Quinoa was never on the menu when I was growing up.
In fact, my very first taste of this powerful grain was at a health and fitness industry conference many years ago in Melbourne. Grain production in Australia at the time was moving towards more ‘functional foods’ and the producers had a stand at the Trade Show. I nervously ate a sample and despite being surprised at it’s unusual texture, the taste was delicious.
Whilst the main grain I eat is still brown rice, quinoa appears on my table in this delicious eggplant and lentil salad. And there’s a reason for this. Not only is Quinoa known to assist in gut health, but as an evidenced ‘functional food’, it helps with our energy levels too.
Functional foods confer beneficial health effects and the term ‘functional foods’ has been around since the 1980s. But as we cruise around the supermarket in our exhausted state grabbing the foods that the family prefers to see in the pantry, how many of us take care of our own needs with ‘functional foods’? It’s OK, don’t answer that.
As a strategy to combat metabolic diseases and age-related disorders through affordable, integrative strategies, food scientists began to understand how some foods play play a stronger role in disease treatment and prevention, compared to others. [Gras, Rojas-Silva et al, 2015]. With the effects of functional foods ranging from improvement of general well-being to reduction of disease risk to treatment of illness, this is where Quinoa comes in.
My scientific paper about Quinoa, tells me that whilst Quinoa isn’t classified as a grain as rice and wheat are, from a nutritional perspective, its included in the “whole grains” category. However, unlike traditional cereal grains, which are commonly processed to strip away the nutrient-rich germ and bran, quinoa cultivation leaves the nutrient-rich embryo and endosperm intact. The embryo, which constitutes up to 60% of the seed weight, confers a balanced nutritional profile of protein, lipid, and carbohydrate which is why this food is a traditional energy food of several indigenous peoples of South America. [Graf, Rojas-Silva, et al. 2015].
Eggplant, whilst not listed as a functional food, also confers health benefits. Eggplants are rich in fibre and antioxidants and anti-oxidants help to reduce inflammation in the body. A serving of eggplant can provide at least 5% of a person’s daily requirement of fibre, copper, manganese, B-6, and thiamine as well as other nutrients needed in energy production.
Human health and food security have become increasingly important with the advents of climate change, accelerated human population growth, rise of metabolic disease, and increasing median age of the population. With many women arriving in midlife and putting on a lot of weight as well as experiencing more fatigue, I think it’s time to turn around our health with scientifically evidenced lifestyle solutions, don’t you? Afterall, we have another 20-30 years ahead of us and we need all the energy we can muster. I hope you enjoy trying this beautiful energy-boosting Quinoa Eggplant and Lentil Salad.
MyMT™ Energetic Eggplant and Lentil Salad
- 1.5 cups quinoa
- 1 can lentils
- 1 eggplant, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp red-wine vinegar (for frying with the eggplant)
- 4 tomatoes diced (or 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered)
- 1 small red onion finely diced
- 1 lettuce, chopped
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 small bunch mint or parsley roughly chopped
- Halloumi, fried
- Dressing: 1 lemon juiced and zested, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 clove of garlic finely chopped, 1 tbsp mustard, salt & pepper.
- Fry the eggplant in olive oil and red-wine vinegar for 15 – 20 minutes (until soft).
- While its frying, bring a pot of water to the boil. Cook quinoa for 15 – 20 minutes (until soft).
- After 10 minutes, add the can of lentils lentils to the eggplant pan for the last 5 – 10 minutes.
- In another pan, fry the slices of haloumi on a low – medium heat until crispy.
- Mix dressing ingredients together
- Combine all of the ingredients above, alongside the tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, lettuce red onion and herbs.
Graf, B. L., Rojas-Silva, P., Rojo, L. E., Delatorre-Herrera, J., Baldeón, M. E., & Raskin, I. (2015). Innovations in Health Value and Functional Food Development of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.). Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety, 14(4), 431–445.