There is an abundance of new “superfoods” being introduced to the food industry, some with extrapolated health benefits. One that is popular and has many great health benefits is quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”, not “quin-oh-ah”). But what is quinoa, where does it come from, and most importantly, what are the benefits?
Quinoa has been grown and used in South America for thousands of years, and was a dietary staple of the Incans. It has gained worldwide popularity over the last 10 years and now is used across the globe. It is actually not a grain: it is from the same family as beetroot and spinach. It contains double the protein amount of rice (14%), and is reasonably low fat (6% total, and <1% saturated fat). There are a red, white, and tri-colour varieties.
It is a wheat-free, low allergen, and because it is a seed, it is safe to be consumed by those with Coeliac disease (check the package for potential gluten contamination).
Quinoa does have a nutty flavour, and when cooking, opens up to reveal what looks like a small tail. It is slightly bitter when cooked, and maintains some crunch. It is a very good source of calcium, magnesium, and manganese, and contains good amounts of dietary fibre, B vitamins, and vitamin E. Quinoa also has anti-inflammatory properties, and has heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it great for overall health.
Quinoa is a low GI carbohydrate, meaning it provides long lasting energy and can help regulate blood glucose levels. It is also a complete protein, and contains all 9 of the essential amino acids, which makes it a great protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
The coating on the quinoa (responsible for the bitter flavour) create a foam when being boiled. To stop this foam from forming, rinse them thoroughly with cold water in a strainer before cooking. Quinoa increase in size when cooked, and can be cooked like rice.
Quinoa can be flavoured using herbs and spices and can be served with main meals like a potato or pasta, mixed through meals such as salads to create a wonderful texture, can be made into a stuffing style mix for meat and vegetables (think stuffed capsicums), and can be made into desserts such as puddings if you are feeling up to it. Knowing how to cook it is an important starting point.
Cooking directions for 4 servings.
Serve size – ½ cup
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water or low sodium stock
1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly before use
2. Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan.
3. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Fluff with a fork, and the quinoa is ready to eat.
For more ideas on how to cook and use quinoa in recipes, feel free to contact us.