Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah, has been getting a lot of press lately, and for good reason.
Quinoa or White Quinoa is the most common kind of quinoa.
Red Quinoa holds its shape after cooking a bit better than white quinoa, making it more suitable for cold salads or other recipes where a distinct grain is especially desirable.
Black Quinoa is a bit earthier and sweeter than white quinoa, black quinoa keeps its striking black color when cooked.
7 Reasons to Eat Quinoa
- It’s incredibly nutritious. One cup of cooked quinoa contains: 58% of the RDA for Manganese; 30% of the RDA for Magnesium; 28% of the RDA for Phosphorus; 19% of the RDA for Folate; 18% of the RDA for Copper; 15% of the RDA for Iron; 13% of the RDA for Zinc; 9% of the RDA for Potassium; over 10% of the RDA for Vitamins B1, B2, and B6; and small amounts of Calcium, Niacin, and Vitamin E.
- Quinoa is high in antioxidants including quercetin and kaempferol, which appear to protect the cardiovascular system and heart health and may reduce the risk of developing cancer.
- One cup of cooked quinoa contains 2.5 grams of soluble fiber. There are numerous studies showing that soluble fiber can help reduce blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, increase fullness and help with weight loss.
- Quinoa is naturally free of gluten and using it instead of typical gluten-free ingredients can increase the antioxidant and nutrient value of a gluten-free diet.
- With 8 grams of protein per cup of cooked quinoa, and containing all the essential amino acids a human body needs, quinoa is an excellent plant-based protein source.
- Quinoa has a low glycemic index, a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels.
- Quinoa has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is at the root of many serious illnesses including Alzheimer’s, asthma, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and anything ending in -itis (such as arthritis, colitis, sinusitis)
Okay, you’re convinced, so how do you incorporate quinoa into your diet?
A few ideas:
Quinoa can be used as a grain substitute. Use it in place of rice or pasta. (Quinoa is not a grain. It belongs to the same family as beets and Swiss chard. It is native to the Andes mountains region of South America.)
Add it to soups.
Use it in place of Bulgar wheat when you make tabbouleh.
Serve a Spanish omelet over it and top with guacamole.
Note: Always soak, rinse, and drain quinoa before cooking to remove the saponins which have a very bitter taste. I usually put quinoa in a bowl with filtered water in the morning, and it’s ready to rinse when I begin to prepare dinner.
Here are two recipes with which to begin your experiments with quinoa.
Quinoa, Beet, and Spinach Salad
½ lb. beets, peeled and sliced; 1 cup red quinoa (soaked for at least an hour and then cooked); ½ cup olive oil; ¼ cup red wine vinegar; 1 clove garlic, pressed; 2 green onions, sliced; 4 oz. baby spinach; 5 oz. feta cheese
Place a steamer insert into a saucepan, and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover pan and bring the water to a boil. Add beets, cover pan, and steam until just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside.
Cook quinoa. Let sit 5 minutes.
While quinoa and beets are cooking, whisk olive oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic together in bowl.
Remove quinoa from heat, then immediately add half of the vinegar dressing and the baby spinach while fluffing the quinoa with a fork; reserve remaining dressing. Cover and refrigerate until cool, at least 1 hour. Set beets aside to cool.
Gently stir in green onions, feta cheese, beets, and remaining dressing into cooled quinoa mixture. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
Quinoa and Oat Porridge
½ cup steel cut oats; ½ cup quinoa, soaked and rinsed; ½ cup dried fruit such as goji berries (optional); 1/4 tsp. sea salt; ½ tsp. ground cinnamon; ¼ tsp. ground cardamom; 3 ½ cups water; toasted walnuts
Put ingredients, except nuts, in a pot and bring to boil over medium high heat. Turn off heat, stir, cover, and let sit on the stove overnight. In the morning put whatever portion you want in a small pot and heat. Store the rest in the refrigerator for another breakfast. (Leftovers are NOT lumpy like oatmeal.)
Stir in a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey if desired. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts.
If I don’t use dried fruit, I stir in very ripe pear chunks or leftover cinnamon apples.