Canihua / Kaniwa - The New Quinoa?
Canihua (Chenopodium pallidicaule) belongs to the Amaranthaceae family and is a so-called pseudo cereal, which also includes amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and chia seeds. By the way, it is biologically closely related to quinoa.
Canihua (Kaniwa) is native to Peru and Bolivia, where the cold-resistant Kaniwa plant grows in the Andean mountain range and is known by various names such as kañiwa, kañawa, and kañagua 1. The small gluten-free seeds have a sweet chocolate flavor with a hint of nut.
Canihua contains many antioxidants
Scientists investigated the antioxidant capacity as well as the secondary plant compounds (phenolic compounds and flavonoids) in Canihua grown at an altitude of 3,850 m 2. Eight main compounds were identified: Catechin gallate, Catechin, Vanillic acid, Kaempferol, Ferulic acid, Quercetin, Resorcinol, and 4-Methylresorcinol. Resorcinols exhibited the highest antioxidant capacity. According to the results, Canihua is a potential source of natural antioxidant compounds and other biologically active compounds that can be significant for human health. According to another study, Canihua contains 943 μg (+/- 35 μg) of quercetin derivatives with a very high antioxidant activity of 75% 3. For comparison, the antioxidant activity of quinoa is 86%.
Another antioxidant compound found in Canihua is Isorhamnetin 4. Antioxidants are plant compounds that the human body needs to counteract free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and may be the cause of various diseases such as cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, cataracts, and cancer 5.
According to other studies, Canihua could be an alternative to conventional grains with health-promoting nutrients 6. Analyses have also shown high antioxidant activity due to phenolic compounds.
By sprouting the seeds for 72 hours, the number of phenolic compounds and flavonoids increases, further enhancing the antioxidant effect of Canihua 7.
Canihua primarily contains the essential micronutrients iron (15 mg per 100 g), calcium (110 mg), and phosphorus (375 mg) in higher amounts. The proportion of these three nutrients is higher in Canihua compared to regular grains. Iron is required for oxygen transport to the body cells and is thus essential for energy production in the body. Calcium and phosphorus are minerals needed by the body, particularly for bone and dental health. Cooking the seeds can increase the bioavailability of minerals 8.
Further nutritional values of Canihua can be found here.
Due to its high carbohydrate content (63.4 g), Canihua is quite calorie-rich. The advantage here lies in the high amount of complex carbohydrates, which are broken down and absorbed more slowly by the body. However, the proportion of readily available sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides) is relatively low at 6.5 g per 100 g, considering the high carbohydrate content.
In addition to proteins, Canihua also has a relatively high amount of dietary fiber at 6.1 g per 100 g.
The indigestible fiber stimulates the digestive tract, serving as a food source for intestinal bacteria and promoting a healthy gut flora.
Canihua contains higher amounts of protein (15.7 g per 100 g) and is a high-quality plant-based protein source. The seeds have an exceptional amino acid profile with high proportions of the amino acids lysine (0.88 g), isoleucine (0.53 g), and tryptophan (0.17 g) 9. The values are also higher compared to grains 10.
The small seeds contain 7.6 g of fat per 100 g. The majority of that is made up of the essential Omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid, which accounts for approximately 43% 11. Linoleic acid is a component of the skin and is needed for conversion into other fatty acids involved in immune reactions and neurotransmitter activity.
Canihua also contains a higher proportion of γ-tocopherol (one of eight vitamin E compounds), which acts as an antioxidant and contributes to the prolongation of seed shelf life. Thiamine (vitamin B1; 0.62 mg per 100 g) and riboflavin (vitamin B2; 0.51 mg) are also present as additional vitamins in the seeds. Vitamin B1 is needed, among other things, for the release of energy from blood sugar (glucose), and vitamin B2 is needed, among other things, for the utilization of energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
In contrast to quinoa, Canihua does not contain or only contains very few saponins (soap-like substances that taste bitter) 12 13. This eliminates processing steps such as washing the seeds with running water.
Canihua is typically used as an ingredient in stir-fries, soups, and casseroles, or cooked into porridge. To do so, boil 3 parts water with 1 part Canihua over medium heat for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. The porridge is traditionally also stirred into healthy beverages.
The seeds can also be roasted and popped. They make a great addition to salads, desserts, soy yogurt, muesli, or granola bars.
In addition, the seeds can be ground and used for baking. You can use the flour to create chocolate-flavored breads, cakes, waffles, and cookies.
You can also make pancakes from the flour, which go well with agave syrup or maple syrup, along with fruits and nuts.
Where to buy Canihua
Canihua can be found occasionally in organic food stores and health food shops. Additionally, you can also order the seeds online.