10 Reasons to Get Crazy about Quinoa
Side dishes beware…a healthier ‘grain’ is taking over rice and pasta! Known as the ‘Grain of the Gods’ by the Incas and other South American cultures, quinoa is officially a hot and healthy culinary ingredient, and it can be used for so much more than a side. Here are 10 things you need to know about this not-really-a-grain-grain:
It’s almost a complete protein
Quinoa has the potential to contain 11 essential amino acids (isoleucine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, cysteine, methionine, threonine, histidine, tryptophan and valine) depending on how it is cultivated. It is considered to be 14-16% protein, which places it high on the list of plant-based proteins.
It comes in different colors
The quinoa plant pops with color as it grows and looks great on your plate. While most menus serve white quinoa which most closely resembles brown rice, add some color to your next dish with red or black quinoa, or a combination of colors. The richer colors provide unique nutrient profiles.
It’s high in fiber
Fiber is your friend! Quinoa is not only tasty – it provides over 5 grams of dietary fiber in just 1 cup. Just 1 serving contributes greatly to your daily requirement!
Purchase fair-trade quinoa
Quinoa originated in South America and as the newfound love for quinoa migrated north, the indigenous people who have counted on this dietary staple for centuries are now unable to afford it. The health-conscious have caused a trickle-down effect that is really hurting the people who depend on what used to be an inexpensive, high protein food. One good way to enjoy quinoa and help keep balance in its trade is to only purchase fair-trade quinoa.
It must be washed and sorted before cooking
Quinoa is a seed and its exterior can have a slightly bitter taste to it. This keeps the birds from eating it in the wild. To remedy this, be sure to give your quinoa a good rinse before cooking, which will remove any undesirable flavor.
It comes in different forms
While quinoa is most commonly used in its whole form, there are several forms of quinoa available for purchase. You can find it as flakes or as a flour and would use it 1 for 1 in the place of any other ingredient, such as white flour.
It’s easy to mispronounce
If you hear yourself or others pronouncing quinoa wrong, you’re not alone. As a refresher, quinoa is a noun, and is pronounced keen-wa or kee-no-wa.
It’s naturally gluten-free
Because quinoa is technically a seed, rather than a grain, it is naturally gluten-free and is good for people that have gluten sensitivity. That being said, not all foods that contain quinoa are gluten-free, so always check additional ingredients!
It can be used in any recipe… even desserts!
Quinoa is an excellent addition to any meal. It is a high protein carbohydrate source that can be used in any recipe from salads and side dishes to pancakes, a rice substitute in sushi or pudding, ‘bread crumbs’ for meatballs, and so much more. Get creative! Quinoa is quite resilient and tends to taste like whatever you cook it with. One recipe it doesn’t do well with is risotto, because it lacks the necessary starchy properties.
You don’t need to buy organic quinoa
The hearty exterior of quinoa contains bitter-tasting components called saponins that make the crop almost impenetrable to pests. As a result, pesticides aren’t needed for safe growing, which makes it A-OK to eat non-organic quinoa. It is always smart to give it an extra rinse.
So there you have it! If you didn’t love it enough before, you now have 10 more reasons to love this tiny ancient grain. Leave a comment and let me know your favorite way to use quinoa when you cook!