Quinoa is one of the world’s most popular health foods.
Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa also contains all the essential amino acids that you need, making it an excellent protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.
Quinoa is a seed which is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain.
There are three main types: white, red and black.
1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa:
- Protein: 8 grams.
- Fiber: 5 grams.
- Manganese: 58% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
- Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA.
- Folate: 19% of the RDA.
- Copper: 18% of the RDA.
- Iron: 15% of the RDA.
- Zinc: 13% of the RDA.
- Potassium 9% of the RDA.
- Over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
- Small amounts of calcium, B3 (niacin) and vitamin E.
Quinoa is non-GMO, gluten-free and usually grown organically. Even though technically not a cereal grain, it still counts as a whole-grain food.
NASA scientists have been looking at it as a suitable crop to be grown in outer space, mostly based on its high nutrient content, ease of use and simplicity of growing it. The United Nations declared 2013 “The International Year of Quinoa,” due to its high nutrient value and potential to contribute to food security worldwide.
Quinoa is higher in fiber than most grains. Quinoa is high in soluble fiber which can help reduce blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, increase fullness and help with weight loss.
Studies have shown that using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free ingredients like refined tapioca, potato, corn and rice flour can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of your diet.
One downfall of quinoa is that it also contains a substance called phytic acid, which can bind minerals and reduce their absorption. (See blog from 6/26/2019 about soaking seeds and nuts for more information.) I soak quinoa prior to cooking to reduce the phytic acid content and make minerals more bioavailable. Quinoa is high in antioxidants and sprouting increases their antioxidant levels even further.
Quinoa is also high in oxalates, which reduce the absorption of calcium and can cause problems for certain individuals with recurring kidney stones.
How to Buy
You can buy quinoa in most health food stores and many supermarkets. it is usually available in bulk or in bags on the shelves.
How to Store
Do not store in the plastic bag if you have used one to carry it home from the co-op. Transfer the quinoa to a glass jar.
For cooked quinoa, keep it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for it to last for about a week. Do NOT leave cooked quinoa under the sun or at room temperature for more than two hours. The bacteria will easily enter the quinoa and develop quickly.
How to Cook
Soak quinoa for a couple of hours prior to cooking to diminish the phytic acid. Rinse a couple of times get rid of the saponins, which are found on the outer layer and can have a bitter flavor.
Quinoa can be ready to eat in as little as 15–20 minutes:
- Put 2 cups of water in a pot, turn up the heat.
- Add 1 cup of raw quinoa, with a dash of salt.
- Boil for 15–20 minutes.
It should now have absorbed most of the water and gotten a fluffy look. Quinoa should have a mild, nutty flavor and a satisfying crunch.