Quinoa – the all-in-one essential nutrient source for better blood pressure control.

In 1955, researcher Philip White wrote that “while no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.” Today, quinoa, described as a superfood and a source of complete protein, has become increasingly popular in the United States, Canada, Europe, China and Japan.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, or goosefoot and pronounce ‘KEEN-wah’) is in fact not really a cereal grain, but a “pseudo-cereal” – a food that is cooked and eaten like grains and has a similar nutrient profile. Botanically, however, quinoa is closer to beets, chard and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains.

Quinoa has more protein than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. It is a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. It is also gluten-free, considered easy to digest, and the seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine.

The most recent U.S. nutrition guidelines recommend that people get at least 3 ounces, or 85 grams, of whole grains daily, and that they consume at least half of their grains as whole grains. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found evidence that “women who eat more whole grains are less likely to develop high blood pressure.”

A Harvard School of Public Health study of over 31,000 men concluded that “whole grains as a part of a prudent, balanced diet may help promote cardiovascular health.” Moreover, lead researcher and project director at the School, Dr. Alan J. Flint, said that “higher intake of whole grains was associated with a lower risk of hypertension.” The relationship between whole grain intake and hypertension risk remained even after accounting for men’s fruit and vegetable intake, use of vitamins, amount of physical activity, and whether or not they were screened for high blood pressure. This suggests that the association was independent of these markers of a healthy lifestyle behavior pattern. Flint and colleagues explained that their findings “have implications for future dietary guidelines and for the prevention of hypertension.”

Other researchers have found that whole grains are actually much higher in antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. A study of 88 people with high blood pressure found that 73 percent of those who had two meals of whole grains a day dropped their blood pressure medications in half and dropped their cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Not convinced? Because of all its characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights. Quinoa has also been designated a “super crop” by the United Nations, for its potential to feed the hungry poor of the world!

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