Quinoa blew up on the scene a few years ago. At first I didn’t pay attention much because I just don’t jump on bandwagons. Especially when it gets expensive to jump on the wagon. For quite a while you couldn’t even find quinoa unless you went to a specialty store and paid quite a lot for it. Now thankfully it’s in the bulk section of our local Winco and very affordable.
What is quinoa?
If you haven’t heard about quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), you’re not alone. Many people have yet to learn the encouraging details on this super food. Or if they did hear about it, they may have this yucky, organic idea in their head of what the food’s going to be like. Although not a pantry staple in most kitchens yet, quinoa soon will be. This seed (no, it’s not a grain) has a rice-like appearance with a fun crunchy texture and slightly nutty flavor. If you know spinach, Swiss chard, and beets, you know some of quinoa’s relatives. Once called the “Gold of the Incas”, quinoa is well on its way to becoming revered all over the world. Let’s see why.
Winner of 9 Essential Amino Acids
With just a quick run down of the nutrients in quinoa, it’s not hard to see why this food is considered one of the best super foods out there. Quinoa is a good source of protein, but not just any protein. The protein quinoa supplies the body is a complete protein, supplying all nine essential amino acids. This fact alone makes quinoa the perfect super food choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone concerned about getting a healthy dose of protein in their diet. Quinoa is especially rich in lysine, the amino acid that is essential for healthy tissue growth as well as repair.
Getting your protein allowance with a food that is vegan is quite unheard of. Getting it in a food that is also super low in fat. One cup of quinoa is about 3.5g of fat. That’s a decent size portion and more than necessary for your diet. For most of us you’d be looking at a 1/2 cup portion and then just under 2g fat. SWEET!
What Can Quinoa Do For Me
We can start with a few basics you will recognize right away. Besides being a complete protein, quinoa is loaded with dietary fiber, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Magnesium is abundant in quinoa. Known to be beneficial for relaxing blood vessels, magnesium, along with riboflavin, appears to benefit those who suffer from headaches, even migraines. Manganese joins with copper to form an enzyme which guards against cell damage caused by free radicals.
The health benefits gained from including quinoa in your diet include helping reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, and gallstones. For pregnant women, quinoa is a great way to increase iron intake naturally, which is important for baby’s healthy development.
Because quinoa is lower in carbohydrates than other grains, many people substitute quinoa for grains because it is a very filling food that releases its energy slowly throughout the body, to satisfy your appetite longer. This is a great way to stay on a weight loss program without starving.
If you are eating a gluten-free diet, this is a wonderful new food to discover. Because quinoa is gluten-free, and has many of the same characteristics of grains and rice, there are numerous ways to use quinoa in your recipes.
What Do I Do With This Stuff
Raw quinoa is most often bought pre-rinsed, but if it isn’t, rinse it in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Then follow the directions on the box. Quinoa is cooked similar to rice; usually a 2 to 1, water to quinoa ratio. Cooked quinoa has a nice light texture and a mild, slightly crunchy and nutty flavor. I prefer to use chicken or beef stock, but that’s because I always have an abundance of free chicken stock in my freezer 😉
It doesn’t take long to cook. We’re not talking 20 minutes like rice, it’s more like 10 minutes or less. All of us here love quick foods!
Once cooked, you can use quinoa in many pilaf dishes, adding vegetables, more stock, and seasonings to taste. Just try substituting quinoa into any of your recipes that call for rice and see how you like it. Quinoa also makes a nice fluffy side dish all by itself. Add herbs and seasonings if you like and spoon alongside chicken, fish, or meat for a tasty side dish with great crunchy texture.
Another favorite way to serve quinoa is cold in salads. Add sweet corn kernels, spring onions, kidney beans, green bell pepper, and celery into a bowl of cooked and cooled quinoa, toss, and you have a light salad that’s full of flavor. Mix in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for even more pizzazz.
Quinoa can be served at any meal, and is available in several forms, even flour. For breakfast, you can serve quinoa with berries, nuts, and milk as a cereal. The flour can be used for baking along with whole grain wheat or as a substitute. Fitting quinoa into your healthy diet is not at all difficult with all these choices.
Once you include quinoa in your diet, you’ll be looking for all sorts of ways to serve it. It won’t be hard to find! This is a very versatile super food that deserves a spot in your pantry.
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