Quinoa: Whole Grain, Complete Protein and “Super Food”
Have you tried quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)? If not, put it on your next shopping list!
Quinoa is a whole grain from South America that was used as a staple in the Incan diet, who believed the grain was sacred. It has become more popular in the last few years and recently the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations declared that 2013 be declared “The International Year of Quinoa”.
It’s most amazing quality is that it actually contains the right balance and amount of amino acids (building blocks of protein) for it to be considered a complete protein source. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 220 calories, 4 grams of fat, 39g of carbohydrate, 5 g of fiber, and 8 g of protein. It is also high in antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, important for the reduction of inflammation (a contributor to many chronic diseases).
Quinoa has more fat than other grains, providing small amounts alpha-linoleic acid, an omega 3 fat that also helps reduce inflammation. Quinoa provides double the amount of calcium as whole wheat. That’s a lot of nutrition in a tiny grain!
Great Choice for Special Dietary Needs
Quinoa is a great choice for those with Celiac’s disease or gluten sensitivity, since it is 100% gluten-free and not botanically related to wheat. Quinoa does contain some oxalates but is not considered a high oxalate food, therefore, does not need to be avoided by those on a low-oxalate diet.
It is a great carbohydrate choice for diabetics, due to its high protein and fiber content, but the carbohydrate content should still be considered when fitting it into a diabetic meal pattern (1 cup does contain 39g of carbohydrate or about 2.5 carbohydrate servings!).
Quinoa can be either purchased in packaged containers or in bulk. The most common kind of quinoa is generally off-white, but black or red quinoa is also becoming more readily available. If purchasing in bulk makes sure it has not been exposed to moisture and there is a quick turnover of the product to ensure freshness.
It can be stored in an air-tight container for 6-9 months. Quinoa can also be ground into a high protein flour to make a variety of products like pasta, bread, or muffins.
Cooking with Quinoa
Once cooked, quinoa will expand 3-4x its original size and will look and taste similar to plain couscous (just a little nuttier). Make sure you rinse the grain before cooking which will help remove some of the bitterness. It is a little bland just cooked in water, but that is what makes it so versatile!
To automatically make it tastier, cook it in low-sodium, fat-free chicken/vegetable broth instead of water and use it as your carbohydrate serving (in place of rice/pasta) with salmon or baked chicken. Or make a “salad” out of it by throwing in leftover veggies such as capsicums, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and topping it with a salad dressing of your choice.
It can even be prepared as a high protein breakfast cereal or added to your favorite soup. Be creative with quinoa, there is no right or wrong way of serving it. Check out more delicious quinoa recipes here and enjoy!