They may be teeny tiny grains but they sure pack a health punch!

FI-health and beauty- quinoaAncient grains are all the rage in the health world and quinoa is the front runner. Quinoa is one of the most ancient grains we have in the modern world (well, actually it’s technically a seed!). It dates back some 4,000 years where it was thought to have first been consumed by the natives of the Andean region covering Peru, Bolivia and Columbia. The Incas famously termed it the ‘Mother Grain’ and they were able to cultivate this plant in pretty harsh conditions. Quinoa is grown at 10,000 to 20,000 feet above sea level, and as such this little grain was more valuable than gold.

There is good reason everyone is shouting quinoa (keen-wah!) from the rooftops, it has a myriad of health benefits – even NASA have it near the top of their list for great foods to sustain people over long distances.

The science

So, NASA have earmarked it as a superfood. Why is quinoa so fab? Here comes the science…

Quinoa is a ‘complete’ protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It also contains twice as much fibre as most other grains, so makes for happy tummies. Quinoa also contains some unexpected added bonuses. Inside these tiny grains you’ll find high levels of calcium – excellent for maintaining good healthy teeth and bones – and plenty of iron which is vital for maintaining healthy blood cells and haemoglobin. Iron actually increases brain function because the brain uses around 20 per cent of the body’s oxygen from the blood.

Beauty from within
When it comes to healthy radiant, youthful skin, quinoa is your best ally.

This little grain contains really high levels of riboflavin which is important for your skin’s elasticity and plumpness. Riboflavin is important for building up the connective tissues in the skin, and so helps iron out those wrinkles and maintain good skin tone. In fact consuming quinoa will help improve overall health in a great variety of ways. You can use quinoa as a substitute for rice, so it works pretty darn well with curries and salads and just about anything. So, here are some slightly more unusual ways of incorporating quinoa into your diet.

Quinoa pancakes

Quinoa pancakes
This recipe just goes to prove that you can use quinoa to make pretty much anything, so there is no excuse not to make it part of your every day diet.

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup salsa, optional

1. In a saucepan, heat water to boiling. Add quinoa, garlic, and salt. Simmer, covered (10 minutes). Uncover and cook 2 minutes longer until dry. Transfer to large bowl and let cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°.
3. Stir egg whites, Parmesan, basil, and pepper into quinoa.
4. In a non-stick pan or skillet, heat 2 tsp oil over medium heat. Using 1/4-cup measure, make 4 quinoa pancakes; flatten. Cook until golden (2 minutes per side). Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining oil and quinoa.
5. Bake pancakes for 5 minutes until heated through. Serve on spinach, with salsa if desired (or any other topping you like).

Quinoa dessert

Quinoa dessert
As a self-confessed pudding person, I was delighted to discover quinoa pudding. This recipe will serve nine people and is best served warm. It’s an indulgent way of enjoying this protein rich food.

1 cup quinoa, cleaned (6 oz)
6cups water
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 cup milk
2 tbs powdered milk
1 tsp vanilla
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 tbsp sugar
1⁄8 tsp salt
1⁄4 cup slivered almonds or 1⁄4 cup chopped almonds
1⁄4 cup dried currant
1⁄8 tsp cinnamon

1. Place quinoa in a bowl of water. Begin the cleaning by rubbing the grain together between your hands. Drain and repeat several times. You will know the quinoa is clean when the water is no longer milky after rubbing. This step is essential for removing the bitter layer that surrounds the grain.
2. Bring quinoa and 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until grains are translucent, 13 to 15 minutes. Drain well in a sieve.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. To measure milk, place powdered milk in measuring cup and add milk to one cup. Stir together to dissolve milk powder. If you do not have powdered milk, its best to use whole milk.
5. Whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl until just combined. Mix in quinoa, nuts, and currants. Pour into a buttered 9-inch square baking pan prepared with a coat of cooking spray.
6. Stir together cinnamon and remaining tablespoon sugar and sprinkle over top of pudding. Bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, around 40 minutes.
7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

On the surface
When it comes to using quinoa in beauty products, it’s not simply a case of adding some to your conditioner. The proteins you want to extract from quinoa need to be hydrolised first to benefit your hair in any way. Hydrolising a protein is simply making it the right size to be accessible for your body. Hydrolised quinoa is able to permeate the hair shaft and assist in repairing and protecting your cuticles, and you can now find a range of pretty pricey beauty products that utilise this. The great thing about quinoa is that it is non-reactive, meaning that it’s very unlikely that it will cause your skin to react if you rub it on. That’s due to its lack of gluten – win!

Quinoa face mask

Quinoa face mask
Why not give a face mask like this a shot if you want to DIY your own quinoa beauty products. Quinoa seeds are loaded with essential vitamins – let these get to work while the soy milk soothes and nourishes your skin. In fact soy milk is particularly good for repairing sun damaged skin and will help restore elasticity, getting rid of that ‘tight’ feeling.

¼ cup of quinoa
Soy milk
3 tsp yoghurt
2 egg yolks
2 drops of essential oil

1. Cook the quinoa with the milk and then leave it to cool before blending with the yoghurt, the egg yolk and your chosen essential oil.
2. Apply the mixture to your face and neck and leave it on for 20 minutes (grab a book and a green tea).
3. Rinse off the mixture with lukewarm water and behold softer skin.


Infographic quinoa

Emma Cullen

Emma Cullen

Emma is an ex-Fed Up & Drunker that has been released into the wild

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