Quinoa is a “superfood” that everyone seems to be talking about. It’s a rare find in the grain world because of its nutrient content. It’s loaded with proteins that are essential for our diets, it’s gluten-free, versatile, and super easy to make. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from trying this amazing food. It can take the place of rice in any dish, can be made for sweet or savory dishes, and it’s Celiac-friendly to boot. Let’s take a look at all the benefits that quinoa has to offer.
Quinoa is technically not a grain, but a pseudo cereal; meaning it’s a non-grass, whereas all other cereals are made from a grass. It’s one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein, this means that it contains every essential amino acid that your body needs. Amino acids (AAs) are building blocks for muscle creation and facilitate brain function and blood flow, so it’s important to have enough of these to go around! There are two types of AAs; essential and nonessential. Most protein foods have many essential amino acids, but it’s unlikely they’ll contain every one. I could go into detail about the differences between essential and nonessential amino acids, but all you need to know is that essential amino acids cannot be created by our bodies so we need to eat them in our diets. Nonessential amino acids are made by our bodies so they're not as crucial to include in our diet. Quinoa is so highly recommended due to its protein content. It contains every essential amino acid that we require in our diet, and it tastes good too.
Just one cup of cooked quinoa, has about 8 grams of protein, which is awesome for a grain! Your average brown rice has 5g protein per 1 cup cooked. Although 3 grams difference may not seem like much, quinoas the front runner AND it contains every AA you’ll need in your diet. This is especially important for vegetarians, as they need good sources of non-animal proteins. Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free food, so it’s a great choice for those who are gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease. Everywhere you look, research shows that quinoa helps reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease, among other diseases. The reasoning behind all this is if you incorporate quinoa into your diet, you’re more likely to incorporate even more healthy foods into your diet. If you try quinoa, the chance that you’ll try another healthy food is pretty good. This being said, you have to start somewhere right? Why not quinoa?!
The versatility of quinoa is another reason why it’s so prevalent; it can be combined with both sweet and salty dishes. Let’s start from the beginning where I mentioned that it’s a “pseudo cereal”, cereal being the key word. Many people have used quinoa to make oatmeal instead of instant oats which are loaded with sodium. It’s delicious with some skim or vanilla soy milk, brown sugar, and fresh fruit. Try out my Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa Oatmeal Recipe! On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s amazing in spicy, crunchy, salty dishes as well, like my Cheddar-Garlic Quinoa Cakes. I’ve used it to make chicken parmesan using the quinoa instead of bread crumbs, as well as some of the tasty recipes on my blog! Another hint to boost the flavor of quinoa is to cook it in a chicken, vegetable, or beef broth instead of water. This will infuse the grain with the taste of the broth. Another great time saver tip: make it ahead of time! You can always cook a big batch of quinoa for the entire week, and use as you please. This will make the “task” of eating healthy just that much easier.
So there you have it! That’s a quick little snapshot of what this healthy food “Quinoa” is all about. It truly is just as easy to make as rice is. Just one cup of uncooked quinoa to 2 cups of water is the standard ratio, which is the same as rice. So instead of going for that white rice because it’s just a bit cheaper, try something different and play around with quinoa! You just never know until you try, and there’s only one way to find out. Live a little and broaden those palates!