I guess we are all exposed to the dominant philosophy of the so called Super Foods. They apparently have some miraculous nutrient that is indispensable for our body and health. One of these super-foods is Quinoa, the gold of Inca, super-protein-source, the food of the future and so on. In the past months, something more than a year I would say, Quinoa was an obsession.
No home party was fashion enough if a Quinoa salad wasn’t displayed. My partner was always looking for a Quinoa option in each and every restaurant we went to. I was often finger-pointed as a Neanderthal or a food-uneducated person because I was not a big fan of the gold of Inca. It’s not that I did not like it, it is good indeed, but I don’t like the super-food concept.
Quinoa Nutrition Facts – Not that super.
Since my partner liked it, I sometimes bought a pack of quinoa and prepared some salads for dinner. One day I was contemplating the quinoa bag and noted that the Nutrition Facts are not that “super” as many supporters think.
The super-protein seed has 14g of Protein per 100g of product, 7g of Fibres and 6g of ‘relatively good’ Fat. Super. Nevertheless, Quinoa has 69g of Carbohydrates!
As such is not really indicated for those who want to pursue a low-carb diet and should be eaten with moderation especially before bed time. With the minerals and vitamins content, Quinoa is definitely an healthy option among many others but I would not label it as “miracle seed” or “super-food”.
Whole-wheat pasta Nutrition facts.
Being Italian, I have a very deep addiction to pasta. I personally love the taste of pasta itself and as such most of the time I have it with very light and gentle seasoning. In the past years the pasta producers come up with a healthier option: whole-wheat pasta that add the benefits of higher levels of fibres, the old fashioned taste of pasta that I really like. I was quite surprised in noticing that the Nutrition Facts of my Divella whole-wheat pasta are actually quite similar to the “super food” quinoa.
My pasta indeed has: 12g of Protein per 100g of product, 6g of Fibres and 2.2g of ‘relatively good’ Fat and only 65.5g of Carbohydrates! Moreover, it approximately contains the same levels of minerals and vitamins Quinoa has.
There are available many other healthy options that are sometimes neglected and could instead be used sometimes to enrich our diet. We have for instance kamut and spelt.
Kamut is an ancient wheat specie that is still cultivated in some region of the world such as USA, Canada and Middle East. It is more resistant to dry period than the durum wheat and as such it is ideal to be cultivated in arid regions. Kamut nutrition facts are in average: 15g of Protein per 100g of product, 11g of Fibres and 2g of ‘relatively good’ Fat and only 60g of Carbohydrates! Moreover, It contains the same amount of minerals and vitamins as Quinoa. More details on kamut.com website.
Spelt (like farro, emmer and einkorn) is another ancient wheat species that represented an important staple food in Central Europe during and after the bronze age. Presently it survives as relict crop in some part of Spain, Italy and Central Europe. However lately the organic food industry is showing a crescent interest towards this cereal that require very little attention and a very limited amount of fertilizer and chemical products to grow.
100 g of Spelt averagely contain: 14.5g of Protein per 100g of product, 10.7g of Fibres and 2.4g of ‘relatively good’ Fat and only 60g of Carbohydrates! Moreover, It approximately contains the same amount of minerals and vitamins as quinoa.
The list of cereals and pseudo cereals available on the market could be much longer, but I think it is sufficient to have mentioned two-three options that are equal to or more nourishing than quinoa to make a clear point: quinoa is definitely a good and healthy food especially if we consider that it is gluten-free and as such it is a good option for those affected by celiac disease.
It is worth of mention the fact that the excessive attention towards quinoa is creating serious problems to the local farmers as reported by Steve Holt on takepart.com. In his brilliant article about the consequences of the increased demand of Quinoa seeds currently cultivated in poor areas of Bolivia and Peru, he states: “Western consumers have a choice on their hands: Scale back on consumption, hoping it decreases the global demand, or learn to live with the realities of how their quinoa obsession affects the health and land in two of South America’s poorest nations“.
Joanna Blythman, who described on The Guardian in January 2013 the dramatic problems caused by the increasing demand of this pseudo-cereal not only to the poor farmers but also to environmental ecosystem, stated: “The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture“.
In conclusion, we have many healthy and nutritious options available and that we can use to vary our diet and increase our daily intake of proteins and fibres and lowering the carbs. Let’s mix them without preconceptions to have a balanced diet and to ease the consequences caused by the increase in the prices of this crop to the poor farmers.