While training for races in the last couple of years, I started incorporating quinoa into my diet for its nutritional value and ease of preparation and absolutely love it. If you’re like most people, you have no idea what quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is, let alone how to pronounce it. Quinoa is a nutritious seed that serves as a whole grain. It can be used as a hot cereal or side dish, as a cold salad similar to pasta salad, or it can be used in recipes in place of rice or other grains.

Quinoa facts:

  • Quinoa is native to the Andean region of South America.
  • The quinoa plant produces seeds that come in different colors, including black, red, and ivory (sometimes called white or yellow).
  • Quinoa naturally produces a bitter pest resistance substance, so it can be grown without the use of pesticides. The quinoa seeds are soaked and rinsed several times before being packaged for sale to eliminate the bitter, soapy flavor.
  • Quinoa is naturally gluten-free so can be used as a substitute for whole grains that contain gluten and can be a great way for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy to add variety to their diet.
  • Compared with other common grains, quinoa provides higher amounts of many nutrients as shown in Table 1 below. (United States Department of Agriculture, Release 26)
  • Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids.

Table 1.     Nutrient comparison for common grains (1 cup cooked)

Quinoa Couscous Long-grain white rice Barley
Protein (g) 8.1 3.3 4.3 3.6
Dietary Fiber (g) 5.2 1.2 0.6 6
Calcium (mg) 31 7 16 17
Magnesium (mg) 118 7 19 35
Zinc (mg) 2.0 0.2 0.8 1.3
Thiamin (mg) 0.2 0.05 0.26 0.1
Folate (mg) 78 13 153 25
Riboflavin (mg) 0.2 0.05 0.02 0.1
Vitamin E (mg) 1.2 0.1 0.06 0.02

Storing and Preparing Quinoa:

Quinoa can be store at room temperature in its original packaging, but it should be used before its “best by” date. The seed form of quinoa can be used as a replacement for rice, couscous, or pasta in a one-to-one ratio. Quinoa is prepared much like rice with one part dry seed to two parts liquid. Water or broth can be used to cook quinoa; simply add seeds and liquid to a pot and heat on high.  Once a rolling boil is reached, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.

Here are some delicious recipe ideas for quinoa from Tufts University:

Quinoa Salad With Mediterranean Flavors

Combine quinoa, water and 1/8 tsp salt in medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat until quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Transfer to large bowl and let cool.

Meanwhile, bring large saucepan of water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Whisk lemon zest, lemon juice, shallot, pepper, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil.

Add cherry tomatoes, olives, parsley, chives, and green beans to quinoa. Add lemon dressing; toss to coat. Salad will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. If you would like to make it the day before, store the blanched green beans separately and toss them into salad shortly before serving (the acid in the dressing causes green beans to discolor).

Yield: 6 (generous 3/4-cup) servings

Per serving: Calories: 209. Total fat: 13 grams. Saturated fat: 2 grams. Cholesterol: 0 milligrams. Sodium: 261 milligrams. Carbohydrates: 21 grams: Fiber: 3 grams. Protein: 4 grams.

  • 3/4 cup Quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups green beans, stem ends trimmed, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup Kalmata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

 In summary, quinoa is a delicious food that counts as a whole grain and can add variety and essential nutrients to your diet; especially protein, fiber, calcium, and magnesium. It’s simple to prepare and can be enjoyed at breakfast as a hot cereal or with other meals as a hot or cold side dish.

Jill Signature

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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