Quinoa: The Ideal Protein For A Vegan Diet

By: Rich Allen

One setback with vegan diets is the lack of protein contained in most plants. Protein is mainly derived from meat and animal products like milk, cheese and eggs. Soy is moderately high in protein and the grouping of rice and beans will add protein, but it is difficult to get sufficient protein in a vegan diet through these sources .
Quinoa is a grain like plant seed which contains 16% to 20% protein. The protein is complete and unlike the protein found in various other plants, it is of very high quality. The amino acid balance is similar to what is found in milk. The protein is rich in lysine, methionine and cystine and is perfect for mixing with soy or grains to improve the proteins in those foods. Soy is low in methionine and cystine and most grains are low in lysine.
Quinoa also contains starch, sugars, oil, fiber, minerals and vitamins. It is high in the essential oil linoleic acid. It contains no gluten which makes it an excellent grain substitute for people who are allergic to gluten.
Quinoa is not a new food. It has been cultivated in the Andes Mountains of South America for thousands of years and was one of 3 main staple foods for the Inca people. The other two were maize and potatoes. So vital was this crop, that it was included in many Inca religious rites.
The quinoa plant is not a real grain, but rather a relative of Swiss chard. The leaves of the plant are edible, but shouldn't be consumed in large amounts because they contain a mild toxin. The seeds have a bitter coating which discourages birds and other foraging animals from eating them making the plant easy to grow.
Quinoa should be soaked before it is prepared to do away with the bitter coating from the seeds. It is prepared the same way as rice, with the same ratio of water to seeds. The taste is mild and nutty and the texture is similar to al dente pasta. The seeds can be eaten as a cereal, or served cold in salads or used like chick peas. Quinoa is easy to digest and light on the stomach.
It is also possible to mill quinoa into flour. It can be combined with sorghum, tapioca, and potato starch and used for gluten free baking. Quinoa flour can also be used as a filler for chocolate.
Raw quinoa can be germinated to boost its nutritional value. Quinoa's germination period is really short. It will sprout in 2 to 4 hours in a container of clean water. Gemination boosts the vitamin values and activates natural enzymes.
Vegans who need to boost the protein in their diet should look at quinoa. The complete and high quality protein in this plant makes it perfect for the vegan diet and it will make a change from soy or beans and rice. Quinoa is being used to make pastas and cereal products, which may not yet be accessible in the supermarket, but can be found in online stores. If you are vegan, you should try adding quinoa to your diet.

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