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Quinoa - Super Food

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Quinoa (the name is derived from the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name kinwa) originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, where it was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption, though archaeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding some 5,200 to 7,000 years ago.

Similar Chenopodium species, such as pitseed goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri) and fat hen (Chenopodium album), were grown and domesticated in North America as part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex before maize agriculture became popular. Fat hen, which has a widespread distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, produces edible seeds and greens much like quinoa, but in smaller quantities.

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is a highly nutritious gluten-free grain. This ancient grain contains more protein than any other grain, with a good balance of all 8 essential amino acids, making it a good choice for vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in fibre and has a low-GI, beneficial for keeping blood sugar levels stable. Quinoa is an ideal grain for diabetics.

The nutrient composition is favourable compared with common cereals. Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and acceptable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, in fact Quinoa is one of the most nutrient rich grains around, being a good source of iron, needed to transport oxygen around the body, B vitamins for energy, calcium and magnesium for healthy nervous system function, and vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant.

There are three main varieties of quinoa available, white or sweet, red, and black. Quinoa has a lovely fluffy consistency, with a slight nutty flavour.

To prepare quinoa you rinse the grain well first to wash off its bitter coating. Bring 2 cups of water to boil and add 1 cup of quinoa. Reduce heat to low, and cook covered for 10-15 minutes, or until tender but still slightly crunch.

Quinoa is delicious cold tossed through a salad, or hot served with a stir-fry, stew or casserole. You can use quiona similar to how you use rice. Also try adding it to soups, frittatas or vegie patties. Quinoa flour can be used for baking gluten-free cakes, muffins, cookies, pancakes and breads and for making tabouleh.

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