Quinoa is a nutritious grain like seed which is obtained from the goosefoot family. It is not as popular as other food grains like wheat or barley, but has been cultivated for around 5000 years by people residing in the Andean Mountain regions of Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia. Quinoa means “mother of grain” in the Inca language and is a sacred food to the Incas who believed that eating it would confer them with long and healthy life. In fact, it was their staple food before the Spanish explorers forced them to abandon its cultivation. Though quinoa is considered as a grain, scientifically it is related to leafy vegetables like spinach, beets and Swiss chards.
Quinoas are tiny, oval shaped seeds that come in light brown, yellow, cream and deep brown color, depending on the cultivar. It has a nutty taste and chewy texture and is recognized all over the world as a delicious food grain with amazing health, skin and hair benefits. This super food is hailed for its high nutrient content which includes: protein, Vitamin A, calcium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, fiber, iron, phosphorus and essential amino acids. It is one of the best vegetarian sources of lysine currently available in the market.
Quinoa benefits for Skin:
1. Aids in Quick Healing of Damaged Tissue:
Quinoa contains lysine, a key building block in the synthesis of elastin and collagen. Lysine is an essential nutrient which cannot be synthesized by the body, hence it must be provided by the diet. This aids in quick healing of damaged tissue, making it very important for people who are recovering from any surgery or injury. It also helps to create scar tissue and ligaments for quick recovery.
2. Provides Elasticity & Builds Connective Tissue:
Quinoa contains high levels of riboflavin which provides elasticity to the skin to give it the required softness and resiliency. It also builds up connective tissue to tone the skin and prevents wrinkles and fine lines.
3. Anti-Ageing Face Pack:
Quinoa anti-ageing face pack: Cook ¼ cup of quinoa in soy milk and let it cool. Blend this boiled quinoa with 3 teaspoon of yoghurt, 2 egg yolk and 2 drops of mimosa essential oil. Apply it on the face and neck and leave it for 20 minutes. Rinse it off with lukewarm water to witness smooth and glowing skin. Quinoa contains natural protein and anti-ageing properties while soy milk nourishes and repairs sun damaged skin to give elasticity to the skin. This face pack will also make the skin smooth and even toned.
4. Rejuvenates the Skin from Within:
Consumption of quinoa seeds provides the body with ample collagen which rejuvenates the skin from within and reduces wrinkles and other symptoms of ageing. It makes the skin soft, smooth and supple.
5. Reduces Brown Spots & Pigmentation:
Vitamins in quinoa decrease clustering of melanin granules to reduce brown spots and pigmentation.
6. Treats Acne:
Quinoa also helps to decrease sebum production and brilliantly treats acne.
Quinoa benefits for Hair:
7. Protects & Nourishes Hair Follicles:
Quinoa contains around 15% of proteins, which is highest among all the grains or seeds found in the world. Hydrolyzed protein extracted from quinoa acts as a natural and gentle coating which protects and nourishes the hair follicles from within. The protein extracted from this grain is also used to produce high quality hair products.
8. Protects Hair Shaft:
Quinoa contains 9 essential amino acids which act as natural strengtheners and protect the shaft of the hair. The amino acids in this grain also repairs damaged hair and promote hair growth.
9. Promotes Hair Growth:
Consumption of quinoa on a regular basis provides sheen to hair and gives it an overall silky and shiny look. It provides nourishment to the cells of the body including our hair follicles, which is essential for our hair growth. It is also essential for a healthy nervous system and for the formation of red blood cells which promotes hair growth.
10. Treats Dandruff:
Quinoa contains important minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus which seal moisture in the scalp to avoid flaky and dry scalp, and keep dandruff at bay.
11. Provides Nourishment and Hydration to the Scalp:
The humectants present in quinoa provide nourishment and hydration to the scalp to keep it well conditioned. It forms an invisible film over the hair to protect it from environmental conditions like pollution.
