New Leaf Vegetarian

Quinoa

Quinoa

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One of the world’s healthiest foods, quinoa contains a perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids, and is a great source of protein, making it an increasingly popular food choice for those looking to incorporate “superfoods” into their everyday diets.  Gluten-free, wheat-free, and nutrient-packed, quinoa is ideal for those who are health-conscious, vegetarian, and/or physically active, as well as for those with gluten intolerance, wheat allergies, and other digestive disorders.  But that’s not all: You can eat quinoa guiltlessly knowing it’s free of cholesterol and trans fats.

Quinoa is high in vitamins and minerals such as riboflavin, calcium, vitamin E, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, folic acid and beta carotene.1 In 1 cup (250 mL) of regular uncooked white quinoa, there are 626 calories, with a whopping 24 g protein!

Identified as one of the world’s healthiest foods, quinoa has a complete combination of all life-supporting nutrients, making it an ideal whole food to incorporate into your daily lifestyle.  The versatility of quinoa makes it compatible with almost everything you eat throughout the year.  Soups, salads, entrées and desserts can all be made with quinoa and taste great. It is very easy to prepare, regardless of your cooking ability.  Quinoa is also considered kosher, as it is technically not a grain nor related to grains.

Especially important for vegetarians or vegans, quinoa is a nutritionally superior source of non-animal protein.  Optimal amino acid content and ease of digestion make quinoa an ideal alternative to meat proteins.

Those on weight-loss diets can also benefit from quinoa, which is a complex carbohydrate, also known as a “good” carbohydrate.  Unlike simple carbohydrates from processed foods, quinoa digests gradually.  This contributes more nutritional value because it does not quickly convert sugar to fat, making it ideal for low-carbohydrate diets.  In addition, complex carbohydrates leave you feeling fuller longer and can help to regulate blood sugar levels.  Some research has shown that high-protein diets may aid in weight loss.  High levels of protein may be beneficial for weight loss, but if the primary protein source is fatty meats, you could create additional health concerns.  Red meat, in particular, contains saturated fat, and excessive consumption of saturated fats has been shown to cause heart disease.  Many meats also contain antibiotics, additives and preservatives.  For those on a high-protein diet, quinoa makes an ideal meat substitute.

Quinoa has been ranked as one of the top ten muscle-building foods for its protein, amino acid content and complex carbohydrates.  The quality of protein in quinoa means that the body efficiently uses the building blocks, rather than eliminating them as waste as with many of the protein supplements that muscle building requires.  Quinoa is also an ideal athletic-performance food because the complex carbohydrates provide energy and endurance to hard-working muscles.

A growing number of people have allergies to food, including wheat and wheat derivatives and even foods containing traces of wheat.  Quinoa does not belong to the same plant family as wheat and does not contain gluten.  It is therefore safe for the gluten-intolerant or those with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or colitis.  Quinoa has been identified as ideal for the gluten-free diets recommended for autistic children and those with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Quinoa, while not technically a grain, is similar to whole grains, which have been demonstrated to reduce high blood pressure and prevent heart failure because they slow the speed of arterial plaque and may help to remove buildup of plaque in the arteries.  Quinoa is also rich in magnesium, which helps to reduce high blood pressure because it allows the blood vessels to relax.  In addition, plant lignans, or phytonutrients, are present in whole foods such as quinoa and are thought to be responsible for protection against a variety of illnesses.

Even beyond heart health, consumption of whole grains has been linked to a decreased risk of breast cancer, prevention of gallstones and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.  Quinoa’s high manganese and copper content gives it antioxidant power to promote the elimination of toxins and free radicals that may cause disease.  It is also abundant in linolenic acid, the essential fatty acid that has proven beneficial to immune response.
This is indeed a superfood!

Types of Quinoa

Quinoa seeds (often referred to as “grains”) are available in red, black, and white or a golden color.  White or golden are the most common available commercially, with black and red becoming increasingly available.  The colors can be mixed together in recipes, or used to create drama in dishes for special occasions.  The nutritional values of different colors may vary slightly; however, they all are power-packed.

Processed quinoa flour is a creamy ivory color and most often has the same fine texture as regular all-purpose flour.  However, some quinoa flours on the market are more rustic and have a coarser texture.  We suggest you buy the finest one available for the best baking results.  If you prefer a coarse texture, however, you can also make your own flour by grinding raw quinoa in a blender or food processor.

Quinoa flour has a nutty flavor that some might consider slightly bitter. Paired with the proper ingredients, the slight bitterness disappears and the result is great taste and the knowledge that the dish you’ve prepared is super nutritious.  Quinoa flour can be used in almost all regular baking, but the slightly nutty flavor may alter the final taste of your dish. This flavor works well in most recipes, but may occasionally overpower in others. In addition, the lack of gluten can make your quick breads feel slightly denser and heavier.  An option when incorporating quinoa flour into your baking is to use a portion of quinoa flour, combined with portions of all-purpose white, whole wheat, potato, tapioca or rice flours. Store quinoa flour in the refrigerator or freezer for maximum freshness.

Quinoa flakes are available in health food stores and some specialty grocery stores.  They have the same texture as rolled oats and are prepared similarly.  As with cooked oatmeal, the taste of quinoa flakes is fairly plain so they are easily compatible with many of the same recipes as oats.  Quinoa flakes make a great breakfast cereal and can be combined with dried apricots, raisins or fresh fruit; flakes also make a fantastic baby food.

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