Quinoa 101

Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’ is a great gluten and wheat-free alternative to starchy grains.

There are red and white and black types of Quinoa but all open up to release soft fluffier small curls as they cook.

Grown in South America (Peru, Chile and Bolivia) for thousands of years, quinoa formed the staple diet of the Incas and their descendants.

It’s said that the Incas referred to quinoa as the “mother of all grains,” though it is technically not a grain but a seed from the same family as beets, chard and spinach. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has designated quinoa as a “super crop” due to the crop’s resilient ability to grow under all kinds of not-so-favorable conditions, and for its potential to feed the hungry across the world.

It has been heralded it as a superior alternative to bulgur wheat, couscous and rice.

Nutritional Profile:

With twice the protein content of rice or barley, quinoa is also a very good source of calcium, magnesium and manganese. It also possesses good levels of several B vitamins, vitamin E and contains all 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein source.

Quinoa is a great source of flavenoids, in particular quercetin and kaempferol, which are plant antioxidants that have been shown to have anti- inflammatory, anti- viral, anti- cancer and anti- depressant effects in animal studies.

Great for those that follow vegetarian diets and struggle to get sources of protein into their diet. Naturally high in dietary fibre, quinoa is a slowly digested carbohydrate, making it a good low-GI option too. The glycemic index of quinoa is around 53. It is high in carbs though so if you are watching your weight best not to consume more than a couple of times a week.

A 100g serving of quinoa provides:

 368 calories 14g protein 6g fat 64g carbohydrate 7g fibre

Health Benefits:

Reduces cholesterol, helps manage BP and can help reduce the risk of diabetes – the high ratio of protein to carbohydrate helps regulate blood sugar & the ant-i inflammatory nutrients all help reduce inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes risk and the fibre content helps slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates to glucose. May help you lose weight due to its high protein content which can increase metabolism, keep us feeling fuller for longer, meaning you eat fewer overall calories.

How to cook:

Quinoa seeds have a coating of natural chemicals called saponins which leave a slightly bitter taste so best to soak and wash the seeds before cooking which helps removes these. The general rule for cooking quinoa is using 1 part grain to 1 part liquid so 2 cups of water for every cup of dry seeds. Add the water to the quinoa and once simmering reduce to a low to medium heat and simmer until all the liquid is dissolved. You should have softened fluffy ‘grains’. Cooked quinoa becomes fluffy and creamy, yet maintains a slight crunch. It has a delicate and subtly nutty flavor, versatile for breakfast as a cereal lunch or dinner as a salad. See my Quinoa Porridge and Salad with Apple, Pecan and Cranberries or Quinoa with Olives and Chickpeas recipes.

Check out my quinoa recipes below!

Quinoa Salad with Apple, Pecans and Cranberries

Quinoa Porridge

Quinoa Salad with olives and chickpeas