Quinoa: A Rising Health Food Star


Have you made a New Year resolution to eat more consciously? It can be challenging to start eating healthy food. Part of this adventure may include incorporating new foods into your diet. If this is part of your healthy eating plan, you may want to check out the new superfood on the scene: quinoa.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is the seed of a plant called Chenopodium. Chenopodium is related to plants such as beets, chard, and spinach, and its greens can be eaten. However, it is its seeds that are fast gaining popularity and recognition for their health benefits.

Though a relatively recent introduction to North America, quinoa has long been cultivated by indigenous people living in the Andean Mountains of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. So what makes quinoa so great? Quinoa is an excellent source of nutrition. It contains all 8 essential amino acids, making it a rare example of a complete protein found in the plant world and a good choice for vegetarian and vegan diets. Quinoa is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid that is important for tissue growth and repair. The seed contains a good whack of the minerals magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorous. These minerals may help ease the symptoms of migraines, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Quinoa is a source of dietary fiber, which has been shown to reduce the risks of heart disease, colon cancer, and obesity. It is gluten-free and can be used in place of wheat, oats, and other grains. Quinoa is therefore a very good choice for those with celiac disease symptoms.

Quinoa can be found in many regular grocery stores, bulk food stores, at natural food stores. Though its beige and yellow varieties are most common, you can also find red quinoa, and pink, orange, and black colors of the seed. Its flavor has been described as “nutty,” with the seed itself having a creamy texture and its tail a slightly crunchy one when cooked. It is somewhat comparable to couscous or rice.

Quinoa is easy-to-cook and there are many quinoa recipes available such as salad recipes and for breakfast quinoa. When cooking with quinoa, it is best to wash the seeds well to remove the saponins that coat the seeds. It can be cooked in the same way as rice, (one-part grain to two-parts liquid) and there are even recipes for delicious-looking quinoa chocolate cake out there! Creativity and experimentation are what eating well is all about, and quinoa is one super-food you shouldn’t go without. Here’s to a healthy 2011!


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