Quinoa: alleviating world hunger
In 2013 it was declared national quinoa year by the Food and Drug Administration of the United Nations, although quinoa remains unfamiliar to many it has become much more apparent in recent years. My topic is Quinoa, and its aspirations in alleviating world hunger. Quinoa is grain crop known largely for its edible seeds. Some areas associated with Quinoa and being able to alleviate world hunger that I intend to explore all relate back to a few incremental questions: what climates quinoa is able to ravish in, whether or not it’s economically feasible to feed the world, and lastly what health benefits this tiny seed is packing. I want to find out if the benefits you get from quinoa are any different from that you would acquire from other “super-foods,” or “super-grains” that the world is already eating. I think this topic is important to anyone who is interested in their health or what they are putting into their bodies.
Quinoa can even go deeper than that because this could relate back to agriculture and helping to alleviate our carbon footprint. The amount of protein and essential amino acids you obtain from consuming quinoa could certainly replace that of which you obtain from meat. With the upcoming fad of sustainable farming and sustainable agriculture it’s no secret that meat is becoming more expensive, yet why wouldn’t it be? The farmers who are growing products sustainably aren’t taking all the shortcuts that the mass producers are. I also know a lot of people think they can’t get protein from anything else like they can from meat, but quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it serves all your essential amino acids you might acquire through a day’s work of eating. Quinoa is also high in folate and zinc, these are two other nutrients found in high amounts in meat that the body relies on.
It’s important to include myself in this topic because not only do I love quinoa, yet it’s such an easily prepared nutrient rich food. I feel like quinoa relates to so many positive things that people are so unaware of which I want to uncover these attributes to my fellow peers. With recent studies of quinoa and its biodiversity, anti-inflammatory properties, its achievement worldwide, and nutrient rich benefits, quinoa has now been taken a closer look at by many researchers. Some important information that people may not already know about quinoa include its antioxidant phytonutrient concentration which can be higher than that of which you find in berries. Quinoa also has a vast blend of anti-inflammatory properties as well as containing omega 3 fatty acids which are essential to our brain. It happens to be a good source of Vitamin E, and has a low glycemic index which means it’s not going to spike your blood sugar which is also associated with decreasing your risk of many different diseases.
These are just a few of many benefits I wanted to explain which I’m sure people don’t know about. Some of my information was obtained through the George Mateljan Foundation, he is the founder of a non-profit organization which believes in the higher power of food and maintaining good health and longevity. If I were to choose a central issue or problem related to my topic I would want to address it would be the grains biodiversity. Where, and if it can really grow in such a variety of climates as well as it being grown sustainably, and how quinoa can impact the hungry. I have many of questions regarding this topic only a few of which I stated previously, but I only hope to come up with many more questions.
Climates quinoa can ravish
Although quinoa can adequately grow in much broader ranges of climates to this day it is generally still produced in South America. In the Inca language quinoa means the “mother grain”, and has remained a staple food for the Incas for most of their existence. In addition quinoa has been consumed for over 5,000 years by the people who flourish the lands of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. A question from my previous post I wanted to answer was what climates can quinoa ravish; this meaning what climates is suitable for quinoa to sustain proper growth? In researching this topic I found out many things go hand in hand with the climate in which quinoa can grow in which included soil, elevation, hours of sunlight, radiation, and water deficits.
Quinoa flourishes best in a region with short day lengths and cool temperatures of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Given these circumstances the plant will flower much earlier than in a region with harsher temperatures. That being said it can withstand an immaculate range of temperatures which include anywhere from 18-100 degrees Fahrenheit, and can also endure a light frost. Research has said once the grain has reached “the soft-dough stage,” when the inside of a broken kernel will exhibit a soft dough texture, the plant is not affected by temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Quinoa also contains a highly complex root system which deepens from a tap root to form an exceedingly branched system which makes the plant pretty much drought resistant. “Its efficiency in water comes from a physiological mechanism which enables it to avoid moisture deficits and tolerate and resist a lack of soil moisture”.
Quinoa is a self-pollinating plant and only takes three to four months to harvest. The plant also blooms beautiful deep red and purple flowers as well as edible leaves. Quinoa prefers neutral soils, but is usually grown in soils with high acidity (up to a PH of 4.5) and alkaline (up to a PH of 9). These are the most common soils found in South America and are due to heavy rainfall, fertilizers, and areas with a lot of ground up rock like limestone. Even though in South America the plants are grown very close to sea level quinoa can grow at elevations anywhere from sea level to 4,000 meters, which is about 13,000 feet. Just to give you an idea of how high that is, Colorado’s most famous summits usually range from 13,000-14,000 feet.
Lastly, Quinoas amazing ability to withstand such a broad range of climates all comes back to a phenomenon in which the plant being classified as a C3 plant. What is a C3 plant? In addition to extracting nutrients from its roots a plant takes on sunlight and its leaves harvest that sunlight. There are two types of leaves and both absorb and process carbon dioxide very differently. This gets a little technical, but given a single carbon, the leaves of a quinoa plant can take that carbon and manufacture six carbons. “In-between the one-carbon stage and the six-carbon stage, some plant leaves — in so-called C3 plants — go through a three-carbon intermediate. Other plants — C4 plants — go instead through a four-carbon intermediate. This momentous difference is as significant as between invertebrate and vertebrate animals” (Laszlo). The plants unique ability to synthesize and use carbon dioxide is what makes quinoa so versatile within climates. While C4 plants originated in subtropical areas, C3 plants have taken on a much more extensive climate array.
