This versatile, gluten-free pseudo-grain has captured the interest of food enthusiasts worldwide owing to its rich nutritional content and nutraceutical benefits.
Native to the South American Andes is the “mother grain” quinoa, which has been cultivated since 5,000BC.
Although, technically not a grain, the term “mother grain” was allotted by members of the ancient Incan armies who mixed quinoa with fat to help sustain them.
Harvested together with corn and beans, quinoa was one of the few staple foods of the ancient Incans used in the creation of various soups and bread.
In addition, it was brewed along with millet to produce chicha, a fermented beverage enjoyed on the occasion of a new harvest season.
In addition to its dietary uses, chicha was used medicinally to treat bruises and sores.
Many historians strongly believe the initial success of the Incan empire is attributed to their ability to carefully cultivate, store, and distribute crops like quinoa to sustain their own tribe.
Unfortunately, following the beginning of the Spanish conquest, quinoa crop fields were replaced with barley fields to yield Spanish beer.
The once esteemed “mother grain” was no longer sacred.
What followed was a four hundred year decline in the production of quinoa, save for certain remote areas.
What is Quinoa?
Contrary to popular belief, superfood quinoa is not a member of the grain family. Interestingly, its relatives include spinach, Swiss chard, and beets.
Quinoa is quite popular because of its gluten-free properties, which make it favorable amongst individuals that suffer from allergies to common grains like rye and wheat.
Quinoa is high in protein, iron, vitamin E, several B vitamins, fiber, and good fats. The color of quinoa ranges from black to brown to red and even pink.
When cooked, it softens, and the outer germ curves to form a pseudo tail which is crunchy.
This provides for a nutty, unbalanced crunchy texture, which enhances its taste compared to other whole grains.
Quinoa wasn’t introduced in Canada until the mid-1980s.
Today, however, quinoa is experiencing tremendous growth in Europe, the Far East, Canada, and New Zealand.
What Are the Health Benefits of Quinoa?
1. Quinoa is Gluten-Free
Quinoa is gluten-free and provides a great addition to gluten-free meal plans. It is a suitable alternative to grains that contain gluten.
Tip – there may be cross contact with grains like wheat and rye while growing and harvesting quinoa.
To avoid coming into contact with other grains, always buy quinoa that is labeled as gluten-free.
2. Quinoa is Wheat-Free
Quinoa is a grain type non-grain food and is well tolerated in people that avoid wheat for health or dietary reasons.
3. Suitable for Hyperglycemics
Due to its low glycemic index, quinoa is an excellent carbohydrate option for hyperglycemic individuals.
4. Quinoa is a Complete Protein
Quinoa is deemed to be a complete protein as it happens to be the only “grain” that possesses all nine essential amino acids (including lysine).
This has made it a popular choice amongst vegans and vegetarians.
Moreover, the high fiber content of quinoa makes it great for salads or as a cereal substitute.
Fiber promotes satiety and also helps with digestion, improving gastric motility, and maintaining desirable bowel function.
5. Quinoa is Rich in Vitamins & Minerals
Quinoa is rich in magnesium, which is important for cardiovascular function.
It’s also rich in riboflavin (vitamin B2), which is necessary for red blood cell production and function, and copper that is vital to healthy hair and nails.
Other pertinent vitamins and minerals contained in quinoa include zinc, selenium, and vitamin E.
This all helps reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all while improving cell function.
6. Quinoa Contains Antioxidants
Quinoa also contains a rich array of antioxidants that work to scavenge cancer-causing free radicals.
Simple Quinoa Salad Recipe
Quick story, the first time I heard of quinoa a long time ago, I bought it and eagerly cooked it with a bit of salt.
When it was ready, I took a big spoonful and promptly spit it out. I hated the taste and was turned off quinoa.
I assumed you cook and eat it the same way as rice because it was a sort of grain.
However, in recent times, I tried a simple quinoa salad and I’ve begun warming up to quinoa again.
Below is one of the simple recipes I like for preparing quinoa. If you’re new to quinoa, you can start with this.
Quinoa can be found in many health food stores, grocery stores, and bulk food shops. You can also order it online HERE.
- 1 cup finely chopped collard greens
- 3/4 cup of quinoa like Baron’s Whole Grain Gluten-Free Quinoa or Viva Naturals Organic Quinoa
- 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon of steamed corn
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 1 cup of diced red peppers
- 1/4 cup of walnuts
- A handful of finely chopped cilantro
- Juice from two lemons
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt
- Mint leaves to garnish
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly with cold water to remove saponins (bitter-coating) then bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil and add the quinoa.
- Cook quinoa for about 10-15 minutes until the curved tail is visible, and the grain becomes soft.
- Pour the cooked quinoa into a bowl. Add the diced peppers, collards, cilantro, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, corn, walnuts, and chia seeds and mix well.
- In a salad dressing shaker, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper. Close and shake until you have a smooth emulsion.
- Mix dressing in with the quinoa salad. Garnish with mint.
- Place in the fridge to cool down and serve chilled.
This is an excellent salad that’s high in fiber and less than 300 calories. You can add some protein for a main meal or keep it as a side dish.
A simple salad is the easiest way to incorporate quinoa into your diet meal plans.
- You can swap the seeds and nuts with other healthy nuts and seeds if you prefer. Calories will change though so be sure to take that into consideration.
- You can also roast the seeds before adding to the salad. It adds a nice flavor to the dish.
- Top with avocado, kidney beans, and other healthy proteins and vegetables if you like.
Recommended Brands of Quinoa
Quinoa Nutrition Breakdown
Every 100g of cooked quinoa works out to 132 calories on average.
Can You Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker?
Yes, you can cook quinoa in a rice cooker. Rinse, pour into the cooker with water and add some salt then turn on.
The quinoa should be ready within 30 minutes. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can cook quinoa in an Instant Pot or on the stovetop.
What Are the Side Effects of Eating Quinoa?
Quinoa doesn’t have any major side effects but of course, should be consumed in moderation to avoid irritating the gut.
Some people allergic to grains may also be allergic to quinoa even though it’s not really a grain.
Why is Quinoa a Superfood?
Due to its rich content of protein, fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and all nine amino acids, quinoa is one of the healthiest foods there is.
Additionally, it’s gluten-free and wheat-free. This is why quinoa is classified as a superfood. You can’t go wrong adding it to your diet.
Is Quinoa Healthier Than Rice?
Yes, quinoa is healthier than rice. It contains twice the protein and more fiber than rice.
Quinoa is also more filling than rice meaning you consume fewer calories when you switch to quinoa.
Is Quinoa Good for Losing Weight?
Yes, quinoa is good to include in a weight loss regimen. It fills you up quickly and you feel fuller for longer.
Can I Eat Quinoa Every Day?
You can eat quinoa every day but probably not a good idea. There can be too much of a good thing.
You need to balance it out with foods that contain other vitamins and minerals that should be part of a healthy weight loss diet.
Final Word on the Superfood Quinoa
Nutritionally rich and gluten-free for those of you with allergies, quinoa is flavorful and definitely a worthy addition to your diet!
I will be adding more quinoa recipes to the website as I experiment over the next few months.