Quinoa, the humble grain from South America, was touted as the “wonder grain”, the “complete protein”, the “blessing of the Andes” and God-knows-what-else. This in turn spelled doom for its growers and traditional eaters. The grain became the “miraculous” food that the waist-watching and weight obsessed rich were looking for, creating a quinoa mafia and, naturally, a deprived local population in its wake.
So is it protein rich? That depends on what you are comparing it with. If you are comparing it to a biscuit, then yes. If you are comparing it to rice, no. It’s one thing for some grain to contain protein and it’s quite another for your body to assimilate amino acids from it. And nothing lets you assimilate amino acids better than the humble dal-chawal or some khichdi with ghee.
Now for some dietician bashing. The West goes gaga over quinoa, but why are dieticians in India promoting it? And why are their clients eating it? Kuttu (eaten during festivals in North India) and rajgeera (permitted during votive ‘fasts’ in the South) are pseudo cereals like quinoa. But that’s not the issue; the point is that kuttu ka poori and rajgeera chikki is “not allowed”, but quinoa is shoved down your throat.
There’s a reason why your region grows rice, bajra, nachni, jowar, etc. You live in a tropical region of the earth and the nutrients you need to lose weight, look good, have a sharp face-cut and even sharper memory are available in the soil and ingested through foods grown in this soil and climate. So take time off that French manicure and pay attention to local produce and eat what is in season.
I wholeheartedly agree with Rujuta Diwekar when she says that local produce is preferable to packaged ones (Munching On El Dorado, Fine Living, Feb 25). Additionally, it should also be seasonal. Having lived in Tamil Nadu, I can personally vouch for the efficacy of a typical rice/rasam/sambar/curds diet to keep the body cool.
Gaurab Banerjee, Calcutta
Rujuta’s was an interesting assertion. One thing that was a bit off though was her saying that quinoa is less rich in protein than rice. The official website of the US department of agriculture (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods) has figures that refute this.
Alexander, Jersey City, US
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Thank for very interesting article. One thing I may think a little bit off is your saying that quinoa less rich in protein than rice. This is what the official website of US Department of Agriculture says:
Nutrient data for 20137, Quinoa, cooked, 1 cup - 8.14g
Nutrient data for 20037, Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked, 1 cup - 5.03g
Nutrient data for 20045, Rice, white, long-grain, regular, cooked, 1 cup - 4.25g
..and it's just protein. If you'd like to look at others nutrients here's the links
Also, I think it's good to mention that Clycemic indexes:
White rice, average 89
and the fact that quinoa is a complete protein and white rice is not.
As you can see, GI of white rice is pretty high. Brown rice is lower - 50, but how many ppl eat brown rice comparing to the white one?
I'm not defending or promoting quinoa, I just want to get the facts straight. I beleive in the importance of physical activity over searching for the right food. It might be better to get down to the gym or open field, play games and burn calories than thinking of what to eat - local produce or quinoa.
The columnist's contention that local produce is preferable is absolutely correct. Additionally, it should be the seasonal. For example, having lived in Tamil Nadu I can personally vouch for the efficacy of a typical rice/rasam/sambar/curds diet to keep your digestioon in good shape and your body "cool", a word which Indians will understand at once.
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