Quinoa: A Versatile Superfood

Quinoa: A Versatile Superfood

 

Although quinoa has only recently made its mark on Americans’ plates, it has been around for thousands of years and originated in South America. While often coined as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed and is labeled a “pseudo-cereal.” Quinoa is often termed a superfood thanks to its nutrient-dense profile and ability to be used in practically any type of recipe. Read on for more facts on this delicious and nutritious food!

Quinoa and your health

Gluten free: It is important to note that quinoa is a gluten-free grain and is safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.

Complete protein: Quinoa also contains all essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein similar to meats and eggs. It is higher in protein content than the more common grain, rice, and potato varieties. This means quinoa makes for the perfect base for any vegetarian meal.

Manganese: ¾ cup (C) cooked quinoa contains 59% of the dietary reference intake (DRI) for manganese. Manganese is a mineral that plays a role in bone formation, collagen production, and is a co-factor in antioxidant formation.

Phosphorus: ¾ C cooked quinoa contains 40% of the DRI for phosphorus, which is a mineral that aides in basic cell functions and is required in calcium and bone metabolism.

Copper: ¾ C cooked quinoa contains 40% of the DRI for copper. Copper is a mineral that also plays a role in antioxidant and collagen production.

Nutritional content: ¼ C uncooked quinoa contains 180 calories, 2.5 grams (g) fat, 32 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, and 7 g protein.

1 C cooked quinoa contains approximately 220 calories, 4 g fat, 39 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, and 8 g protein.

Buying, prepping, and cooking

 

Buying: Quinoa can be bought in bulk in the bulk aisles of major grocery stores. You can save money by purchasing in bulk if you plan to use the grains within six months. Smaller packages can normally be found in the health food or specialty food aisles.

Rinsing: Rinse and rub uncooked quinoa together under running water to remove the outer coating of the grain. This outer coating is called saponin and can feel slightly soapy when rinsed. If this coating is not removed, cooked quinoa can have a bitter taste.

1 part grain: 2 parts liquid: This is the golden ratio for cooking quinoa. Water or broths are the most common liquids used to cook this grain.

Cooking: Bring the quinoa and chosen liquid to a boil and then reduce the heat. Let simmer until the grain appears somewhat translucent. 1 C of quinoa normally takes about 15 minutes to completely cook.

 

Storing: Uncooked quinoa is best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it can last up to six months. Cooked quinoa is generally good for 4-7 days, depending on the dish.

Quinoa flour: Quinoa flours can be mixed with other flours to produce a more nutritious final product. Playing around with the flour combinations and ratios is necessary since using all quinoa flour produces a very dense texture. ¼ C of quinoa flour contains 110 calories, 1.5 g fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, and 4 g protein, which provides more fiber and protein that traditional white flour. Quinoa flour can be purchased online at http://www.bobsredmill.com/organic-quinoa-flour.html.

 

Recipes: From meatballs to soups to salads, quinoa can be utilized in practically any recipe. Check out Cooking Light’s article on 27 Quinoa Recipes: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/cooking-with-quinoa.

 

References and recommended readings

McKenna E. How to Cook Quinoa. EatingWell website. http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101/kitchen_tips_techniques/how_to_cook_quinoa. Accessed Jauary 14, 2016.

Quinoa. World’s Healthiest Foods website. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=142. Accessed January 14, 2016.

Contributed by Alex Lewis, RD, LD

Review date: 12/28/15

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