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Quinoa: A Super Food

By Liz Cornell, RD

I have one word for you: quinoa (pronounced keen-wah).  An unusual word, I know. You’ve probably never heard it before.  In fact, many people are unaware that quinoa is an amazing super food. This plant is indigenous to South America and has been used by local people there for a long time. The plant was eaten to help give Incan warriors energy on their long journeys and during battles. The Inca’s thought so highly of this food that they treated it as a sacred plant. It was a part of almost every meal that they ate.


The quinoa plant produces seeds, which are the part that is eaten. The seeds can come in a variety of colors including yellow, red, purple, green and white. They have a nutty flavor and a fluffy but slightly crunchy texture, much like rice. Quinoa is considered a whole grain. However, it is much less known than other grains such as wheat, oats and rice.


Quinoa has an abundance of health benefits associated with it. This grain definitely packs a nutritional punch. It provides 12 grams of cooked fiber per cup of cooked quinoa. The daily recommended intake amount for adults is 25-35 grams of fiber per day. This is a great way for many people to get their fiber in.


Quinoa also provides 9 grams of protein per cooked cup. This is higher than any of the other whole grains. For individuals who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, quinoa is an easy way to include protein in the diet and ensure adequate intake. Protein is an important macronutrient to help maintain lean body mass which supports an increased metabolism and protein keeps you feeling full for longer.


Other benefits of this nutrient-dense grain include a high iron, magnesium and calcium content. All of these minerals are very important in the diet and help boost energy levels, reduce headaches and migraines, lower the risk of hypertension, and increase bone health.


An additional upside of eating quinoa is that it is gluten free, so those individuals with celiac disease can consume this grain without any problem. 


Quinoa is also a quick and easy food to prepare and is available in most grocery stores. Before cooking the grain, it should be washed first to make sure any saponins (the protected outer layer) are removed because they can cause it to have a bitter taste.  To prepare it, take one cup of uncooked quinoa, combine it with two cups of water, allow it to boil, and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. When done, the seeds should be very white or almost translucent.  It can be served hot just like oatmeal or cold in a salad. Add nuts, berries, flax seed or veggies to it for a healthy and delicious dish. Enjoy!