In order to expand our education on how to live a gluten-free life, let’s begin learning about gluten-free grains that we could substitute for the glutenous counterparts that we’re so used to. This week, let’s explore quinoa, which is arguably the most popular and powerful gluten-free substitute.
What is quinoa where did it come from?
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) is a seed (not a grain, as you may have thought) cultivated in the South American Andean Mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Chile for 5,000 years and is now grown in Central America, the United States and Canada as well. It grows particularly well in high-altitude climates as in the Andean Mountains in South America and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Other North American farmers cultivate a variety of quinoa known as Sea Level Quinoa. This is darker and more bitter than the lighter, sweeter Altiplano brand of quinoa. The most desirable quinoa is the high-altitude crop from the Andean highlands, where much of the world’s quinoa is still grown. According to the International Trade Forum, this market force is helping to reduce poverty in support of small-scale farmers harvesting quinoa in severely deprived areas of the Bolivian highlands. So, do your research and read the labels to help those that really need it, and you get a fantastically nourishing and delicious meal to boot!
Ancient farmers gave it the name ‘the mother grain’ and revered it as sacred due to its hardiness, nutritional value and versatility. As a result, they believed the seed to give a very long life.
Quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, therefore the leaves of the quinoa plant are edible with a similar flavor as well, but are very difficult to find. Quinoa is an annual plant, growing one to two meters high with large seed clusters at the end of the stalk, similar to millet. The most popular strain of quinoa is pale yellow and resembles millet in color and size. Other varieties are orange, pink, red, purple or black.
Quinoa has a high protein value, complete with all eight of the essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is also is an above-average source of vitamins and minerals. For example, it is a very good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. It’s gluten free and is a good source of fiber. Because if its extremely high nutritional content, it is said that quinoa is very close to supplying all the essential life-sustaining nutrients, so it’s considered a Power Food to put it lightly. It contains more protein than any other grain: an average of 16.2 %, compared with 7.5 % for rice, 9.9 % for millet, 8.2 % for barley, and 14 % for wheat. It is also high in lycine, an amino acid not overly abundant in the vegetarian diet. See a complete table of all its nutritional content.
King Soopers (12167 Sheridan Boulevard) – on aisle #8; from the front of the store it’s at the end of the aisle on your left.
Sprouts (5150 West 120th Avenue) – by the canned soup for the boxed quinoa. They also carry this in bulk, but if you’re trying to eat gluten free, I highly discourage you to buy your grains in bulk. See the “Be careful” warning below.
Safeway (6775 West 120th Avenue) – does not carry it at this time, but willing to order it.
Be careful . . . .
Try not to purchase quinoa in the bulk section if you are gluten free, due to the high probability of cross contamination. Not knowing the cleansing practices, chances are you may be exposed to gluten from another product previously stored in this bin.
Tomorrow – Learn how to prepare and cook quinoa. You’ll get valuable serving ideas and a recipe to get you started!!