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Ending Global Hunger with Quinoa?

November 13, 2012 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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Everyone and their dog seems to be talking about quinoa lately. The internet has exploded with information - 18,800,000 results for “quinoa” on Google (and counting). It has found its way into salads at every potluck I attend.

But now there is another reason to talk about quinoa. In efforts to get the world’s attention, 2013 has been named International Year of Quinoa by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Quinoa is being focused on as a potential asset in the global fight against hunger and malnutrition.Why quinoa?

The nutritional content of quinoa makes it stand out from other grains. Actually, quinoa isn’t a grain (it’s a grain-like crop grown for its edible seeds), but we eat it like one. Compared to grains, quinoa is higher in protein. Its use as a protein source on a global scale becomes particularly significant in areas where other protein sources are very limited. Quinoa also provides energy, fibre and many vitamins and minerals that contribute to good nutrition.

As a crop, quinoa is impressive as it can grow in many different conditions and regions, even where farming is usually difficult. It can handle temperatures from -4°C to 38°C. It can grow in areas where water is scarce. It can grow at high altitudes. The main producers of quinoa are Bolivia and Peru but production has started in many other countries including Canada.

So, quinoa is on the world stage. Here in B.C., quinoa is finding its way on to supermarket shelves in its whole form, as flour and in cereals. In the Andes, there are at least 35 traditional ways to eat quinoa, but here we tend to enjoy its mild taste and nutty texture in soups, stews, curries, salads, as a hot breakfast cereal or a side-dish.

Quinoa can add variety to your meals. If you haven’t tried it before, here’s how to cook it:

  • If it doesn’t come prewashed, rinse it well in a strainer while rubbing the seeds together - this will remove any bitter residue and help with digestion
  • Cook it like rice on the stove-top or in a rice cooker, using twice as much water as  uncooked quinoa
  • When cooked, the grain becomes translucent and the white germ spirals out like a tail

Here is an easy recipe for tabbouleh salad to get you started.

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