La Quinoa is a pseudocereal gluten-free and rich in high biological value proteins and is therefore a excellent food for gluten intolerant and for those who have chosen a vegetarian or vegan diet.
What is quinoa
La Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is a herbaceous plant native to South America, belonging to the Chenopodiaceae family. Quinoa is particularly widespread in the Andean highlands where it is still cultivated today thanks to its adaptability to the climate.
Quinoa has a large, more or less branched, green or red stem, lobed leaves and panicle inflorescences. Quinoa fruits are small and can be white, white, black or red depending on the cultivar.
After the Spanish conquest, the cultivation of quinoa was almost completely abandoned and replaced by wheat. For some time, quinoa was considered a food for the poor but in the last period this food has returned to the limelight and today quinoa seeds are back on our tables, even at the expense of sustainability.
Read also 6 recipes with quinoa >>
Why eat quinoa
La Quinoa it is considered a pseudocereal and is cooked and eaten like cereals. Unlike many grains, however, quinoa does not contain gluten, therefore it can also be taken by celiac people.
Furthermore, quinoa has a higher nutritional value than cereals: quinoa in fact it contains between 13 and 22% of high biological value proteins. The protein value of a food depends on the quantity and quality of the proteins it contains. High biological value proteins are defined as proteins with an amino acid composition similar to that of human proteins.
Generally high biological value proteins are found in foods of animal origin, while the proteins contained in cereals and legumes have a lower biological value.
In quinoa instead all twenty necessary amino acids are present to protein synthesis in the right proportions, including Lysine, an essential amino acid normally absent in cereals.
La proportion of amino acids in a food it is particularly important since protein synthesis is limited when an amino acid is deficient.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. When we take proteins from a food, these proteins are absorbed and the body obtains amino acids from them necessary to make new proteins that will make up our tissues, for example muscle tissue, or that will play a functional role in our body, as in the case of enzymes or transport proteins.
When a food is deficient in an amino acid, that amino acid is called a "limiting amino acid" precisely because it limits protein synthesis. For example, legumes lack some sulfur amino acids and contain lysine, while cereals are deficient in lysine and instead contain sulfur amino acids: the reason why it is advisable to consume legumes and cereals together is precisely to ensure the supply of all the amino acids necessary for protein synthesis.
In quinoa this problem does not arise since the protein profile of this pseudocereal is complete. Quinoa should therefore never be missing on the table of those who have chosen a vegetarian or vegan diet or of people with gluten intolerance.
Read also How to use quinoa seeds >>
Photo: Elena Schweitzer / 123rf.com