Quinoa: A New Pantry Staple for Healthy Cuisine

colored quinoaQuinoa: A chewy, small, round pseudo-grain that looks like a small cereal — at least to me. Actually, it is a cousin of spinach, chard, and beets. Its popularity has quickly grown in the past five years from obscure, unpronounceable grain to pantry staple in households around America. In fact the grain’s popularity has exploded so dramatically in recent years that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (also known as FAO) declared quinoa to be the International Food of the Year in 2013.

Simultaneously, the ethics of this growth have triggered some controversy in the environmental sustainability community since upwards of 92% of worldwide production is concentrated in only a few countries, such as Peru and Bolivia.

quinoa plantsThe production of this delicious grain is slowly becoming more diversified and widespread around the world in order to keep up with consumer demand. Countries like the United States, France, Sweden, Italy, and even some places in Kenya and India are planting crops. This allows unprecedented access to this super food, which is now available widely in natural food stores and grocery chains across the United States and abroad.

 

Varieties of Quinoa

At present, there are over 120 different species of quinoa in a rainbow of colors.  Consumers can choose from many different varieties of quinoa.

250px-Quinoa_Ursprung_Verbreitung“The approximately 120 species of the quinoa plant are further classified into 1,800 different varieties, which are categorized by their preferred climate. Distinct types of quinoa grow between 6,500 and 12,000 feet above sea level in the inter-Andean valleys, 12,500 feet above sea level in the area around Lake Titicaca, in the Bolivian salt flats, at sea level in southern Chile and in the subtropical regions of Bolivia. Depending on where it’s grown, quinoa seeds range in color from black to red, gray, pink, yellow, purple, green or orange — or any shade in between,” report quinoa experts.

 

Health Benefits

200px-Red_quinoaQuinoa has been dubbed a “superfood” due to its numerous health benefits and balanced nutrient profile, which have been thoroughly researched and documented in health magazines, blogs, and scholarly journals alike.  Some of the health benefits include:

  • A great grain alternative for gluten-free diets;
  • high in fiber (approximately five grams per one cup);
  • very low in cholesterol and sodium;
  • a good source of magnesium and phosphorus;
  • a very good source of manganese;
  • high in “complete” protein – a special kind of protein which contains all necessary amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own (approximately eight grams per one cup);
  • contains antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavonoids (also found in green tea); and
  • notable vitamin E and omega-6 content.

 

Incorporating Quinoa into your Diet

There have been innumerable articles and blogs about how to incorporate quinoa into your daily diet. Instead of rehashing these, I have summarized some of my personal favorite resources in the table below:

 

BreakfastsLunches & Dinners
24 Ways to Eat Quinoa for Breakfast 28 Easy and Simple Quinoa Recipes
50 of the Best Quinoa Breakfast Recipes – My Natural FamilyVegan Quinoa Recipes
10 Quinoa Breakfast Bowl Recipes40 Vegetarian Quinoa Recipes

 

Tips for Cooking Quinoa

quinoa lunchQuinoa can easily be overcooked. It’s hard to tell when the grains are done without getting them mushy. The end result should be a light and fluffy mix. Here are some tips for the best ways to cook quinoa:

  • Start by measuring and rinsing the quinoa in order to remove saponins (produced by the plant to ward off insects).
  • Depending on how “mushy” you like your quinoa, use approximately two cups of liquid to one cup of quinoa. Increase liquid amount for mushier quinoa and decrease liquid amount for crispier quinoa.
  • For best liquids, use either water or broth. Vegetable broth and bone broth are both options depending on your preferences.
  • After rinsing the quinoa, bring the measured water to a gentle boil. Add in the quinoa and lower to medium-high heat, where the water is gently boiling.
  • Cook the quinoa for 8 – 12 minutes according to taste.
  • Drain the quinoa. There is no need to rinse.
  • Fluff the quinoa with a fork, adding in salt, pepper, herbs, and fats (such as butter and olive oil) to taste.
  • Enjoy!

 

Sources

Quinoa: 2013 International Food of the Year

Quinoa Nutrition Facts

Types of Quinoa

Whole Grains Council

 

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute specific medical advice. Please consult your health practitioner or medical doctor before trying any new health products or diets and also for information pertaining to specific medical conditions or issues.

Missy Hoffman

Missy Hoffman

Missy is a multifaceted corporate gypsy, yoga teacher, green lifestyle blogger, and catalyst for positive change. She is passionate about spreading awareness of the benefits of holistic, green living and building connected, conscious communities. You can find her on the beach in Santa Monica doing acrobatic yoga, exploring the newest vegetarian restaurants in town, or playing her beloved drum set, which under no circumstance will she let you touch. For inspiration, try Missy.Hoffman@greenlifestyles.org or Instagram @missykaiyoga.

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Missy Hoffman

Author: Missy Hoffman

Missy is a multifaceted corporate gypsy, yoga teacher, green lifestyle blogger, and catalyst for positive change. She is passionate about spreading awareness of the benefits of holistic, green living and building connected, conscious communities. You can find her on the beach in Santa Monica doing acrobatic yoga, exploring the newest vegetarian restaurants in town, or playing her beloved drum set, which under no circumstance will she let you touch. For inspiration, try Missy.Hoffman@greenlifestyles.org or Instagram @missykaiyoga.

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