As for amaranth and buckwheat, quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) fits within the ‘pseudo-cereal’ group as it is not part of the Poaceae botanical family, in which ‘true’ grains belong. It’s loosely grouped as a ‘pseudo-cereal’ with other grains as it’s nutritionally similar and used in similar ways to ‘true’ grains.
Quinoa originates from the Andes, where it has long been cultivated by the Inca people. It is a small, typically light-colored round grain (although it also available in other colours including red, purple and black – which are higher in antioxidants), similar in appearance to sesame seeds.
To help ward off insects and birds, quinoa has a bitter residue of saponins, a natural occurring plant-defense. Most quinoa sold today has already been washed, but it is still advisable for consumers to thoroughly rinse the quinoa seeds under running water prior to cooking, so as to maximise the enjoyment of this pseudo-cereal.
Nutrition credentials of quinoa:
√ Rich in carbohydrates, with a low glycemic index of 53.
√ High protein content (15%), providing all essential amino acids, including lysine.
√ Has an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain.
√ Relatively low in fat, most of which is omega-6 polyunsaturated fat.
√ In terms of minerals, provides notable quantities manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus and potassium.
√ In terms of vitamins, contains notable amounts of Vitamin E and B-group vitamins.
√ High in dietary fibre.
√ Contains polyphenols, phytosterols and flavonoids.
√ Gluten free.
Main culinary uses of quinoa:
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