The United Nations has declared that 2013 is International Year of Quinoa. This versatile grain is an excellent source of low glycemic carbohydrates and protein and is rich in B vitamins and minerals including iron, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. It is also gluten free and a great alternative to other grains on our supermarket shelves …
Known as the “golden grain of the Incas,” quinoa hails from the Andes where it has been a perennial staple (think 3,000 to 4,000 years and was held sacred by the Incas. During the Spanish conquest of South America, Europeans scorned the golden grain, referring to it as “food for the Indians.” Oh, how the times have changed!
Quinoa is largely still produced in the Andes, growing from coastal regions of Chile through the mountains of Peru and Bolivia, to Ecuador. Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture recently reported “that production and exports of quinoa increased more than fivefold in four years…” and Peru exported 6,956 tons of quinoa in 2011 alone. And we know where all this quinoa has been going. It’s been popping up in all sorts of unexpected foods and places in North America, Asia, and Europe.
Why quinoa and why this sudden burst in popularity? To begin with, quinoa is flavorful without being overpowering, it’s easy to cook, and it’s versatile; with its hearty, nutty, yet subtle flavor, quinoa can be used in sweet and savory recipes, from cookies to salads to breakfast cereals and so very much more.
What’s more, quinoa provides fantastic health benefits without packing a high caloric punch. Emily Gelsomin, a clinical nutrition specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital claims quinoa is “one of the only plant-based sources of protein that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs.” Now that’s a pretty big health claim to fame.