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The United Nations designated 2013 as “International Year of the Quinoa” to raise awareness of the diverse benefits of this high-protein ingredient that provides vital nutrients. This ancient seed of the Andes is both gluten- and wheat-free, and provides a wonderful alternative for a more filling meal with diverse flavor. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, quinoa contains all eight essential amino acids not common in a diet free of animal products.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) can grace your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert table in a variety of tasty ways. Consider a warm porridge of quinoa topped with brown sugar and plump blueberries; poached salmon, lentils, and toasted quinoa salad; quinoa and butternut squash casserole; bean and quinoa burgers with spicy guacamole; quinoa peanut soup (otherwise known as Sopa de Mani, a Bolivian favorite), and almond butter-quinoa blondies.

Identification

Quinoa is a seed, not a grain, so you’ll find thousands of seeds in one package or bulk bin scoop. Each seed is only about the size of a head of a pin! But keep in mind, the seeds double in size once cooked, so looks can be deceiving. 



Expect to find packaged quinoa in red, tan, black, or off-white varieties on the grains shelf in your favorite grocery, or in a bulk bin aisle that features nuts, rice, and other dry goods.

Taste

The nutty, earthy flavor of quinoa may be an acquired taste for some, as typical white rice and potatoes are rather plain. Quinoa becomes fluffy when cooked, but maintains a bit of a crunch, which is why it’s the perfect flavor and texture to round out many recipes.

Availability

The majority of quinoa is imported from Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The seeds are widely available in major supermarkets and health food stores.

Season

Quinoa doesn’t have a particular selling season, especially the packaged varieties. It should be available on your grocer’s shelves all year long.

Selection

Quinoa seeds are available in a variety of types, including red, black, off-white, and tan. There’s not a great difference in taste, so color is a matter of personal preference.



Make sure the package or bulk-bin selections show no evidence of moisture, and that the seeds are loose, not clumped.

Organic Benefits

Quinoa grows naturally with a natural coating, saponin, that resists pests and reduces the need for chemical pesticides. Some may use pesticides in growing this grain but, generally speaking, there is no need to buy organic quinoa.

Storage

Packaged quinoa stays fresh in your cabinet for up to three months. If you purchase bulk bin quinoa, store it in an airtight container. You may also try keeping an airtight container of quinoa in the refrigerator for up to six months. 


Preparation

Rinse and rub quinoa seeds before cooking them to remove any residual natural coating. The coating, saponin, isn’t harmful, but it is often bitter and can affect the taste of your final dish. 



Often, packaged quinoa will feature cooking instructions, but if you’ve purchased quinoa from a bulk bin, use 2 cups liquid to 1 cup grain for cooking. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. 



You can enjoy the nutty flavor of quinoa in a number of recipes—from cold salads mixed with blanched vegetables and warm pilafs paired with roasted meats to a hot breakfast treat or as a base for rich soups. Check out our quinoa recipe!

Nutrition Summary

Manganese

The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.


Magnesium

Magnesium is responsible for promoting cardiovascular health, muscle contraction and relaxation, energy production, and proper bone formation. This essential nutrient may also be helpful in regulating healthy blood-sugar levels, decreasing the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.

Phosphorus

Provides structural support to DNA and RNA, works with calcium in the formation of tooth enamel and bone, helps to filter wastes out of the kidneys, and regulates energy. Phosphorus also plays an integral role in cardiovascular health and repairing cells and tissues throughout the body.

Copper

A mineral that plays a role in producing collagen and keeping the immune system in proper working order, copper is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts. Copper may also fight against free radicals, helping to delay the aging process. Energy production is also one of the many benefits of this important mineral.

Protein

Composed of amino acids (building blocks of protein), this essential nutrient aids in the healing of wounds and the growth of hair, skin, and nails; provides a substantial amount of energy and satiation; catalyzes metabolic reactions; and promotes a healthy hormonal and immune system response.

Health Benefits & Medical Claims

Quinoa is quite the superfood. If you’re looking for more plant-based protein sources, quinoa has a higher amount per serving than other grains. Quinoa is also a nutritionally dense grain, packed with a variety of important minerals such as magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. New research indicates that quinoa has anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, heart-healthy fat, and all eight essential amino acids.

Little Known Facts
  1. Quinoa is a native grain of the Andes Mountains region in South America, and dates back to 1,200 AD.
  2. In the Incan language, quinoa means “mother grain.” You may also see it referred to as Inca rice or vegetable caviar.
  3. Quinoa is not a wheat grain or cereal grass. It’s from the same root family as beets, Swiss chard, and spinach. Quinoa seeds are the most common product of the plant, but the leaves can be eaten as well.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.