Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is a nutritional powerhouse with ancient origins. It was originally cultivated by the Incas more than 5,000 years ago; they referred to it as the “mother of all grains.” It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a great source of protein for vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in magnesium, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, manganese, riboflavin and zinc.
While quinoa is widely considered a grain, it’s actually the seed of a plant called Chenopodium or Goosefoot, related to chard and spinach. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain and has a similar effect as other whole grains in helping to stabilize blood sugar.
It has a waxy protective coating called saponin which can leave a bitter taste. For best results, rinse quinoa before you cook it or even soak it for a few hours or overnight. When cooked, it has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture. Try it in soups, salads, as a breakfast porridge or as its own side dish.
For quinoa, and whole grains in general, the majority of digestion occurs in the mouth through chewing and exposure to saliva. For optimal nutrition and assimilation, it is vital to chew your grains well and with awareness. A great meditation is to find a calm place, without distractions, to sit down for your meal. Make it a habit to chew each bite 20 times or more. See how this simple practice can help your digestion and overall focus for the rest of your day.
Recipe of the Month: Quinoa Pilaf
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 1/4 cups water or stock
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- pinch of salt
- Rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer until water runs clear.
- Boil the water and add quinoa and salt, cover and reduce heat.
- After 15 minutes add cranberries and walnuts to top; do not stir.
- Cook 5 minutes more, until all the liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from heat, add parsley and fluff with fork, cover and let sit for 3-5 minutes and serve.
© 2010 Integrative Nutrition 5/10
Here are a few of my quinoa recipes for you to try as well: