Super Food `Quinoa’ : Dr Pritish Chowdhury

Quinoa is gaining considerable interest in recent years as potential health food.  The United Nations has proclaimed the year 2013 as `The Year of the Quinoa’. Quinoa is a flowering plant of the amaranth family ( Amarnthaceae). The botanical name of quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa. Quinoa is not a grass but it comes under as pseudo-cereal, botanically related to spinach and amaranth  (Amaranthus spp.). Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth. There are three main types of quinoa, viz., white, red and black. It is a herbaceous annual plant cultivated now as a grain crop in many countries including India because of its highly nutritious edible seeds. In India, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand are emerging as the main cultivators of quinoa. In 2013, Uttarakhand signed a horticulture research agreement with the country Peru to grow quinoa in the state. Further several research institutes in Andhra Pradesh have successfully developed local varieties of  this unique crop.

Quinoa provides high quality protein and other nutrients. In view of this, quinoa has been recognized as a ‘Super food’ in recent years. Currently quinoa has become one of the world’s most popular health foods. Quinoa is non- Genetically Modified Organisms (non-GMO), gluten-free and usually cultivated organically. Even though technically quinoa is not a cereal grain, it still counts as a whole-grain food. The most important fact is that it is gluten free.Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Of the gluten-containing grains, wheat is by far the most commonly consumed by vast population.  The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is responsible for most of the negative health effects on us. Gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivitymay range from a mild sensitivity to gluten to full-blown Celiac disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 1 out of every 133 Americans has been found to develop celiac disease. This is a severe auto-immune disorder triggered by gluten consumption that leads to damage in the small intestine. In view of this, gluten free food has been gaining potential importance and  demand in terms of our health benefit..

Quinoa is loaded with high amount of essential proteins and it is one of the few plant foods that contain all the nine essential amino acids promoting health benefits. Thus quinoa is regarded very nutritious because of various nutrients present in it. Quinoa contains two important plant flavonoid type of anti-oxidants, viz., Quercetin and Kaempferol which have been shown to offer various health benefits destroying  potentially dangerous free radicals formed continuously within our  body. It is also found to contain very high dietary fiber, much higher than the most grains we generally consume. Thus,  quinoa is very high in protein with all the essential amino acids required for nourishment of our body. The scientific analysis of various nutrients present in 1 cup ( 185gms) of cooked quinoa has been found as  : Protein: 8 gms.,  Fiber: 5 gms.,  Manganese: 58% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA),     Magnesium: 30% of the RDA,   Zinc: 13% of the RDA, Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA,     Folate (B-vitamin that is naturally present in many foods) : 19% of the RDA,  Copper: 18% of the RDA,   Iron: 15% of the RDA,   Potassium 9% of the RDA, more than    10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6 and  small amounts of calcium, vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin E.The results clearly justify to be called quinoa as a `Super Food’ for our health. It is pertinent to note that quinoa was an important crop for the Inca Empire (largest empire in pre-Columbian America). The inhabitants referred quinoa as the “mother of all grains” and believed it to be sacred. Quinoa has been eaten for more than thousands of years in South America. And only recently it has become a trend food,   reaching the status of Super Food.

           Currently, we can find quinoa and quinoa products throughout the world. They are easily available  in health food stores,restaurants that emphasize the value of natural organic foods.


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