If you have been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity, most grain products are not in your diet. That’s because grains are the primary source of gluten. You may believe that you won’t be able to enjoy many of your favorite foods, like pasta and cereals, again. There is good news. Quinoa can be used as a gluten free alternative in making pastas, breads and cereals. It can even be used to replace rice and barley in soups.
Quinoa isn’t a new miracle discovery. In fact it has been a staple crop of the indigenous peoples of the Andes Mountains for over 6000 years. The Incas called it the “mother grain” and used it in religious rites. Quinoa isn’t an actual grain, its a seed. The quinoa plant is related to spinach, swiss chard and beets. The seed has many of the properties found in grains.
Unlike most grains, quinoa contains a complete protein. With other grains it is usually necessary to use legumes to create a complete protein. It is high in eight essential amino (fatty) acids and it’s a good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. This makes it especially good as a grain substitute in gluten free diets as most people get the majority of their B vitamins from baked goods. Quinoa contains between14% and 18% protein, with characteristics similar to milk protein. Quinoa is also a source of calcium and iron.
In the 1980s two enterprising young Americans brought quinoa to the United States where they began cultivating it in the elevations of the Rocky Mountains. It is also being grown in Canada. Quinoa is now available in many health food stores and quinoa and products like pasta and cereal made from quinoa are available at many online retailers.
The seed of the quinoa plant is coated with a bitter tasting resin called saponin. Quinoa which is sold in retail stores has usually been rinsed to remove the saponin, but it is a good idea to rinse the seeds again before use. You can tell if saponin is still present by swishing the seeds in clear water. Saponin will create suds. The natives of the Andes use saponin as a detergent and an antiseptic for treating wounds.
Quinoa can be cooked the same way as rice, two parts water to one part quinoa. Add the quinoa to boiling water, lower the heat and cook for about 15 minutes. The seeds are light and fluffy with a slight crunch. The seeds can be eaten hot, or cooled and used as an additive to salads. The flavor is mild and rather nutty.
Quinoa flour is usually mixed with tapioca and other ingredients and can be substituted for wheat flour in many recipes. There are also recipes available online and in health food stores for quinoa and quinoa flour. If you have a sensitivity to gluten, you can still have your cake and eat it too by simply substituting this gluten free alternative to grains.