A nutritional goldmine in a grain

The key to long-term health is in the foods we eat. Considered to be one of the world’s best sources of essential nutrients, the grain quinoa (pronounced keen-wah ) is quickly finding its way on to restaurant menus and into cookbooks. But what is so special about this grain found in health stores?

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO ) has designated 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa. Originating in South America, cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy and creamy, yet also slightly crunchy.

Quinoa is being hailed as one of the world’s healthiest, most nutrient-dense, foods. It is a perfect food to include on a gluten-free coeliac diet, since it not only lacks gluten, it does not even belong to the same plant family as wheat, oats, barley, or rye.

This superhero of the food world contains virtually all minerals. Quinoa is a source of phosphorous, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, lithium, and copper. In terms of vitamins, quinoa has a high B, C, and E content. It is rich in beta-carotene and niacin (B3 ) and contains substantially more riboflavin (B2 ), vitamin E, and carotene than wheat or rice.

An easily digestible cereal, quinoa has no cholesterol and can provide valuable amounts of heart-healthy fats such as monounsaturated fat. About 25 per cent of quinoa's fatty acids come in the form of oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and about eight per cent come in the form of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA — the omega-3 fatty acid most commonly found in plants.

A valuable inclusion in the diet of vegetarians, the iron content of quinoa is also twice that of wheat, three times that of rice, and almost the same as beans. In comparison with other grains, quinoa is also a much better protein source as it has relatively high protein content and contains some of each of the essential amino acid groups, thus providing a complete protein source.

Talk to the staff at your local Evergreen health store to find out more about quinoa and how it could benefit your health. Stores are located at the Galway Shopping Centre, Mainguard Street in the city centre, Westside Shopping Centre, Barna, and Moycullen. You can also shop online at www.evergreen.ie

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