12. Seals Split Ends:
Protein in quinoa helps to seal split ends and prevents it from getting worse. Hydrolyzed protein is designed in such a way that it passes through the cuticle and penetrates the hair’s cortex to equalize porosity and increase its elasticity.
13. Reduces Breakage due to Tangling:
Vitamin E in quinoa balances the production of natural oil to keep the strands properly moisturized and reduces breakage due to tangling.
14. Maintains Original Hair Color:
Quinoa contains an amino acid known as tyrosine which is responsible for the pigmentation and color of hair and skin. It encourages the re-pigmentation of hair and even helps to maintain the original color of the hair.
Selection and Storage:
Quinoa seeds are not easily available in India and are mostly imported from Bolivia, Peru and other South American countries. This grain is usually sold in airtight packet or container. The most common type of quinoa available is off white in color, but black and tri colored quinoa seeds are also available in some places. While purchasing quinoa, look for fine and dry grains. It should look and smell fresh. To ensure optimum freshness and shelf life, buy quinoa that are well packed and well-sealed. Whether you are purchasing quinoa in bulk or in packaged container, check properly to ascertain that there is no presence of moisture. Store grains in a cool and dry place, in an airtight container with tight fitting lids. A properly sealed container is very important for maintaining the freshness and reducing the possibility of infestation. This way they will stay fresh for months or for over a year, if stored away from sunlight and heat.
While purchasing quinoa seeds, do keep this in mind that quinoa expands several times its original size so purchase it in small quantities or as per requirement. You can also freeze quinoa for a long term option. Cooked quinoa freezes well in an airtight container.
It is actually very difficult to say if quinoa seeds are rotten or spoiled. Since quinoa has a long shelf life, it does not become rancid or smelly with time. Cooked quinoa shows a loss of texture and acquires mold as it gets spoiled. Do not allow cooked quinoa to sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Quinoa has a nutty and earthy flavor. It will pair best with savory like stews and curries. After cooking, it becomes quite fluffy, chewy and attains a very pleasant taste. The pearly white quinoas or light yellow quinoas are the fluffiest while the red and black ones are more compact. Quinoa has a thick outer coat which must be removed before consuming. This covering protects them from insects and birds. The outer coat has a bitter, soapy like taste which if consumed can cause severe stomach pain, flatulence and laxative diarrhea. So prior to cooking, wash quinoa thoroughly and soak it for 2 hours. Then change the water, soak again and rinse it. Wash it repeatedly until the foam disappears completely. This process will remove the pesticide residue, saponins and their bitterness.
Quinoa can be cooked in the same way as we cook other staple grains like buckwheat, rice, barley etc. Its seeds are used to prepare porridge, soup, stew and are ground to flour to prepare bread, alcohol, noodles, flakes, cookies, biscuits, pasta, cakes, buns and even cold drinks in Andean regions. You can mix quinoa flour with wheat, oats and maize flour to enrich the protein quality of the meal. Quinoa is perfect for salad preparation as its grassy flavor and texture gels very well with lettuces and other leafy vegetables. You can add quinoa to your baked goods like muffins and pancakes to give it a distinct flavor.
Quinoa leaves and flower heads are eaten as vegetables and are used to prepare curries, salads and soups. But blanch the leaves and heads in boiling water before cooking as it contains oxalic acid which can lead to kidney stones if consumed in large quantities.
Cold pressed quinoa oil is one of the most sought after oils used for cooking and dressing. It adds an amazing flavor and aroma to the dishes.
To cook quinoa in the healthiest way, add one part of the grain to two parts of liquid and simmer for 20 minutes. The grains become translucent with the white germ partially detaching itself. You can even roast quinoa before cooking to enhance its taste and give a crunchy texture. Place the seeds in a frying pan and roast in medium to low heat while stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
Since quinoa is completely gluten free, it is a perfect food to include in a gluten free diet. It also has very good digestibility which decreases the risk of developing adverse reaction to quinoa.
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