Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quinoa: Grain for the Body, Mind and Spirit

The Incas of Peru revered quinoa (a small seed-like grain) as nothing less than sacred, and for good reason! Not only is it delicious and filling, it also is has complete protein--something very few grains can claim--that's as high quality as animal protein. With quinoa, you get your carbs and your protein in a single place, plus plenty of good fiber and a little bit of "good" fat, as well. (1)

Studies have found that quinoa can do everything from helping people lose weight (because it keeps you feeling full longer than most other foods made from flour or grain) (2), to preventing cancer, heart disease and diabetes, in part thanks to its high antioxidant content (potent polyphenols called quercetin glycosides). (3)

Easy to cook, you can add it to any recipe in place of rice. I've even seen recipes for such things as quinoa sushi on the Internet (don't believe me? Google it!). Just put it in the rice cooker with 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, or cook it on the stove using the same proportions. From there, you can eat it plain with a little salt as a side dish; add a little milk, honey, chopped nuts and dried fruit to create a breakfast porridge for days when you need your brain to be at its best; or add some cheese, veggies and your choice of seasonings for a hearty casserole main dish. You get the idea...

Nutrition for the body: Quinoa provides slowly digested carbs for sustained energy, complete protein for building strong muscles, fiber for good digestive health, and highly bioactive antioxidants that can help prevent diabetes and heart disease. Plus, its tendency to keep you feeling full for a long time makes it great for weight loss, too.

Nutrition for the mind: Starting your day with quinoa gives your brain a sustained source of fuel and all the essential amino acids you need to feel "on the ball" and mentally alert all day long. Quinoa's a great breakfast choice on days when you've got a test to pass or a tough problem to solve.

Nutrition for the spirit: As you sit down to eat your quinoa, take a minute to meditate, pray or just think about how you're about to eat a grain that sustained a great ancient civilization (the Incas) for centuries. We are all connected to the past through the food we eat. Acknowledge that fact and be grateful for the gift you are about to receive. Even if you aren't a spiritual or religious person, be aware that eating consciously has been shown by science to improve digestion and increase nutrient absorption. (4)   

(1) “Cultivos Andinos: Importancia nutricional y posibilidades de procesamiento,” Ritva Repo et al, Centro de Estudios Rurales Andinos “Bartolomé de Las Casas,” 1988.
(2) “In vitro starch digestibility and in vivo glucose response of gluten-free foods and their gluten counterparts,” Berti et al, Eur J Nutr (2004) 43 : 198–204
(3) “Evaluation of Indigenous Grains from the Peruvian Andean Region for Antidiabetes and Antihypertension Potential Using In Vitro Methods,” J Med Food 12:4 (704-713) 2009.
(4) "Enlightened Diet," Kesten, Deborah, 2003,

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