First things first: how do you pronounce this grain? “KEEN-wah” is gaining popularity for its health benefits. 2013 was named International Year of Quinoa, and it can be found on all continents. Does it really live up to all that hype? Let’s start from the beginning.
· What is quinoa?
Ø Quinoa is an ancient grain from the Andes Mountains in South America. We know the Inca Empire was eating quinoa in 1200 AD.
Ø To date, most quinoa is produced in South America, primarily in Peru and Bolivia. It is a very resilient and adaptable plant, so it is able to grow at high altitudes in the Andes. (Some people believe quinoa may be one key to solve food insecurity. Since it is so adaptable and resilient, it can be grown in less than optimal conditions and provide important nutrients to people living in hunger).
· What are the health benefits of quinoa?
Ø One cup of quinoa provides 220 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein and 15% of your daily iron needs.
Ø Most grains are considered “incomplete proteins”, which means not an optimal protein source. However, quinoa is a “complete protein” source, just like meats and soy beans.
Ø Quinoa is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Ø Quinoa may help to decrease the risk of diabetes, and some studies have also shown quinoa to lower total cholesterol and maintain HDL “good” cholesterol, so this could also decrease the risk of heart disease.
Ø Another benefit for those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity is that quinoa is gluten free!
· So, how do we select this super grain at the store? Quinoa is available in prepackaged containers and sometimes bulk bins. You will most often see it as an off-white color, but it is also available in red and black. It should be stored in an airtight container, and it will keep for 3-6 months if stored in the refrigerator. You can buy quinoa pre-rinsed, but if that is not available in your grocery store, you may want to rinse and rub the seeds to remove any bitter taste.
· How do we prepare this super grain? To cook, add one part quinoa to two parts liquid in a saucepan. For example, add one cup of quinoa to two cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the quinoa will have become translucent, and you will notice a white partially detached “tail” which is the germ. For a nuttier flavor, you can dry roast it before cooking.
· What do you do with your cooked quinoa? Mix with roasted vegetables and pine nuts, add it to your favorite soup, add nuts and fruits to make breakfast porridge, or replace rice in recipes. You might also want to try out a tabbouleh recipe like the one below!
1 ¾ cup water
1 cup uncooked quinoa
½ cup coarsely chopped seeded tomato
½ cup chopped mint or parsley
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped cucumber
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped green onions
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh onion
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat; fluff with fork. Stir in tomato and remaining ingredients. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Yields 5 cups.