Superfood Series: Quinoa
Quinoa, pronounced “keen-wah” is a grain most commonly grown in South America. The plant is classified as a “Chenopod” and is closely related to spinach and tumbleweeds. It is a highly nutritious, easy to cook grain that should be a staple in everyone’s diet.
Quinoa is a whole grain high in fiber, B Vitamins, healthy unsaturated fat, Vitamin E, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. Also, unlike most other grains, Quinoa is high in protein. One serving of Quinoa has over 20% of your Daily Value of Fiber and over 8 grams of protein. In comparison, white rice only has 4 grams of protein and 7% of your daily fiber.
Not only is Quinoa high in protein, but it is considered a complete protein - meaning it has all of the essential Amino Acids your body requires to function properly. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein, and some protein - especially plant protein - may lack certain Amino Acids. The fact that Quinoa is considered complete makes it a great choice for everyone, particularly vegetarians.
Unsaturated fat, like that found in Quinoa, has been shown to help prevent heart disease. In particular, Quinoa has a high concentration of Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fat which research suggests may help improve cholesterol levels and reduce cancer risk.
How to Prepare:
Quinoa preparation will depend on the form in which you buy it. Like rice, it can come raw and unprocessed or precooked and “ready-to-eat.” Most often you will find it as the unprepared grain, possibly pre-seasoned. In this case you can cook it just as you would rice - add 1 cup of Quinoa to two cups of boiling water, then simmer until the water is absorbed (usually 15-20 minutes). If you are in a hurry you can find microwaveable packets ready to eat after just 90 seconds.
For the more adventurous foodies out there quinoa can be substituted for bread crumbs, oats, or binders in some recipes. Quinoa truly is a versatile superfood.
Working it Into Your Diet:
Quinoa is a great substitute for rice. Many local stores carry different varieties of Quinoa making it extremely easy to pair with whatever your next dish may be. Quinoa also works great as part of a salad or mixed into a stir fry. Meatballs and stuffed peppers can be made to incorporate quinoa as well. For this with a sweet-tooth, there are plenty of recipes available for cookies, pancakes, and brownies all based around quinoa!