Helthcare & Wellness

Apr 1, 2017

QUINOA - INCA'S GOLD

The Inca Empire was the largest and longest in South America pre-Hispanic era, spreading along the Pacific Ocean coast since southwestern Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, between the years 1438 up to 1533 A.D. The Incas called their empire Tahuantinsuyo, which means four parts of the world.

However, it's not about the history, habits or culture of this people, considered by their enemies as cruel and bloody, we will talk. Rather about the plant this people considered to have such importance they considered it a sacred food.

And, considering what we know today, maybe they weren't far from the truth.

Quinoa (Chenopodium Quinoa), is a pseudo-cereal that does not belong to the grasses family, where the traditional cereals are sorted. Nevertheless, it's high value of starch turns its food usage much identical to the ones of other cereals.

Its nutritional value is such, the Incas gave it a high value in times of famine, similar to gold, having even built temples in its honour. With the arrival of the Spanish conquerors its plantation nearly got prohibited and traded by other cereals, as wheat.

Its survival is due to its capability to grow in hard climate conditions. Unlike wheat and rice, quinoa grows in salted soils and weakly fertile, and in great altitude, under low temperatures.

The presence of toxic chemicals in their seeds, called "saponins", are responsible by the bitter taste its grains hold. Recently, a scientist team lead by biologist Mark Tester, from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, in Saudi Arabia, identified the gene which can be manipulated in order to smooth the bitter taste of this incredibly high nutritional value plant.

Treating the grains

This food can be easily bought both in grain as in powder (it looks like ground oats) in most of the supermarkets and natural food stores.

As a pseudo-cereal it is, quinoa's grain can be cooked just as like any other cereal. However, the grain must be thoroughly washed and dried before cooking. The best way to do it is to place the wanted quantity of quinoa's grains into a high container and cover it all with water.

While the grains are dipped in the water, they must be stirred for some minutes before draining them. It's advisable to repeat the process for two or three times, in order to remove the "saponins".

After this procedure, quinoa can be cooked just like, for instance, rice. Dipped into water and boiled for 15 minutes. It is also possible to give it a toasted scent, by simply frying it in a skillet or a pan before cooking.

Once cooked, quinoa grains are translucent and they drop a sap at the end. To prevent this sap to "glue" the beans, simply stir with a fork during cooking.

Quinoa can be added to the regular food in various ways: in salads, to balance the spice or adding it in grain or flour to the other vegetables; mixed with milk or yogurt, just as any other breakfast cereal; as a substitute to wheat flour for making cakes, pies bread or cookies; diluted in the form of flour, in natural juice or vitamin supplements; or added to fruits salads.

In the sourced countries, quinoa is frequently added to soups and fermented for the production of beer or "chicha", the traditional Andes beverage. Another typical food from the mountainous region of South America is "peske", which is prepared with milk, quinoa and cheese and can combine with fried egg or roasted meat.

Health benefits

Although much under used, quinoa contains the same nutrients as other cereals as rice or wheat. It is a high value biological food, what means it contains all the vitamins and proteins needed for the right functioning of the body.

Thanks to its high values of calcium and proteins, it helps strengthening the bones and muscles, which is essential for those who practice physical exercise, preventing sicknesses such as osteoporosis. Also its high values of Omega 3 and 6 is a powerful ally in preventing hypertension, cardiovascular accidents and reduction of cholesterol.

Only, this pre-Columbian treasure doesn't stop it there: complex B vitamins are essential for better function of the nervous system, muscle maintenance and stability in the hormone production. It is rich in zinc, which acts directly in the immunity system and in the healing processes.

As if all of this was not, by its own, enough, the fibres grant the consumer a satiety feeling, essential for more aggressive diets. And it is especially advisable for people with Celiac disease, as it contains no gluten.

No counter indications are known for the consumption of quinoa. As it is a highly calorific food, one should have some precaution with the daily dose for consumption which, according to nutritionists, should not overcome two soup spoons a day.

Medical application

Most of the Andes peoples also uses quinoa as a natural medicinal plant. Is can easily be found in cosmetics, soaps, or sun protectors. It is especially recommended for sensitive skin, dry, malnourished or rash and, thanks to its natural oils, in skin hydration.

When mixed with other plants in cataplasms it is, also, used for healing abscesses, wounds and bone fractures.

Some academic studies conclude that, given the enormous concentration of Phytoestrogens, it can prevent the appearance of breast cancer and other female disturbances caused by the lack of estrogen in the menopause period.

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