properties that can cure cancer, make you lose 50 lbs, and extend your life to over 100 years. Naturally, if you bring this up with nutritionists and dieticians, both would eye-roll at the notion. Human beings need a varied diet with a combination of nutrients if they plan to live long and healthy lives.

Now, there isn’t to say that there is no benefit at all to these ‘superfoods’. Just because there are no shortcuts to nutrition and health doesn’t mean that they are completely out of the equation. It just means that you have to take it with a grain of salt before trying to start out on a diet of only one thing to make yourself miserable in the long run.  So, today we are going to look at one of those superfoods to see what benefit they could possibly have to us. Meet our guest grain with the craziest sounding name, quinoa.

What is Quinoa?

quinoaAfter reading it a few times, I bet you are trying to figure out it is pronounced. I have heard it two ways: “Kin-Oh-Wah” and “Keen-Wah”.  With either pronunciation, you can probably guess that they aren’t a food that comes from an English speaking region. Indeed, they were first found and cultivated by the Inca, who were native to the Andes Mountains on the edge of South American territory over 5000 years ago. While they are certainly classified as a type of grain or cereal for human consumption, botanically, they are a pseudo-grain. This is because this whole grain has its edible seeds intact whenever it is harvested for consumption.

The high demand for quinoa from first world countries has made the UN and other groups invested in international trade questioning the ethics of the mass export of the seeds from local villages. So far, it has been a mixed bag with both good and bad results for both the people supplying and demanding quinoa.

The Nutritional Value of Quinoa

Wheat and pasta that are white and are finely processed have little in the way of nutritional value these days because the human digestive system can process them quickly. That is not the case for whole grains like Quinoa. According to Medical News today, Quinoa has:

  • 222 calories
  • 8.14 g of protein
  • 5.2 g of fiber
  • 3.55 g of fat, of which 0.42 g is saturated
  • 39.4 g of carbohydrate
  • Magnesium – 30 percent recommended daily allowance (RDA)
  • Manganese – 30 percent RDA
  • Folate – 19 percent RDA
  • Phosphorous – 28 percent RDA
  • Copper – 18 percent RDA
  • Iron – 15 percent RDA
  • Zinc – 13 percent RDA
  • Potassium – 9 percent RDA

One cup also contains more than 10 percent of the RDA of the vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-6, and traces of vitamin E, B3, and calcium.

The rate of protein and nutrients in comparison to any other grain makes this seed a formidable substitute for refined grains and wheat. It is still prudent to eat vegetables and other sources of protein to make sure you are getting your recommended daily amounts. Overall, it isn’t bad for what it is and if you feel the need to eat it on occasion and have the financial means to do so, go for it!

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