What is quinoa? Is it a healthy food item?
Quinoa is an interesting food item — it is not a grain, but can be eaten like one. It has a mild nutty flavour and is promoted as a protein-rich food. The reason quinoa is gaining popularity is because it can easily be a substitute for rice in any dish. And to add to its versatility, it is a complete protein (unlike rice), gluten-free and very easy to digest.
Quinoa has a good amino acid profile. It has slightly more protein (16.2 per cent) than other grains like wheat (14 per cent protein), rice (7.5 per cent protein), millet (9.9 per cent protein) and oats (14.5 per cent protein), but less than pulses like soy bean, which has 47 per cent protein content. For those who love to include carbohydrates in their diet, it provides a low glycemic index (GI = 53 per meal), whereas rice has a glycemic index of 89 per meal.
However, it only has a good amount of protein when compared to other grains like rice and wheat, and not when compared to high protein foods like eggs, tofu and cheese, among others.
In fact, lentils and other pulses have a higher protein content, and when combined with each other or with wheat or rice (dal with chapati or rice), it increases protein absorption by 30 per cent. So, if you are a vegetarian and want a good source of protein in your diet, you may choose to combine and consume different pulses and grains, quinoa, nuts and seeds, soy bean, tofu and cottage cheese. However, if you are weight conscious and also a rice lover, a better substitute for rice would be quinoa, which when combined with other pulses makes for a healthy vegetarian meal.
I’ve heard that tea, coffee, red wine and dairy products should be avoided when you’re anaemic. Is this true? If so, what are the healthy beverages I can drink?
Food choices are very important when combating anaemia. Coffee and tea contain compounds that may affect iron absorption in the body. Excessive tea/coffee hamper the body’s ability to secrete enough digestive juices to extract iron from food. And if your body cannot assimilate iron, you become anaemic. Beverages of choice for you may be vegetable juices like Indian gooseberry (amla), mint with coriander juice, wheatgrass juice, carrot, tomato and beetroot juice, and fruit juices like orange or sweet lime and fresh lime
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.