What is Quinoa
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is becoming a staple in an increasing number of households. Yet, at the same time, many people have never heard of it. I use it in many recipes because it’s packed with nutrition and cooks quickly. It is an excellent source of protein, making it a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans. So… what is it?
Quinoa, a seed belonging to the amaranth family, seems more like a grain with a nutty flavor. Quinoa seeds are gathered from a plant called Chenopodium quinoa. The amaranth family also includes vegetables such as spinach and beets. Originating in the Andes, it’s estimated that quinoa was around between 3,000 and 7,000 years ago. It is amazing it has taken so long for many people to appreciate it the way we do today.
Health Benefits of Quinoa
Quinoa is loaded with nutritional benefits. Quinoa…
- is an excellent source of protein (eight grams per cup of cooked quinoa). It packs in all essential amino acids in a complete fashion (meaning each of the amino acids is in ideal proportion to the others)! This is truly an asset, especially for vegetarians and vegans. The protein makeup of quinoa is impressive when compared to grains.
- contains heart-healthy fats. One cup of cooked quinoa contains two grams of polyunsaturated fat and one gram of monounsaturated fat. Both polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat improve blood cholesterol levels, thereby helping to improve heart health.
- is a great source of iron. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 15% of recommended iron. This is another quality of quinoa that vegetarians and vegans ought to find valuable.
- contains the antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol. These flavonoids make quinoa an anti-inflammatory food. Anti-inflammatory foods are beneficial to our health, as they help decrease the risk of disease.
- is alkaline forming, which helps your body maintain the appropriate pH balance.
Uses for Quinoa
Quinoa can be used in a variety of ways.
- Quinoa goes well in dishes with vegetables and/or beans (check the recipes below).
- Quinoa can be used in granola bars, cereals, and crackers.
- Quinoa can be ground into flour and used in baking, such as for use in breads and cookies.
- Quinoa can be used in some recipes as a vegetarian and vegan substitute for ground beef, such as in sloppy joes.
How to Cook Quinoa
Like many types of rice, twice the amount of water is used to cook quinoa. For instance, if you are cooking one cup of quinoa, you will need two cups of water. However, quinoa cooks in only 15-20 minutes, making it quicker to cook than rice. Quinoa’s quick cook time is another of its many benefits.
Rinse quinoa well (until the water is clear) prior to cooking it. Some manufacturers pre-rinse quinoa. However, you may wish to rinse the quinoa again for best results. Rinsing it removes a bitter flavor caused by a coating on quinoa called saponins. Saponins are naturally occurring and work to protect quinoa from insects and microbes.
After rinsing quinoa, place it in a saucepan with water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover saucepan. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
Where to Buy Quinoa
Quinoa is sold in grocery stores and health food stores. I generally find it in the same aisle as rice. It is sometimes available in the bulk foods section. Quinoa is widely available in my area, but if you have trouble finding it, you may have better luck shopping for it online.
Here are a few quinoa recipes to add to your collection:
- Quinoa with Mushrooms and Spinach in White Wine Sauce
- Spinach Artichoke Quinoa
- Red Curry Quinoa with Vegetables
- Blueberry Pancakes
I cook with quinoa often, so check back for more… just search the site for quinoa.