With this information I’ve gained I think it is safe to say quinoa can certainly be grown in California. That is if it already hasn’t been. I know research has been conducted within Colorado and the growth of quinoa in higher summits in which I wish to explore further into next. From what I have read it looks like quinoa is a pretty tough plant and has a chance of sustaining suitable growth in areas that may not be so suitable to the quinoa plant. In saying that, there is hope that quinoa could grow and feed people in lesser conditions, maybe even in third world countries.
Quinoa: A complete protein
What are quinoas health benefits more in depth, and how does it compare to other grains? Is there really substantial differences? Some examples of a few other super grains found most commonly are buckwheat, oats, chia, millet, farro, and amaranth. I actually just picked up my KIND bar and five of the six grains I just named were in the ingredients. These grains may sound foreign to someone, but you may be eating them and not even know it! Further I want to talk about what an amino acid is, and in what amounts are found in quinoa compared to other grains. I would also like to discuss key nutrients and factors you get from quinoa, as well as what a complete protein means and how quinoa falls into that category.
Amino acids are organic compounds that make up the protein we eat. There are twenty different amino acids the body needs, and nine of which it can’t make on its own, so we get them through our food. Amino acids play out many important bodily functions including within our muscles, cell structure and even our organs. Our cells, muscle, and tissue are made up substantially of protein, so amino acids are kind of a big deal. On any given day you may eat a “complete protein” by the end of your day through what are called complementary proteins. Each protein we eat contains a variety of different amino acids, maybe it contains two of the nine essential we need or maybe it only contains one amino acid. This being said if you eat a variety of different proteins throughout your day such as cheese, beans, grains, all the different sources of food you can obtain protein through, you may have eaten a complete protein by the end of the day. Now this is specifically important for a vegetarian or a vegan, since animal products are the easiest to find protein through, while meat itself is a complete protein. A complete protein is consuming all the nine essential amino acids your body couldn’t make on its own. So when I say quinoa itself is a complete protein, meaning you are consuming an adequate amount of all nine essential amino acids in one food; this is huge since it’s not something other non-animal product foods can do.
Although some of the grains I mentioned earlier may contain all nine essential amino acids, it can be in trace amounts; therefore it is not considered a complete protein. With the exception of quinoa, most other grains are deficient in one of the most important amino acids our body needs which is lysine. Your cells use lysine to repair protein like structures throughout the entire body. Out of all the grains quinoa is the only one that is considered a complete protein.
Quinoa is also gluten free for people with gluten allergies or even Celiac disease. A person who cannot eat gluten includes wheat, rye, and barley, so quinoa is a healthy substitute. An excellent source of fiber and containing small amounts of omega three fatty acids, quinoa is also considered an anti-inflammatory. Lastly, quinoa contains high amounts of b vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and even vitamin E.
Although other grains can compare to quinoa regarding nutrients and or vitamins you obtain, what really differentiates quinoa from the others is the amino acid intake. So sure, other grains may be just as healthy to eat, but lack the necessary protein your body needs. If you don’t mind eating multiple sources of protein throughout your day just about any other whole grain is your thing, but if you’d like to get all your protein in one meal, quinoa’s your guy!
Quinoa is most frequently grown in South America in the region of the Andes Mountains where it has been cultivated for about seven thousand years. It remained a staple food for the Inca Empire and to this day remains a staple food of the South American cultures that reside there. I wanted to find out whether or not the cultivation an export of quinoa was economically feasible, meaning will the cost it took to grow the quinoa be greater or less than the revenue it will generate. There has to be a reason as to why quinoa still after so many years quinoa remains grown in South America. Is it cheaper to grow the seed there, or is it because quinoa has remained a part of the Andean culture for so many years? Also, how is the growth of quinoa affecting the indigenous famers?
According to Tom Phillpot, colonial agriculture completely failed in the Andean regions. New technology failed to bring wealth to the Andean families, and there turn out of quinoa remained fairly insignificant. Around 1990 Andean farmers were linked with U.S importers who began to re-establish old-style quinoa production for the U.S marketplaces. According to numerous reports quinoa has tripled in price since 2006, which means the Andean farmers’ incomes have also tripled. “It is “very good news for small, indigenous farmers,” says Pablo Laguna, an anthropologist who has studied quinoa’s influence on local communities in Bolivia.” Although this seems to just be one side of the token, with much surrounding controversy regarding the U.S and South American relations and unfair trading.
Not only are prices high for the U.S, but the prices have also risen for the locals in South America which has had the people eating a bit less quinoa. There is a rising demand for quinoa in developed nations which are not creating anywhere close to equal profits for the South American people. Disparaging trading circumstances remain between the U.S and the quinoa farmers. There are increasing income disparities within the countries which has quinoa prices higher then meat in local markets. Quinoa has now become out of reach for the poorer people. Ultimately quinoa seems to be ripping the already poverty stricken nation apart with increasing demand, inadequate supply, an unfair trading practices.
Despite all the negative controversy surrounding the production of quinoa and the new flourish of wealth to the indigenous farmers, they say quinoa still remains a staple food for the local people. Most farmers are able to put some of the seed aside of each crop to have for the year. The farmers also plead that they have choices for once in their life of what they want to eat, and most importantly can afford vegetables now. There seems to be significant differences between the farmers and the local people regarding their opinions of the cultivation and export of quinoa, and still remains highly controversial. Quinoa has made some of the poorest people in the region much richer, but on the other hand it has also made the poorer much poorer. Saying the production of quinoa is economically feasible for the South American people might seem wrong, since it has only affected some in a positive way. It seems fair trade between the U.S and the Andean farmer’s needs to be re-established.