By Mary-Ann Shearer
Health Benefits of Quinoa
Quinoa for Migraine Headaches
If you are prone to migraines, try adding quinoa to your diet. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to be related to a reduced frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers. Quinoa is also a good source of riboflavin, which is necessary for proper energy production within cells. Riboflavin (also called vitamin B2) has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers, most likely by improving the energy metabolism within their brain and muscle cells.
Quinoa and Cardiovascular Health
Since quinoa is a very good source of magnesium, the mineral that relaxes blood vessels. Since low dietary levels of magnesium are associated with increased rates of hypertension, ischemic heart disease and heart arrhythmias, this ancient grain can offer yet another way to provide cardiovascular health for those concerned about atherosclerosis.Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly in the United States.
Success of drug treatment is only partial (ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers are typically used; no evidence has found statins safe or effective for heart failure), and its prognosis remains poor. Follow up of 2445 discharged hospital patients with heart failure revealed that 37.3% died during the first year, and 78.5% died within 5 years. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Mar 12;167(5):490-6.;Eur Heart J. 2006 Mar;27(6):641-3.Since consumption of whole grain and natural fibre products like quinoa has been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack, Harvard researchers decided to look at the effects of cereal consumption on heart failure risk and followed 21,376 participants in the Physicians Health Study over a period of 19.6 years. After adjusting for confounding factors (age, smoking, alcohol consumption, vegetable consumption, use of vitamins, exercise, and history of heart disease), they found that men who simply enjoyed a daily morning bowl of whole grain (but not refined) cereal had a 29% lower risk of heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Oct 22;167(19):2080-5.
Significant Cardiovascular Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
Eating a serving of whole grains, such as quinoa, at least 6 times each week is an especially good idea for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD). A 3-year prospective study of over 200 postmenopausal women with CVD, published in the July 2005 issue of the American Heart Journal, shows that those eating at least 6 servings of whole grains type foods like quinoa each week experienced both:
- Slowed progression of atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque that narrows the vessels through which blood flows
- Less progression in stenosis, the narrowing of the diameter of arterial passageways
Quinoa and Antioxidant Protection
Quinoa is also a good source of copper. Magnesium and Cooper are two minerals that serve as cofactors for the superoxide dismutase enzyme (found in green leafy vegetables and sprouts grains like barley and wheat grass). Superoxide dismutase is an antioxidant that helps to protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage created during energy production as well as guard other cells, such as red blood cells, from injury caused by free radicals.
Tips for Preparing Quinoa:
Rinse under cold water in a fine-meshed strainer, gently rubbing the seeds together with your hands. To ensure that the saponins have been completely removed, taste a few seeds. If they still have a bitter taste, continue the rinsing process.
To cook the quinoa:
- Add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan (I like to add some seasoning and use our hand harvested sea salt 1 x level tsp per 500g (1 pound), but my favorite is to add our homemade dried vegetable stock 1-2 tsp per 500g)
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover for about 15 minutes
- When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself, appearing like a white-spiraled tail.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas: Combine cooked cooled quinoa with red kidney beans, red pepper, fresh or frozen corn off the cob, chopped spring onion and coriander (cilantro). Season to taste and enjoy this south-of-the-border inspired salad. Add dried fruits like raisins to cooked quinoa, with honey and cinnamon and serve as breakfast porridge.
For a twist on your favorite pasta or rice recipe, use quinoa instead.
We love curried veg on quinoa
Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts.
Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups.
Ground quinoa flour can be added to cookie or muffin recipes.
Quinoa is great to use in tabouli, serving as a delicious (and wheat-free) substitute for the bulgar wheat or cous cous (which are both full of gluten) with which this Middle Eastern dish is usually made. You can just add olive oil and eat like that. It is one of the few grains that tastes delicious on its own.
Kids love it with peas and Marmite or vegetable yeast extract.
Since quinoa is gluten free, it is one of the least allergenic “grains,” but its flour needs to be combined with wheat to make leavened baked goods like bread.
Quinoa is a very good source of manganese. It is also a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. Contains 15% complete protein (all essential amino acids), calcium, folate, B Vitamins and a wide variety of other nutrients.
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