Quinoa – Most Amazing Grain

An ancient food, revered for thousands of years in the South American Andes is gaining a new-found following among health-conscious consumers around the world.  Quinoa(pronounced keen-wah) – for a long time considered “comida de pobres” or “poor people’s food” even in its native countries – is exploding in popularity as a nutritional superfood, gluten-free and high in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Supporting Inca Armies

During Inca times, quinoa was considered the second most important crop, after potatoes and before corn.  They believed it was sacred and called it the “Mother of all Grains,” with the Inca king ceremonially planting each year’s first seed using a solid gold shovel.  Their powerful armies conquered huge swathes of South America, marching for days at a time over high mountain ranges, sometimes eating nothing but a mixture of quinoa and fat called “war balls.”

Rise and Fall

After the Spanish arrived in the New World, quinoa was outlawed and replaced by wheat.  Peasants in remote mountain regions continued to grow it secretly, but it retained the stigma as food for the poor long after the Spanish had left.

It was relatively unknown in the US until the 1980s, when scientists and nutritionists started researching indigenous crops which could be adapted to modern agricultural needs.  In the past 20 years, it has grown in popularity from an obscure health-food item, to a widely-available product found in most supermarkets in the form of quinoa grains, flour, pasta, and cereal.

Now, with global demand up and the price of wholesale quinoa skyrocketing, poor farmers in developing countries like Peru and Bolivia are cashing in on this recently rediscovered crop.  Some even believe quinoa could be the key to lifting struggling mountainous regions out of years of persistent poverty.

Nutritional Benefits

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has identified quinoa as the only vegetable source that is a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids necessary for human health and development.  It resembles the sort of proteins found in animal sources and has the same nutritional profile as milk.

Quinoa is an easily-digestible food, which is gluten-free, and an excellent source of several B Vitamins, along with most of the minerals needed by the human body – iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and copper.

Technically not a grain – it’s actually a seed about the same size as sesame seeds – it has a nutty and earthy taste, with a chewy texture.  It cooks quickly, in about 15 minutes, and makes a great substitute for rice.

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Forget the lowfat food!

Recently I took my 7 year old daughter to a nutritionist after my pediatrician gave her a scare telling her that she was “very very unhealthy”.  We had gone to the pediatrician for a physical, which we do every year before school starts and as usual they took her weight.  She weighed 84 lbs when she should (according to the chart) weigh about 70 lbs for her height and build.  My daughter looked at me when the doctor told her about her unhealthy weight gain and did not shed a tear.  I actually thought she was not really taking it seriously at all, until we got into the car.  The she cried and asked if what the doctor said meant she was going to die. 😦 .   I took issue with the way the doctor addressed the issue, but don’t want to get into that now.

While my daughter likes her food, her problem is portion control.  I tend to cook very healthy foods.  I rarely EVER fry anything, I always bake and with very little oil if any at all.  After undergoing blood testing to find if the inherited thyroid condition was causing her weight gain (which it was not), we went to see a nutritionist.  One piece of advice she gave me that made a HUGE difference is that you should never purchase any food where the sugars are 50% or more of the Carbohydrates.  People are always buying lowfat items, thats a big mistake.  When something is lowfat they overcompensate for flavor by adding sugar!  Sugar is metabolized in the body and stored in the body as fat.  One of the main reasons a lowfat processed food does not help with weight loss.

Next time you reach for that bag of school snacks, check out the sugar to carb ratio.  Go for the regular version, not the lowfat, and keep the portions under control.

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A Slice of Heaven

A few hours ago I had lunch at one of my favorite pizza parlors. As usual, I had the four seasons platter consisting of four different types of pizza, two of which are my absolute favorites: New York Classic (spicy with a lot of greens) and Four Cheeses

(cheese overload with a bite).

I think I speak for millions of people when I say pizza is one of the best inventions in the world. Originating in Europe, pizza is so delicious and addicting that it just had to cross into other parts of the globe and spread all over. What I really like about pizza is its simplicity and versatility. Put toppings and a great sauce on a flat bread or dough, heat everything up, and voila, you’re in heaven. Experiment, twist and add things around, and you have a combination of other flavors that will suit other types of palate.

The Critiques. While pizza in general is not considered as bad as burgers or greasy potato chips, it is often classified into the junk food category. They say pizza, particularly the commercial ones, have a high amount of salt and fat content with all the meat, cheese, and seasonings incorporated in it. Well I guess when something is commercial, it’s bound to have those components we do not want much of in our bodies – the price of mass production and all that. But I still believe in the motto “everything in moderation” and that you don’t have to deprive yourself of stuff you like as long as you lean more on the healthier stuff.

The Good Stuff. More than satisfying our taste buds, studies in recent years indicates that our favorite food could actually have health benefits in the form of anti-cancer properties from its tomato content. Besides, since pizza is generally easy to make, anyone can whip up healthier versions of it at home. “Healthier” means less of the oil, meat, cheese and preservatives, and more on the veggies, tomato sauce, and non-fat or organic cheese. My family loves making pizza on pita bread with lots of tomato sauce, a huge heap of veggies, a bit of pepperoni or grilled chicken, and grated fresh cheese and pepper to taste. No preservatives, very little fat. Just 100% natural pizza goodness suited to our individual liking.

