I find many people don’t know about quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and it’s health benefits. Although it looks like a grain or a rice, quinoa is more closely related to spinach, swiss chard, beets and tumbleweed. It originated as a food source in the Andean region of Peru 3000 to 4000 years ago. The ancient Incas held the quinoa crop as sacred, calling it the “mother of all grains”.
Quinoa’s has numerous health benefits. First of all, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning all nine essential amino acids are present in correct proportions for supporting biological functions in the human body. Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein and about 1/2-cup a day will provide a childs protein needs (therefore great for vegans and great for non-vegan looking to get protein from a plant-based source). It is especially high in lysine, an amino acid essential for tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is also high in manganese (combined with copper it creates an antioxidant), magnesium (great for migraine-suffers and cardiovascular health because it relaxes the blood vessels), iron, copper and phosphorous.
Quinoa is a seed that when cooked opens up to reveal what I think looks like a tail. In its natural state it’s coated with bitter-tasting saponins that need to be rinsed before cooking (although generally pre-packaged quinoa has already been rinsed). You can tell if there are saponins present when a soapy foam rises to the top when you are cooking it.
I generally put 1/2 cup of quinoa to 1 cup of water or vegetable stock (I like cooking it in vegetable stock because it adds flavour) and boil it until all the water or stock is absorbed (15-20 minutes). It can be used instead of rice or couscous and the texture has a little pop in your mouth when you eat it. You can also put it in soups, stews or eat it as porridge. Yum!
Sources and more reading:
“Quinoa”, The World’s Healthiest Foods.
Railey, Karen. “Quinoa from the Andes”, Chet Day’s Health and Beyond Online.
“Complete protein”, Wikipedia.