Quinoa was first cultivated in the Andes several thousand years ago, and has since become a major force to be reckoned when it comes to nutrition. In fact, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization formally announced 2013 as the worldwide year of quinoa. Although technically not a true grass, it is commonly considered a pseudocereal, but a superfood nonetheless. Like wheat, it is easily ground into flour. This makes quinoa bread a great choice for nutrition-centered baking.
Health Benefits of Quinoa
Quinoa is usually rated alongside other grains, which serves to highlight its impressive lineup of nutrients:
- Healthy carbs: Quinoa boasts a relatively low caloric density. This is largely the result of its high fiber content – approximately seven grams per 100 grams of uncooked seeds. Fiber helps clear out the digestive tract, regulate blood sugar, and lower cholesterol, thus reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease. It also aids in weight loss much more effectively than other grains. As an indigestible carbohydrate, fiber adds to a food’s bulk, reducing appetite without increasing calorie intake.
- Rich proteins: Unlike most grains, quinoa is a complete protein source containing all nine essential amino acids. Among these are high levels of lysine and isoleucine, both of which are important for the growth and recovery of muscle tissue.
- Vitamins and minerals: Quinoa is a fantastic source of vitamin E, and the energy promoting B-complex vitamins. Its high iron content further aids the body in oxygen transport and temperature regulation. Moreover, it is a great source of manganese, a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals and prevent cell damage.
- Essential fats: For being the pseudocereal that it is, quinoa contains a significant amount of fat –one gram per 63 calories. Since most of these are essential monounsaturated fats like oleic and alpha-linolenic acids, it is safe to say that quinoa helps promote a healthy cardiovascular system.
Benefits to Baking
In addition to its nutritional contributions, quinoa generates pleasing results in the kitchen. Not only is it gluten-free and thereby easy to digest, its light flour makes for fluffier bread. While it is often used exclusively, the popular method is to combine the flour with another whole variety like wheat or even bean. This helps to lighten up other flours that are too heavy on their own. In addition, quinoa’s subtle sourness pairs well with most grains, resulting in a mouthwatering twist to baked bread.
Perhaps the most notable benefit of using quinoa flour is the high-protein content. Protein helps bread to rise and gives it shape and structure. Gluten is the protein that performs this function in flours like wheat, which is why gluten free flour usually requires additives. This is not the case with quinoa however, as its protein content far exceeds that of most gluten-based varieties.
Moisture loss is a major concern for any avid baker. This is easily remedied by adding a quality dairy product such as plain Greek-style yogurt. With quinoa, yogurt adds moisture and retains fluffiness.
When it comes to substance, there are several great extras that contribute to the overall texture and flavor of the final bread:
- Apple slices
- Grated carrot
- Mashed Banana
- Flax seed
In a nutshell, the Andeans clearly knew what they were doing. Not only does quinoa provide everything that the body needs, but it is simply a baker’s gold.