How do you like your pizza? 😉

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Food and Smoking

Food and smoking may be a lot more related than we think. A study published by Duke University Medical Center shows that certain foods can actually enhance the enjoyment one gets out of smoking, while other foods do the reverse. Among the stuff that actually make smoking taste better are coffee, alcohol, red meat, and anything caffeine. Meanwhile, foods that seem to interfere with the taste of smoking include fruits, dairy products, water, and vegetables.

If you’re having a hard time trying to quit smoking, maybe you can control what you eat at certain parts of the day when you feel most susceptible to smoke. The research is premilinary but it sure is a good method to try. Who knows, it just may work for you.

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Top Three Reasons Why You Should Eat Slowly

Attacking that sandwich, pasta, salad or chips as fast as you can may seem like the best idea when you’re hungry. But take heed, eating slowly will benefit you in ways that you’ll like and in more ways than one.

1. Better Digestion. Eating slowly means you’re chewing and breaking the food better, which results to better digestion. It’s best to chew thoroughly to give ample time to your stomach to prepare.

2. Weight Loss. Studies show that eating slowly means consuming much fewer calories. You can even lose almost 20 pounds a year just by eating slowly and without doing anything different! Eating slowly also makes you feel a lot fuller in no time. So if you’re on a diet and want to lose weight, better incorporate eating slowly into your lifestyle.

3. Enjoyment and Choosing Better Food. Do you know that most factory-produced foods are designed to taste great for the first three bites only? If you chew slowly, you’ll notice that the food begins to taste bland and ordinary after the three bites. Eating slowly gives you the chance to really taste the food and at the same time reach out for better options because natural foods like fruits and salads taste good even after three bites. Overall, you’ll have a better and more satisfying dining experience instead of feeling all sluggish and heavy after a meal.

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The Humble Seaweed

Do you like the taste of those delicate little bite-sized slices of Japanese goodness called sushi? Oh yes, those fresh seaweed-wrapped rice hors d’oeuvres that only gets better when eaten with a touch of soy, lime and wasabi? If you answered yes, then you’re in for a bonus health surprise!

Seaweed, the wonder health food?

Seaweeds are classic delicacies known not only for their nutritional value but for their distinct and delicious fresh flavor which enhances the flavors of food. Sushi is definitely delicious, but did you know that seaweed makes it twenty times more nutritious than the garden salad you’re eating?

For centuries, man has mined and deeply penetrated the soil for its minerals used to produce steel and industrial and consumer products. Because of man’s abusive ways and processes towards the earth, there’s been continuous reduction of our needed minerals and nutritive components in the land plants we consume.

However, the seaweed is one of the earliest forms of life here on earth, existing even before the very first traces of man’s developed civilizations. The earliest known records of man which made seaweed as food are the coastal-based early civilizations of China, Hawaii, Japan and Norway which, coincidentally, seem to be the healthiest people in the world!

The sea is truly teeming with edible sea plants that are high with vital substances man and all sorts of living things need to sustain life here on earth. And one of them is no less than the very simple and unpretentious seaweed.

Seaweeds have high iodine content that’s why it’s often used in the making of medicines that could prevent goiter. It has also been proven to cure allergies and enhance the immune system. Studies have also said that seaweed can regulate the hormones and metabolism and improve bloodstream. Furthermore, it’s rich in iron that could combat osteoporosis.

Seaweed for the skin!

Now here’s what women of all ages need to know: seaweeds are used a lot for beauty and skin products because of the high concentrations of mineral salts, amino acids and all sorts of vitamins and minerals all essential for skin repair, detoxification and re-mineralizing. It also helps promote a youthful skin color. Thus, eating a lot of seaweed-based foods like sushi and salads could definitely help hasten the aging process and prolong the beauty for years to come.

Know any more powers of the humble seaweed?

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Oh My Yogurt

One of the simple, accessible, and healthy snacks I like to eat is yogurt. I love how I can indulge in something fruity and semi-sweet without being too scared of the calories. Of course, it also depends a lot on the brand and flavor of the yogurt. For me, I like strawberry and chocolate flavors in general. How about you? 🙂 Well, regardless of what type of yogurt we like, here’s a list of just a few of the benefits we can get from it.

1. Yogurt is a wonderful source of calcium because it can provide up to 40% of the daily calcium value we need. And we all know how good calcium is to our body. It not only keeps our bones and teeth strong, it also promotes overall strength and wellness for more years to come.

2. Yogurt helps boost our immune systems because of its friendly bacteria composition. Yogurt fights against bacterial infections and diseases like food poisoning. A healthy level of good bacteria is also great for digestive health.

3. Yogurt is a great alternative food to the lactose intolerant or simply to the non-milk drinkers, like me. I was born with a natural aversion to milk but I’ve always loved all the other dairy products like cheese and of course, yogurt.

4. Yogurt can be served in a lot of ways, so if you or your kid don’t really like yogurt in its solo state, you can incorporate it into other stuff so you can still avail of all the health benefits it can give. For instance, you can serve it with nuts or your favorite fruits like bananas, strawberries, raspberries, or peaches. You can also add a different flavor, like chocolate or mocha. You can also substitute it for high fat ingredients like heavy creams. You can even make it into delicious ice cream. There are a lot of easy to follow yogurt recipes on the net.

5. Yogurt doesn’t make you fat. Of course, there are sugarless and with-sugar versions of yogurt, so it’ll be good to check on the labels first or do your research before buying a particular brand. Nevertheless, yogurt in general contains much less sugar, calories and fats than the usual sweet snacks like ice cream or pastries. If you want to be absolutely strict about it, choose the sugarless and zero-fat versions.

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