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General News    H2'ed 8/30/13

Bolivia's Evo Morales Attacks Malnutrition with Incas' Sacred Grain

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Evo Morales, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is reputed to have almost superhuman energy -- his appointment book, which starts each day at 4 am and ends at 1 am is a testament to his unusual stamina.

Is it because his favorite food is quinoa (KEEN-wah) soup, made with the mysterious sacred grain of the Incas?

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United Nations' International Year of Quinoa

Morales, a former quinoa grower, was appointed Special Ambassador for the International Year of Quinoa, now being observed by the United Nations during 2013. The official launching ceremony scheduled for Oct. 2012 was delayed by hurricane Sandy, but it finally took place at the UN on Feb. 20, 2013.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), during his remarks at the ceremony, "Morales noted: 'Quinoa is an ancestral legacy that has been cultivated for more than 7,000 years and is presented as a worthy alternative amid the current food crisis. It can achieve good yields and is very resistant to frost,' Morales said, recalling his early days as a small-scale producer of quinoa in Orinoca, his birthplace. Among the properties credited to this cereal, Morales stressed the reduction of anemia and cholesterol, as well as its suitability for maintaining a balanced diet due to its high ratio of unsaturated fats." 

Morales called western fast food, "a threat to humanity," blaming it for causing cancer and other diseases.

During the ceremony, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said that the effort to put a spotlight on quinoa is part of an overall strategy to reclaim traditional or forgotten crops as a means to combat global hunger and promote healthy eating.

Quinoa Farmer
Quinoa Farmer
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The FAO notes that "The International Year of the Quinoa" (IYQ), "recognizes the Andean indigenous peoples, who have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living well in harmony with mother earth and nature."

Bolivia is the world's largest producer of the ancient grain, followed by Peru, then the United States.

Quinoa Farmers in the Andes
Quinoa Farmers in the Andes
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Classified as a whole grain, quinoa is actually a seed, native to the Andes.  When cooked, it has a tasty, nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It was revered by the Incas as a sacred grain that had spiritual significance.

Nutritional Value of a Superfood

Quinoa has been called "The Gold of the Incas" with good reason. This ancient grain is cholesterol-free, low fat, relatively low in calories, gluten free, and high in nutritional value. Compared to rice, quinoa has about the same amount of calories, but twice the protein, more fiber, and many times more vitamins and minerals.

Field of quinoa
Field of quinoa
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Dr. Oz notes that quinoa is a complete protein, decreases appetite, and is rich in amino acids and vitamin E.

In fact, quinoa is the only plant food that contains all 10 essential amino acids. Its high protein content (between 14%-18%), is greater than wheat, rice, maize or oats, or even human milk, (which is about 5% - 6% protein.)

Quinoa is rich in B vitamins, iron and calcium and contains soluble fiber, which slows the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose. One cup of quinoa provides one-third of the daily value of magnesium, which helps control blood pressure and regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes.

It also contains more minerals than other grains, such as potassium, and phosphorus.

Quinoa contains phytoestrogens, deemed important in the prevention or reduction of osteoporosis, arteriosclerosis, breast cancer and other conditions that can be caused by post-menopausal lowered estrogen levels.

It contains anti-inflammatory compounds. Preliminary animal studies have shown a decreased risk of inflammation-related problems, including obesity, when animals are fed quinoa on a daily basis.

Quinoa provides valuable amounts of heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid.

No wonder quinoa is often referred to as a superfood.

Someone's in the Kitchen with Quinoa

Quinoa is a small grain, about the size of millet, and very lightweight - truly an ethereal food, fit for the gods.  It comes in a variety of colors, the most common is a light yellowish tan, but other varieties may be orange, red, pink, purple and black.

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Formerly found only in health food stores, now natural food sections of many supermarkets carry quinoa. It's best to store it in an airtight container in a cool dry place, or in the refrigerator.

Quinoa is easy to prepare and may be used in place of rice and other grains in casseroles, stir frys, side dishes, hot cereals and desserts. It's a great to use in risotto since quinoa has twice as much fiber as Arborio rice.

It should always be rinsed before cooking, as it has a bitter coating. Then it is cooked as rice is, with water, stock or other liquid.

To bring out the nutty flavor, quinoa can be lightly toasted in a dry pan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes before cooking.

The International Year of Quinoa is a great time to start on the type of healthy, "superhuman" diet that President Morales enjoys.

One of my favorite ways to cook quinoa is as a substitute for rice pudding:
Rinse and drain the quinoa, and following the package directions, substitute coconut (or other) milk for the water. Before cooking add some or all as preferred: sweetener such as Agave, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, chopped almonds. This is a tasty and hearty dessert on a cold night, or as a breakfast cereal, and it is gluten-free and lactose-free.

Here are a few other recipes to get you started:

Bolivian Quinoa Stew
Bolivian Quinoa Stew
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Bolivian Quinoa Stew

Cranberry Quinoa Stuffing
Cranberry Quinoa Stuffing
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Cranberry Quinoa Stuffing

Gluten-free Quinoa Protein Bars
Gluten-free Quinoa Protein Bars
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Gluten-free Quinoa Protein Bars by Stephanie Laidlaw

Quinoa Salad
Quinoa Salad
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Quinoa Salad (with spinach, walnuts, kalamata olives and artichoke hearts.)

Julie Wilcox's  Buckwheat Quinoa With Walnuts

Creamy Pumpkin Quinoa

Susan Voisin's Caribbean Beans and Quinoa

The UN report, "Quinoa: An ancient crop to contribute to world food security" (July 2011) is available here. click here
Thanks to vegan chef Gail Davis, The Hungry Vegan, for recipe suggestions!

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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