Photo courtesy of Maurice Chédel.
May 14, 2013 - The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations have named this year "The International Year of the Quinoa," and a Canadian researcher is looking into ways to bring the grain (as well as its relative, amaranth) to Ontario growers.
Dr. Rong Cao, a researcher at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Guelph Food Research Centre, has been looking at the antioxidant values of the two grains. Both quinoa and amaranth contain complete amino acid profiles that help protect, repair and build muscles, cells and enzymes in the body.
"These two grains are pseudo cereals that contain various phytochemicals that are potential contributors to good health," he says. "They are also gluten-free, which is good news for people that are allergic to gluten, such as those with celiac disease."
Supported by the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP) and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, the researchers first looked at the antioxidant levels in the leaves, stems and sprouts of the plants, then attempted to determine how the environment and genetics play a role in their development. The results showed that both plants had different phytochemical compositions and antioxidant activities, most notably in the leaves – with the more pigmented leaves possessing higher levels of antioxidants than the less pigmented leaf varieties. These findings will require further research to determine why this is, as well as the effectiveness of the health promoting and disease-preventing effect of the grains.
"Leaves, particularly those of amaranth, have been consumed in many other cultures as vegetables," added Cao. "Canadians can benefit from not only consuming the grains, but the leaves for improved health outcome – some varieties are already commercially produced in Ontario and available in ethnic grocery stores."
The next step in Cao's research is to determine precisely how the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Ontario grown quinoa and amaranth function. This research will be achieved with help from Katan Kitchen, a super food company that will grow the first commercial production of Ontario quinoa this fall.