Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Favorite Super-Seed: Quinoa

I have had several people ask me about quinoa (keen-wa) in the last week so I decided to blog about one of my favorite foods J
I was introduced to this superfood when my family went gluten free.  I missed couscous and a close friend suggested quinoa.  It’s just as easy to cook as rice, and in my opinion tastes better!

Many mistake quinoa for a grain but the yellowish pods are actually the seed of a plant called chenopodium quinoa, native to Peru and related to beets, chard and spinach. The plant resembles spinach, but with 3- to 9-foot stalks that take on a magenta hue. The large seed heads make up nearly half the plant and vary in color: red, purple, pink and yellow.

In the Andes Mountains, where they have been growing for more than 5,000 years, quinoa plants have overcome the challenges of high altitude, intense heat, freezing temperatures and little annual rainfall. Peru and Bolivia maintain seed banks with 1,800 types of quinoa. It has only been grown in the U.S. since the 1980s.
The Incas considered quinoa sacred, and held it in such high regard that they referred to it as chisaya mama, or mother of all grains, because of its nutritional properties and ability to survive the harsh environment found at high altitudes.

Quinoa has been classified as a "super crop" by the United Nations because of its high protein content. It is a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids. It also contains the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair, and is a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous. The fact that it has magnesium, copper and phosphorous means that quinoa is especially good for those that have migraine headaches, atherosclerosis and diabetes. 

The coating, which protects growing seeds from birds and the intense rays of the high-altitude sun, can make your quinoa taste bitter.  Place the quinoa in a strainer & rinse with cold water to get rid of the bitter coating. Then add one part quinoa to two parts liquid in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. In a mere 15 minutes, the seeds will be plump, fluffy and ready to eat.

One cup of cooked quinoa has just 220 calories.  Quinoa is a great source of healthy carbohydrates, and also provides 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein per serving.  It’s available in most grocery stores now and always in health food stores.  It's delicious served cold as or on a salad as well as hot.  Try ground quinoa in place of an oatmeal breakfast, a little honey & some fruit - oh so yummy! I put quinoa in almost everything! 

Here is an excellent write-up on quinoa with healthy facts and here are some yummy recipes.  Enjoy!

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