Quinoa And Nutrition

Learn about quinoa, this remarkable herb of the desert, and its great nutritonal value.

It is one of the most desolate areas of the world - low quality soil, miniscule rainfall that, when it does come, strikes as devastating hail storms. It is the Andes of South America. Despite the ruggedness of the land, this area of the planet produces an amazing plant that is vital to the livelihood of the region. It is also a plant that could hold solutions to some of the problems facing mankind. The plant is the quinoa. Lets find out about this incredible herb.

The quinoa is a leafy herb that grows up to six feet tall ( 2 meters) and produces an abundance of seeds. These seeds serve the people as a nutritious food. The plant will grow in even the hardiest of ground surfaces. In fact, land that is covered with rocks and has soil as hard as concrete can serve as a surface for growing the quinoa. The locals simply have to dig a hole in the ground with a spear like instrument and then drop in the seed. Within months and with a minimum of care the quinoa will mature. At harvest time the plants are uprooted from the soil. They are then allowed to dry in the sun and threshed by hand. The plant now has the ability to be stored for years without spoiling. During the long dry season in the Andes it is a staple food that the people are fully reliant on.

The Spanish invasion of South America brought many new plants back to the outside world that have become staples of modern living. Coca, tomatoes, peanuts and potatoes were all hits with the people back home. But the Spanish conquistadors took little notice of the quinoa plant. They viewed it as a cheap plant, fit only for peasants. As a result the beneficial properties of quinoa have been hidden for hundreds of years. Only recently have they been revealed. Experts the world over are now, however, becoming very excited about the remarkable quinoa. Why so?



Nutritionists have discovered that quinoa is low in sugar and starch and high in fiber and unsaturated fats. It contains many essential vitamins and minerals. The thing that has the experts most excited, however, is the amount of protein in quinoa. It does, in fact, contain fifty percent more protein than wheat, rice and barley and that protein is of superior quality. It contains an ideal balance of the amino acids that are needed by the human body. It includes the amino acid lysine which is rarely found in vegetable protein and normally only found in meat, fish and eggs. Quinoa is also a good source of phosphorous, calcium, iron, vitamin E and several of the B vitamins.

The seed of the quinoa plant is covered with saponin, a resin like substance that is very bitter. This covering must be removed before eating. The locals of the Andes have traditionally done this by hand scrubbing in alkaline water.

Quinoa has a unique, nutty taste. It is ideal as a breakfast cereal. It can also be used as an addition to a cold salad, served hot with meals or sweet as a dessert. Quinoa can also be ground into flour form. The flour can then be mixed with water to provide a nutritious meal on the run. The flour can also be made into energy rich biscuits and bread. The people of the Andes also boil the quinoa with an egg to provide a healthy meal. Tortillas are even made with quinoa.

Famine relief experts believe that quinoa could play a major role in relieving world hunger. As we've seen the plant can be grown simply in the harshest of environments. And it's high nutritional content would be ideal for the famine ravaged lands of Africa and the Middle East. As to whether quinoa will impact on world hunger, only time will tell. Meanwhile why not try to pick up some quinoa locally. Your body will thank you.

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