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June 18, 2015

Quinoa: A Healthy and Versatile Food

While no single food can supply all the essential life-sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom. NASA Technical Paper #3422, 1993.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

What is Quinoa?

So what is quinoa? Quinoa is a pseudo-grain and is pronounced kinwa, keen-wa, or kinuwa. It is a seed that is prepared and eaten like a grain. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) declared 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” It is considered a superfood (one with several health benefits) used heavily by the Incas. Quinoa is enjoying a resurgence today as its health benefits are being rediscovered.

Quinoa Nutrition Facts

Here are the important nutrition facts. Compared to other grains like oats, rice, or wheat, it contains higher concentrations of all ten essential amino acids making it a complete protein. It is particularly high in lysine which is rare among plant foods. Essential amino acids are those that we can only get through the diet – the body unable to make them.

Quinoa is also high in magnesium, calcium, and iron and contains a healthy balance of oil, fat, and protein. It is 14 to 18% protein which is higher than other grains/cereals but not quite as high as beans. It is a better source of healthy fats and provides more fat than grains It is high in fiber and is high in antioxidants including quercetin and kaempferol both of which help prevent cancer.

Quinoa is gluten-free and easily digestible and is a healthy alternative for those with celiac disease. It appears to have anti-inflammatory effects on the gastrointestinal system.

How to Cook Quinoa

There is no shortage of ways to incorporate this important pseudo-grain into your diet.

Quinoa is Dr. Joe proof which means even I can prepare it (cooking seems like way too much time and effort for the time it takes to eat something – that’s why I prefer not to cook). Add one part quinoa to two parts water in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat and cover. It takes 15-20 minutes to cook one cup. If cooked properly the seeds should become translucent and the white germ should be partially detached.

Quinoa is versatile in recipes. It can be combined with pinto beans, pumpkins seeds, cilantro, and scallions. Add your favorite seasoning for a tasty quinoa salad.

You can add nuts and fruits to it and eat it like a breakfast cereal. Sprouted quinoa can be added to sandwiches or salads like alfalfa sprouts. Quinoa flour can be to baked good recipes. Quinoa is a nice complement to tabouli as well.

Here are 27 quinoa recipes from Cooking Light making it easy to incorporate this pseudo-grain into to your diet.


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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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