Even if you cannot pronounce it, I know you have heard about quinoa. It is the poster child for gluten-free, super foodie eaterites. But what is it? And why should you even bother with it? Well pull up a chair and I’ll tell you all about it.
What is it?
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is actually a seed related to Swiss chard and beets but it is eaten like a grain. It has been grown and eaten in the Andes mountains for thousands of years but has just recently exploded in popularity. Many people like it because it is high in protein, fiber, and gluten-free.1
The big fuss about quinoa is it being a plant based complete protein. What does that mean? It provides all the essential amino acids that our bodies do not make themselves so we have to get them from our food. Most plant will provide some of these essential amino acids but quinoa pack the whole bunch.2
Where to find it?
It is easier to find quinoa these days. You can usually find it in the natural foods or bulk food section of you local grocery store. It may also be near other gluten-free foods. It comes in multiple varieties although the most common is white.
Quinoa is also more common in processed foods now. Pizza crust, pasta… about anything grain based product you can now find with quinoa.
How to cook it?
Cooking quinoa is easy! You can just throw it in soups and stews or cook it plain with these steps:
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.
- In a pot, add 2 cups of water to 1 cup quinoa. Bring to a rolling boil.
- Turn the temperature to low and cook for about 15 min, covered.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 min still covered.
- Fluff and serve!
If there is any additional water but the quinoa is completely cooked, you can just drain off the excess. The quinoa should be translucent with tiny spirals curling off the edges (this is the bran).
Quinoa can be used like any other grain but here are some delicious recipes to get you started.
Quinoa Veggie “Fried Rice” from Damn Delicious
Harvest Quinoa Salad from Recipe Runner
Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad from Simply Quinoa
Herbed Quinoa Garden Veggie Salad from Pinch of Yum
Buffalo Quinoa Bites from The Iron You – great for Superbowl party coming up!
Artichoke & Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms from Family Spice
Veggie Quinoa Breakfast Bowls from Reclaiming Provincial
Dark Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl from Minimalist Baker
It has to have good benefits or it wouldn’t be touted as a super food right? Well here they are. Protein, fiber, folate…
Per 1 Cup (abt 185 g): 222 Calories; 8.14g Protein; 3.55g Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 13mg Sodium; 39.4g Carb; 5.2g Fiber; 1.6g Sugar; 318mg Potassium; 281mg Phosphorus; 78mg Folate (Source: USDA National Nutrient database)
With most foods, environmental impact is a bit complicated. Always the good and bad with each story. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) put together this super infographic to illustrate the benefits and challenges of quinoa’s rise to stardom. If you have heard people decrying the deterioration of the Andes because everyone is eating quinoa, you can take a look at this and get a pretty good picture about what is really happening.
(Click on the image to see the full infographic.)
You can also see it on the FAO website along with other information about quinoa.
- “Quinoa”. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Web. 30 Jan 2016. (Read it online here.)
- “Quinoa-March Grain of the Month”. Whole Grain Council. Web. 30 Jan 2016. (Read online here.)