Quinoa: a nutritious alternative
Looking for an alternative to pasta or rice? Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an incredible alternative grain that has gained popularity across the country. Quinoa has been around for thousands of years, but is largely harvested in South America. Unlike other starches, Quinoa provides a large enough absorbable amount of protein for our body to use that it’s actually considered an equal to milk by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Quinoa is entirely gluten-free. Unlike many of its other grain-based counterparts, including wheat, oats, barley and rye, quinoa is an allergy-friendly food and easy to digest. What’s more, quinoa, often regarded as a “supergrain,” is packed full of nutrients and minerals, particularly vitamin B6, which can benefit those with fluid retention, depression and even eczema; manganese, which has been shown to reduce symptoms of PMS and counter the effects of osteoporosis; and iron, which can help counter anemia and stabilize energy levels.
Another fantastic benefit of quinoa is it’s lower on the glycemic index (GI), which means it can help to regulate your blood sugar levels better so you won’t feel a post-meal crash after eating. Unlike brown rice and whole wheat bread, both with a GI measurement of 50, quinoa’s GI measurement is a mere 35. This, by most standards, is considered low and an excellent source of carbohydrates for diabetics, those suffering from hypoglycemic or those who are watching their waistlines.
Did You Know?
Did you know that Quinoa was once called the “Gold of the Incas?” Although commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. This nutty-tasting seed contains all nine essential amino acids – which makes it a perfect protein! Quinoa is a healthy and tasty choice and is a great complement to just about any meal.
Cooked similar to that of rice or couscous, preparing nearly any dish takes just minutes. Even better, quinoa isn’t just for dinner. Enjoy this grain as you would oatmeal for breakfast, in a salad for lunch or a hot side with a little olive oil for dinner. Here’s a great summer salad that your whole family is sure to enjoy!
Quinoa and Your Health
Quinoa is a great source of manganese. It is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous, and contains a relatively good amount of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins.
More Health Benefits
Eating whole grains, such as quinoa, has been linked to protection against atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and even premature death. Quinoa also may be valuable for persons with migraine headaches. It is high in protein (12 – 18 percent), and supplies a “complete protein,” meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa’s amino acid profile is not only well-balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but also quinoa is filled with the amino acid lysine, which is necessary for tissue growth and repair. The 6 – 7 percent fat of quinoa is relatively high when compared to other grains, but it also has a low sodium content and provides valuable starch and fiber. Quinoa also contains albumen, a protein that is found in egg whites, blood serum, and many plant and animal tissues. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients. If you are prone to migraines, try adding quinoa to your diet. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines. Quinoa is also a good source of riboflavin, which is necessary for proper energy production within cells. Riboflavin (also called vitamin B2) has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers, most likely by improving the energy metabolism within their brain and muscle cells. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of whole grains is at least 3 servings daily.
Where to buy it
Quinoa is available in many grocery stores and health food stores. There are several varieties of quinoa which range in color from dark brown to near white. The larger whiter varieties are most common and are considered superior. Quinoa should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer if storage beyond a month is desired.
Calories in Quinoa
2oz: 200 calories
1 Cup of quinoa: 637 calories
1/4 Cup: 180 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 3 dietary points
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and drained
2 cups water or broth
¼ tsp salt
1 small onion, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped toasted almonds or ¼ cup sliced and chopped water chestnuts
Add quinoa to boiling water and salt; reduce heat then cover and simmer 15 minutes until water is absorbed. Sauté onion and pepper in butter; add to cooked quinoa; add almonds or water chestnuts just before serving.
Serves four. Enjoy!
By Traci Danielson Mitchell, Founder DM Nutrition & Fitness