What Do Quinoa, Buckwheat and Chia Seeds Have in Common?
What do Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), Buckwheat and Chia seeds all have in common? All three are gluten free and all three are plant seeds, not to be confused with grains (such as rice and wheat) which are produced by grass species.
Our bodies require nine essential amino acids (building blocks) to build protein from. We can’t manufacture those amino acids so they must come from the diet.
Quinoa, buckwheat and chia are unusual because they contain all nine amino acids making them a rare source of vegetable protein. More common sources of vegetable protein – pulses (lentils, dry beans) and grains (wheat, rice etc.) are all missing one essential amino acid so are best eaten together to make up a whole protein.
That makes these seeds an ideal food for vegetarians or vegans and a healthy protein replacement or additional protein for everybody.
When the great Greek physician Hippocrates said “Let food be your medicine”, he was making an early claim that what we eat does matter, i.e. “you are what you eat”. Over 2000 years later we know he was right; your skin replaces itself every 35 days and your whole body including all the organs are completely replaced by new cells every seven years. Your body makes these new cells from the food you eat. What you eat literally becomes your body, so you can choose the foods your body uses to renew itself. If we remind ourselves of this fact regularly then maybe it will be easier to make healthy food choices.
Because of their value as a source of complete protein and the essential nutrients they contain, Quinoa, Buckwheat and Chia seeds are excellent foods to add to your diet. Let’s have a look at each one of these three super seeds. You will find some nice recipes at the bottom of this post.
Quinoa is a close relative to spinach and rhubarb. It originates from the Andes mountain range in South America where it was once the staple food of the Incas – who called it the “mother-seed” and believed it could increase stamina – their warriors ate it to keep them strong. Quinoa is rich in many nutrients and has been linked to a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. It is high in manganese and is a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, folate and other essential nutrients. It comes in a variety of colours – white, red and black – but white is the most commonly used one. The coloured varieties contain slightly higher phytochemicals (special plant nutrients), including powerful antioxidants. Quinoa is available as a whole grain, flakes and, less commonly, flour. An added attraction of quinoa is how easy and quickly it is to cook. It is ready in just 12 minutes.
Buckwheat is, in fact, not a type of wheat at all, but the seed of a relative of the rhubarb plant. Buckwheat is an excellent source of manganese and magnesium, and a good source of niacin, folate, iron, zinc, copper, selenium and phosphorus. It is also rich in phytochemicals, including the antioxidant rutin, which is believed to help lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. Buckwheat is a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, and is high in soluble fibre which can aid gastrointestinal health. In Japan buckwheat is used to make soba noodles. Most cultures eat the seeds by either grinding them into flour, producing a great gluten-free protein rich alternative to wheat for use in baking and pancakes, or cooking the hulled kernels, or “groats,” in the same way as you would cook oatmeal.
Chia seeds, originally found in Southern Mexico and Guatemala, were an important food source for the Aztecs and Mayans. The Aztecs also used chia seeds in beverages, pressed the seed for its oil and ground the seed to use in breads. Chia was highly valued for its medicinal properties. Chia seeds are the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, and contain high levels of fibre, iron, calcium, zinc and other essential nutrients as well as being an excellent source of antioxidants. In fact, it’s their high antioxidant content that keeps the seeds fresh for a long time, and prevents them from turning rancid. Chia seeds’ high fibre concentration assists in gastrointestinal health and can help cure constipation, diarrhoea, IBS and may reduce the risk of colon cancer. These beautiful little seeds form a gooey gel when combined with any liquid (try water, juice, milk or coconut milk), so they are fantastic for making healthy puddings, thickening smoothies or replacing eggs in baking. They can also be eaten raw, sprinkled on salads, dips, over vegetables or muesli, or you can bake with them. Chia’s versatility and ease of preparation make it easy to incorporate into your diet and a small serve is all that is required to gain nutritional benefits. Chia seeds have been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels and can help with weight loss. Here is a summary of 10 benefits of eating chia seeds.
– Book “supergrains” by Chrissie Freer