Quinoa is a rather small disk shaped grain, which belongs to the Chenopodium family. Quinoa has a pale yellow color but other colors such as red, orange or purple are also possible. The quinoa seeds are covered with a resin like bitter substance that must be removed to become edible.

More Herb Than Grain

This nutritious seed was highly regarded in Incan culture, and was believed to provide stamina to warriors. While essentially unheard of decades ago in the U.S., quinoa has been gaining momentum.

More herb than grain, quinoa is proof that good things come in small packages, for it is tiny indeed. Therein lies its difficulty. Quinoa (keen-WAH) is one of those exotic super grains that everyone knows is good for you, but many are uncertain as to how to best use the grain.

We treat quinoa as a grain, but Webster defines it as an Andean goosefoot raised by the Indians for its edible seeds. Quinoa is not a true grain in the botanical sense; close relatives include beets and spinach.

Quinoa Nutrition

  • Gluten-free.
  • Contains a good amino acid balance.
  • High in fiber.
  • High in complex carbohydrates.
  • High in lysine and essential vitamins.

In fact, Quinoa is a nutrition treasure. It’s protein content supplies all nine essential amino acids. Health protective compounds like polyphenols, phytosterols and flavonoids have also been found in quinoa. Quinoa is such a near perfect food, it’s being considered as a crop for NASA’s controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Quinoa Facts

Quinoa is another ancient New World food, considered the “mother of all grains” by Incan civilizations, and it has very high protein content.

The grain quinoa has 160 calories per quarter cup uncooked, 10 percent of your daily fiber and about as much protein as in an ounce of fish.

Quino grains are coated with saponins, a bitter protective coating that can be removed by soaking and rinsing.

Quinoa Nutrition

The nutritional value of quinoa has been known for a long time to be superior to traditional cereals and is, in fact, superior to milk solids. Quinoa is higher in lysine than wheat, and the amino acid content of quinoa seed is considered well balanced for human and animal nutrition.

Edible Energizer. One-half cup of cooked quinoa contains protein and amino acids in a gluten free grain aid. Helps repair muscles and aids post workout recovery.

One-half cup cooked quinoa will give you 2 percent of your daily calcium, 15 percent of magnesium and 5 percent of potassium.

Uses for Quinoa

Quinoa is used to make flour, soup, breakfast cereal, and alcohol. Most quinoa sold in the United States has been sold as whole grain that is cooked separately as rice or in combination dishes such as pilaf. Quinoa flour works well as a starch extender when combined with wheat flour or grain, or corn meal, in making biscuits, bread, and processed food.

Seed coats (pericarp) are usually covered with bitter saponin compounds that must be removed before human consumption. Saponins may also be toxic to fish. Deresination (removal of the pericarp and the saponins by mechanical or chemical means) does not affect the mineral content of the seed (Johnson and Croissant, 1990).

The marketable seed is usually white in color. The leaves are frequently eaten as a leafy vegetable, like spinach. Seed imported from growers in South America is sold in the United States in health food stores and gourmet food shops at high prices.

Gluten Free and Tasty

Quinoa is becoming very popular because it is gluten free, has a nice taste and is very nutritious. The protein content (14 percent) is very high for grains. Other nutritional highlights of the quinoa (per 100g) are: 5.9 g fiber, 210 mg magnesium, 60 mg calcium, 9.2 mg iron. Quinoa grain has a lower sodium content and is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than wheat, barley, or corn.

Quinoa Reduces Risk of Disease

Quinoa offers all the health benefits attributed to whole grains, including reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. A half cup of cooked quinoa provides 90mg of magnesium. Magnesium appears to regulate cholesterol. This fiber-rich whole grain can help keep atherosclerosis at bay and also prevent arteries from narrowing.

An in vitro study published in an issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food evaluated 10 Andean grains, inlcuding quinoa, for potential type 2 diabetes-relevant antihyperglycemia and anti-hypertension activity. Results showed that quinoa was rich in the antioxidant quercetin. Quinoa had the highest antioxidant activity among the grains studied. This led researchers to conclude that quinoa has the potential to help manage type 2 diabetes and associated hypertension.

Quinoa is a gift to soup, as it functions as a thickener that doesn’t become gummy or pasty. Have some at hand if you’ve added a little too much water to soup. You’ll increase your nutrition as well.

Quinoa with Parsley, Mint and Lemon

In a large bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 minced clove garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add 3 cups cooked quinoa, 1 pint halved grape tomatoes, 1 diced cucumber, 1/2 diced red onion and 1/2 cup each chopped parsley and mint. Toss and top with grilled chicken.

Chia-Quinoa Porridge Recipe

Two superfoods pair up in this powerful porridge. When teamed up with chia, the two create one of the most nutrient-dense breakfasts around.

  • 1-1/2 cup water or milk (dairy, rice, almond, hemp, coconut, etc.)
  • 1 cup quinoa, quickly rinsed in a colander
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Place the water or milk in a small pot over medium high heat. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the quinoa, salt, and butter or coconut oil, if using. Stir once, cover, and reduce the heat to lowest setting. Check after 10 minutes. If the grain is soft, remove from the heat, stir in the chia seeds and serve immediately.

Quinoa and Porridge Recipe

  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1/2 cuprolled brown rice flakes
  • 2 tablespoons sultanas
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 1 tablespoon linseeds (flax seeds)
  • Brown sugar, to serve
  • Soy or rice milk, to serve

Combine quinoa, rice flakes, sultanas, currants, linseeds and 2 cups (16 fluid oz) water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until mixture reaches a porridge consistency.

Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Serve with the milk.

Porridge is best made close to serving.

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