Botanical name: Chenopodium quinoa

Quinoa was a sacred grain for the Inca civilisation, they referred to it as “the mother of all grains”. Its origin, however, is to be found much earlier (3.000 – 4.000 years ago) when the inhabitants of the Andes Mountains domesticated the grain for human consumption. About 250 different varieties of quinoa were already present at that time, giving quinoa a remarkable tolerance for different growing conditions. Like amaranth, quinoa is not technically a grain, although generally it is reffered to as a pseudo-cereal given its similar properties to more well-known grains.

Quinoa is able to survive high altitudes, thin and cold air, hot sun, salty or sandy soil, little rainfall, and sub-freezing temperatures and for this reason and many others, has been singled out by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations who declared 2013 “The Year of Quinoa” and labelled the pseudo-cereal as a food that is valuable for global health and food security.

Pure quinoa seeds are gluten-free, and is recommended as an alternative to wheat, barley and rye for those intollerant or allergic to gluten. It is easy to digest and rich in proteins, fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Also a source of calcium, it offers an alternative for those intolerant to lactose. Research shows promising results in terms of anti-inflammatory benefits from daily intakes of quinoa and its effects on lowering LDL cholesterol levels and maintaing HDL levels, and there are high expectations in its ability to reduce the risks of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Quinoa has recently become the face of the comeback of heritage grains, successfully inserting itself into the world of gluten-free, vegetarian and healthy foodie recipes. This seed is one of the fastest to cook and can be easily used as rice or couscous in the recipes or as a side dish for vegetables.


Image: Fitness Portal.