Whether you are on a gluten free, dairy free, paleo, vegetarian or bodybuilding diet, quinoa is a great addition to your nutrition plan.
What is Quinoa..??
Quinoa (pronounced: KEEN wah) is the tiny seed of the “chenopodium quinoa,” a plant related to spinach, chard and beets. It is native to South America and was a very important food source the the ancient Inca civilization.
Today quinoa is grown in Canada and in the U.S. as well as in South America. It’s a popular alternative gluten-free “grain” because of its nutritional qualities.
Excellent Source of Complete Protein
This means that quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids that we need for health. Typically, complete proteins only come from animal sources. Quinoa is one of the exceptions. The proteins in quinoa, unlike some plant proteins, are considered to be highly digestible, similar to the digestibility of the proteins in milk.
Quinoa is a good plant source of “essential fatty acids”- omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. It’s also a good source of Vitamin E, an important antioxidant.
Low in Carbs:
1 cup of quinoa contains 109 grams of carbohydrates. In comparison 1 cup of white rice contains 148 grams of carbs and sorghum contains 143 grams. If you are trying to lower the carb content of your gluten-free diet, try substituting part of the rice or sorghum in recipes with quinoa.
Quinoa, like spinach, berries, nuts, beans, grains, chocolate and black tea is high in oxalates, a group of “organic acids.” A low-oxalate diet is prescribed for several health conditions including a tendency to form kidney stones. If you are on a low-oxalate diet you should discuss the potential effects of adding quinoa to your diet with your physician.
Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. Fiber helps relieve constipation, lower glucose levels, reduce high blood pressure and prevents diabetes.
Quinoa is a great choice if you are a vegetarian or a vegan as it contains iron which helps keep red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation.
How is Quinoa Sold?:
Quinoa is sold in health food stores and some large mainstream grocery stores as a whole grain, flakes, flour and in pasta products. Quinoa is available in a range of seed colors from orange, pink and yellow to purple and black. Yellow to light, creamy-colored seeds and flours are the variety most commonly available in gluten-free products.
Some stores sell whole quinoa seeds in bulk bins. If you do happen to be gluten free, it’s best not to purchase any gluten-free grains from bulk bins because of risk of cross-contamination with gluten- containing grains.
Saponins in Quinoa:
Quinoa seeds contain a bitter-tasting substance called “saponin” which needs to be thoroughly rinsed off before cooking with whole quinoa seeds. The easiest way to rinse quinoa seeds is to place them in a mesh strainer and rinse under cool water until the foamy residue disappears.
Cooking with Quinoa:
Quinoa is a great side dish in place of any grain or carbohydrate. Even if you aren’t necessarily concerned about the nutritional content, it’s a great option if you just want to change things up a bit.
Cook 1/2 cup whole, rinsed quinoa in 1 cup of water for about 15 minutes for a creamy, nutty-tasting high protein breakfast cereal.
Quinoa flakes can be used as a fast-cooking cereal and can be added to pancake and waffle recipes.
Substitute whole cooked quinoa for rice in rice pilaf recipes and for bulgur in tabouleh recipes.
Add quinoa flour to gluten-free flour mixes to improve the protein, mineral and fiber content.
Quinoa reduces the volume of yeast breads and is best used in small amounts in leavened bread recipes but works well in GF recipes for cookies, muffins, pancakes and pizza dough.