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“While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom” (White, 1955).
While quinoa’s (pronounced keen-wah) health benefits were reported several decades ago (if not earlier), it wasn’t until more recently that these words, and the product, gained respect.
First, some history. Quinoa’s fascinating discovery and use dates back as far as the Incas, who referred to it as “the mother grain,” which is why it is considered an “ancient” grain in nutrition circles. Quinoa is often misidentified as a grain or cereal grain — most likely because it is typically used as a grain in recipes. The Whole Grains Council refers to quinoa as a “pseudo-cereal” as it has a similar nutrient profile as do other grains. If we want to get technical, quinoa is related to spinach and chard and not grains.
Second, why is this “grain” gaining popularity and how can it help improve health? It’s unlikely that quinoa is the answer to all the maladies afflicting the health of the nation; however, quinoa is a clean food with some interesting benefits and characteristics. Preliminary research indicates consumption of quinoa may help reduce the risk of diabetes. Other quinoa facts and health benefits include:
• a high fiber content
• celiac and gluten-sensitive friendly
• complete protein (contains all the essential amino acids)
• high in potassium, which is necessary for blood pressure regulation
• helps keep you full and satisfied for longer
• over 100 varieties of quinoa are available
• can be used in savory and sweet dishes
• makes a great substitute for rice
• offers a robust and nutty flavor
• can be cooked using a variety of methods
• easily absorbs the flavors of herbs and spices
• is a low glycemic food
While research is still gaining momentum, the results thus far provide compelling evidence for us to give this product a try. Use it as a nutty flavored topping on Greek Yogurt, or as the “rice” in stuffed peppers, or as a bed for grilled or baked salmon. For some creative recipe ideas, visit the following links.
• The Whole Grains Council
• The Food Network
• Cooking Light
It appears Mr. White and the Incas were on to the secret of this “mother grain.” The next time you visit the grocery store, be sure to search for that same secret.
Dr. Erin Nitschke is a health and human performance educator, NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, and ACE Health Coach & Fitness Nutrition Specialist. To contact Nitschke, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.
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