What is quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a grain grown from a flowering crop native to South America. It is part of the Amaranth family. It was first thought to have been cultivated over 5,000 years ago but has recently become popular in western cuisine due to its health benefits. Quinoa is known for its incredible nutrient density as well as it’s flavor, texture, and health benefits.
Quinoa is grown primarily in the Andes in Peru and Bolivia where it thrives on the high plains. However, quinoa has also been grown and cultivated in Argentina, Ecuador, and Colombia where it has become an important exported crop. The popularity of quinoa has been accused of driving poverty in Peru and Bolivia, but reports have shown that the high demand for the grain has relieved poverty, not caused it. Since the discovery of this incredible grain, people all over the world started to enjoy quinoa.
In the last years, quinoa has risen to become one of the most popular natural health foods. Quinoa is rich in fiber, high in protein, and naturally gluten-free. It’s also one of the very few plant proteins that is a “complete” protein, meaning it also includes all nine essential amino acids. One cup of cooked quinoa will give you 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, all nine amino acids, manganese, phosphorous, and B1, and even some omega-three fatty acids.
How do you prepare quinoa?
Quinoa is used similarly to how we would eat other grains, but quinoa is a “pseudocereal” instead of a grass. This means it’s actually a seed, but it’s prepared and eaten like a grain.
Quinoa is prepared similarly to rice. Since quinoa has a bitter coating and, like other grains and seeds, contains antinutrients such as saponins and phytic acid, it’s best to soak it in water.
To soak properly, cover with water and leave it for up to 6 hours or overnight, then rinse and get rid of the water. This helps to remove antinutrients, make it better digestible, and reduce the bitterness. If you do not have time for soaking, make sure to rinse quinoa properly using a fine-mesh strainer for a couple of minutes.
Add the quinoa to a large pot and add two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Feel free to use water, stock, or any other liquid and add herbs for additional flavor if you like. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes or until tender. You’ll notice that the seeds “sprout” and will have a small tail. That is the nutritious, wholegrain germ. Mix once through with a fork, cover again and allow to sit for another 10 minutes until the liquid has all been absorbed
How does quinoa taste?
On its own, quinoa has a similar, nutty taste to brown rice. It’s less firm and much lighter than rice. But, like rice, the possibilities for consumption are endless. For breakfast, you could cook in a milk alternative or water and serve with fruit and nuts. You can substitute quinoa anywhere you would normally use rice, add it to soups and salads, or replace pasta with it. Quinoa is not only healthy, but it’s also incredibly versatile.
What are the benefits of eating quinoa?
Aside from its dietary benefits, quinoa boasts many other health benefits. Quinoa is high in antioxidants which are believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects as well as the ability to help your body absorb more nutrients. It has a low glycemic index which means it does not quickly raise your body’s blood sugar levels. This is beneficial in feeling “full” or satisfied and keeping a steadier energy level throughout the day. It contains iron and magnesium which people generally don’t get enough of in their diets and is a great source of these minerals for vegans and vegetarians.
In short, quinoa is a healthy, high-fiber, high-protein option for those who can and cannot consume gluten. It is full of vitamins and minerals and has is a good additional plant source of protein. Best of all, quinoa is affordable, available, easy to prepare, and easy to incorporate into your normal diet.
Recipes with quinoa