Quinoa has become one of the most popular nutritional superstars of the decade. And with good reason! This small seed has an amazing nutty taste, is incredibly versatile, easy to prepare, high in nutrients and a complete vegetarian protein. Unfortunately the popularity of this food has lead to the time old problem of supply, demand and price. Not unlike other worldwide popular foods such as coffee and chocolate, quinoa has been traditionally grown in one specific region of the world. The increased demand has created a new and challenging environment for quinoa farmers.
Quinoa is grown in the mountainous regions of South America and has been a staple of the indigenous people for thousands of years. The demand for quinoa in places such as North America and Europe has lead the farmers to forgo feeding their own communities this nutrient dense food to sell it at a higher price to foreign markets. If you have ever read anything about history of commodities such as chocolate, coffee, tea, bananas and sugar you can see that the story of quinoa has quickly followed in their footsteps. Wherever there is a large demand, big business will step in and you can safely assume the farmers and their communities will suffer.
As more consumers have become aware of the social and economic impact of the quinoa market, there are a number of companies that have sprung up to meet the demand for certified organic/fair trade products. Look for the fair trade symbol when making a purchase.
Canada is growing their own quinoa! For more information on the NorQuin brand quinoa, click here:
For more information on fair trade quinoa in Canada, click here.
For more information on Fair Trade USA, click here.
For more information on Fair Trade UK, click here.
The Health Benefits of Quinoa
As people become aware of quinoa, they are surprised to learn it is not a true grain, but a seed. Like other seeds, it is high in protein and fibre for balanced energy and satiety. One cup of quinoa has about as much protein as two deli slices of chicken breast or about 15% protein by weight.
A big reason that Quinoa has come into fashion is that it is now easy to prepare. In the old days of health food stores, quinoa was sold in bulk and it had to be rinsed many times to remove the bitter saponins. Now quinoa is pre-rinsed and with a 15 minute cooking time, it is a wonderful replacement for refined rice. Although people love brown rice, a common complaint is the 45 minutes it takes when you get home to cook it. If you want an instant way to enjoy quinoa in the morning, try it rolled. Just like rolled oats, rolled quinoa cooks in just a few minutes.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that enjoying “three or more servings of whole grain foods everyday could reduce the chances of developing metabolic syndrome - a condition marked by a combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control, low HDL 'good' cholesterol and high blood fats.”
Quinoa’s high fiber helps regulate blood sugar by slowing down the conversion of complex carbohydrates into sugar. It helps you feel full and reduces cravings making it the perfect weight loss tool.
5 More Reasons Quinoa is Superb
1. Quinoa promotes healthy bone growth. Quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids that are used by the body as building blocks to assimilate full proteins for the development of muscle tissue and necessary metabolic enzymes. Protein is also necessary for the absorption of calcium into the bones, the development of collagen as well as the growth factors involved in healthy growth of the bone matrix.
2. Quinoa can help reduce cholesterol. In 2010 a study was conducted in the Netherlands that fed quinoa to rats who were bred to have high cholesterol. These rats were also fed a high fructose diet that should further increase their harmful cholesterol (LDL) levels. After quinoa was introduced to the diet, the detrimental effects of the cholesterol and fructose began to reverse and cholesterol levels were returning to normal.
3. Quinoa is high in riboflavin. Riboflavin is a member of the B vitamin family that has been shown in recent studies to aid in the elimination and prevention of migraine headaches by improving the transport of oxygen into the cell. This prevents migraines from occurring and aids in their relief.
4. Quinoa promotes cardiovascular health due to its high magnesium content. Magnesium has been the subject of many studies in its role of preventing hypertension through its ability to relax the small muscles that clamp down on our blood vessels. Recent research has also shown that a deficiency in magnesium actually increases the hormone (angiotensin II) that is responsible for increasing blood pressure. Magnesium has a two-fold effect on our heart health!
5. Quinoa can help prevent gallstones. Quinoa is high in insoluble dietary fibre. Insoluble fibre has been shown to reduce the occurrence of gall stones by reducing the stagnation of bile and lowering the total blood triglycerides, which are two of the major components to gall stone formation. Quinoa is a great way to get fibre from a gluten free source!
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