Science

  • Issue 115 / January-February 2017



    QUINOA An Alternative Grain

    Adam Nelson

    Quinoa, unknown in many countries, is an easy-to-digest, nutritious grain which contains the same amount of protein as meat and a greater amount of usable calcium than milk. In South America, the Incas consumed quinoa for thousands of years, viewing it as the “mother grain.” Increasingly, people around the world are coming to view quinoa with the same level of respect, and production of the grain is on the rise. In fact, the United Nations declared 2013 as the international year of quinoa, referencing its potential for combatting food shortages due to its high nutritional value.

    Combatting famine

    Every organism needs a sufficient amount of food for the body to grow and develop. Although some countries are very prosperous, famine continues to be one of the world’s major problems. Almost half of the world’s population lives below the threshold of poverty – and a half of that population lives below the threshold of hunger.

    While the world’s population increases 1.2% every year, grain production decreases at a rate of 1.2%. It is estimated that in 2050 the world population will be around 11.3 billion and we will need 60% more food than today. In addition, even if sufficient food production is achieved, it is still estimated that 300,000,000 people will face hunger.

    Global warming and increased demand ensure grain shortages are inescapable in the near future. For this reason, by using the existing limited water sources and land to grow alternative plants like quinoa, which is not only highly nutritious but also resistant to extreme climate conditions, we may be able to address these shortages.  

    The mother grain

    The motherland of quinoa is the cold, high plateau of the Andes Mountains, along the Western coast of South America. Originally, it was grown in Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador. As more and more people learn of its nutritional values, its consumption is becoming more widespread. In the US, more and more people are choosing quinoa over other grains, including corn. And as the most significant alternative to wheat and rice, quinoa is used by NASA for its space journeys.

    While humanity is faced with a changing climate and a growing population, quinoa’s durability makes it an important grain. It’s grown in almost every kind of soil, from sea level up to an altitude of 4000 meters. There are more than 200 known types, and a quinoa plant yields about 1.5 or 2 times more product than wheat sown in the same field. Thus, it is not only a nutritious plant, but also a very efficient and profitable one. It is possible to grow quinoa in the presence of adverse conditions such as salty soil or irrigation water, draught, and frost. Some types can even resist water nearly as salty as seawater.

    The health benefits of quinoa make it worth growing. Although quinoa falls into the family of sesames, it has a low fat content and a gluten-free structure. With these qualities, it can comfortably be consumed by patients with celiac disease. Those who have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy can meet their calcium need from quinoa.  

    Quinoa contains double the protein of wheat, and three times as much as rice. It can be consumed in a salad or soup, and it can also be used in breads, biscuits, or pasta products. In addition, it is used as an ingredient in medicines and animal fodder.

    Just as quinoa contains the essential amino acids and many vitamins, it is also rich in calcium, sodium, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, iron, selenium, and zinc.











































     


    Product

    Percentage of dry weight %

     

    Water

    Protein

    Oil

    Carbohydrates

    Fiber

    Ashes

    Quinoa

    12.6

    13.8

    5.0

    59.7

    4.1

    3.4

    Wheat

    12

    12.0

    2

    70.0

    2.2

    1.8

    Rice

    11.0

    7.3

    0.4

    80.4

    0.4

    0.5


    Since quinoa contains twice as much fiber in comparison to other grains, it is recommended for problems like constipation, hemorrhoids, and for controlling blood sugar. Quinoa is rich in iron, a mineral that helps carry oxygen to cells and is critical for brain functioning, retaining body heat, and producing energy.

    The list of benefits goes on and on. Rich in vitamin B2, quinoa supports energy metabolism in the brain and muscle cells. Since it is rich in magnesium, it might help migraine patients. As an antioxidant, quinoa protects cells against the negative effects of free radicals and slows down aging. It also contains quercetin, a good support against spring allergies. The lignin in quinoa is a good protector against hormonal cancers, such as breast cancer.

    As the world population grows and the global climate changes, there is projected to be a decrease in the harvest yields of essential grains, like wheat and rice. Many experts believe that highly efficient plants like quinoa are the way of the future. They can be used to fight famine and help humanity adapt to a changing planet.  


    References

    FAO Web Site. Corporate Document Repository "Quinoa (Chenopodium quince) http://www.fao.org


    DaMatta F M, Grandis A, Arenque B C ve Buckeridge M S (2009). Impacts of climate changes on crop physiology and food quality. Food Research International 43: 1814-1823


    Jacobsen,S.E. 2003. The worldwide potential for quinoa ( Chenopodium quinoa Willd.), Food Rev. Int. 19(1–2):167–177.


    Comai,S., A.Bertazzo, L.Bailoni, M.Zancato, C.V.L.Costa and G.Allegri. 2007. The content of proteic and nonproteic (free and protein bound) tryptophan in quinoa and cereal flours, Food Chem. 100:1350-1355.

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