Quinoa (pronounced KEEN - wah) has become a hot commodity the past few months according to a National Restaurant Association survey.
What is quinoa?
Quinoa is not technically a grain, but the seed of a large plant called Chenoposium quinoa or Goosefoot plant. Quinoa is available in many colors (ivory, pink, red, white, brown, black) and forms (grains, flakes, cereals, pastas).
From a health perspective, quinoa is unique because it is a plant that supplies essential amino acids and can be classified as a "complete protein". Most plant proteins are incomplete and must be paired (such as red beans with rice) to form a complete protein. The USDA Nutrition Data gives quinoa a protein score of 106. A protein score greater than 100 indicates a complete or high quality protein.
A 1 cup serving of cooked quinoa provides:
4 grams of fat
8 grams of protein
5 grams of fiber
13 milligrams of sodium
The low sodium content makes it an ideal meal addition if you struggle with high blood pressure and the low fat, high fiber makes it a great tool to promote a lower cholesterol level.
Quinoa provides calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, and several B vitamins.
How to add quinoa to foods
Wash the quinoa seeds prior to cooking to remove a bitter resin-like coating called saponin. The saponin will produce soapy looking "suds: when you rinse the seeds.
There are many options for adding quinoa to your diet. Here are just a few: You
can add cooked quinoa to casseroles, soups, and stews. Seeds typically cook in ~15 minutes. You can use quinoa in dishes as you would barley or brown rice. Toast the quinoa seeds on a pan in the oven or "sprout" the quinoa seeds and eat raw as a snack or in salads.
Due to the oil in quinoa, it should be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator and used within 3 months.
Also, for those dealing with a gluten-intolerance, quinoa is a great option because it is gluten free.