Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists in Guelph, Ontario are studying the nutritional benefits of Ontario-grown quinoa and amaranth as part of a project to determine the potential for introducing these South American grains to Ontario.
This year has been declared “The International Year of the Quinoa” by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Dr. Rong Cao, a scientist at AAFC’s Guelph Food Research Centre is examining the antioxidant values of both quinoa and amaranth. In recent years, these native South American foods have become popular in North America for their gluten-free and nutritional benefits. Quinoa is one of a few grains with a complete essential amino acid profile (amino acids are the building blocks of protein) and has many nutritional benefits.
“If we can produce quinoa and amaranth in Ontario, it can give local farmers lucrative new crops to grow and give consumers a healthy local product to buy,” Dr. Cao said.
His research is part of a project being led by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to determine how different varieties of quinoa and amaranth can be adapted to Ontario climate, soils, and environment.
“My role was to assess the effect of the environment and genetics on the nutritional value,” notes Dr. Cao.
His initial studies on amaranth focussed on the nutritional values of the leaves, which are used as a vegetable in many cultures. After assessing both green and purple-coloured leaves he found the highly pigmented amaranth leaves had higher levels of antioxidants than the green ones. Similar results have been found with quinoa leaves.
Dr. Cao and a graduate student will continue their research on these two foods over the next two years. He wants to have a better understanding of the phytochemicals involved in these products and will be looking at the biomarkers for anti-inflammatory aspects of various foods.
The Guelph Food Research Centre is one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's network of 18 research centers. Located in Guelph, Ontario, the Centre specializes in food safety, quality and nutrition, and is committed to ensuring that food produced in Canada continues to be among the safest and of the highest quality in the world.
From AAFC News Release.