A multipurpose food, quinoa is a tasty and nutritional grain packed with protein and fiber that is versatile enough to be enjoyed in the form of a cereal in the morning, a soup during the day and a filling salad at lunchtime.
Within just the last few years, quinoa – pronounced KEEN-wah has made big strides in its identity and popularity in the Western world, according to the Whole Grains Council. The grain has origins that date back nearly 5,000 years to the Bolivians of Lake Titicaca. It is believed that quinoa was sacred to the Incas, who called the grain “chisaya mama”, meaning mother of all grains. Each year, according to oral history, the Incan emperor would sow the first quinoa seeds in an elaborate ceremony.
However, during the mid-1500s, a Spanish explorer nearly caused the quinoa crop to become extinct, noted the source. In an effort to ruin the culture, Francisco Pizarro destroyed the fields cultivating the crop and only a few areas of wild quinoa at high altitudes would survive. It re-emerged in the Western world in the 1970s, though it wasn’t until the past decade that it really took off as a popular health food trend. According to the WGC , in 2010 quinoa was named as the best side dish by the National Restaurant Association in its annual chef survey.
Most notable was the “International Year Of Quinoa” launched in 2013 by United Nations leaders and the Andean communities of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The celebration was an effort to increase awareness of the crop’s nutritional value as well as to pay tribute to the cultural merit of a grain that has been grown traditionally for thousands of years, carried from one generation to the next. Today, quinoa is enjoyed nearly across the globe.
Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that has all nine essential amino acids, making it quite the anomaly among its grain counterparts, according to Authority Nutrition. Gluten-free and packed with protein, it’s also high in numerous antioxidants that are beneficial for the body.
One cup of cooked quinoa generally has 39 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat and 222 calories. Quinoa has several omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also high in iron, potassium, magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin E and phosphorus, making it the perfect whole grain to add to your healthy eating plan.
Quinoa health benefits even go beyond vitamins and minerals: It also contains high amounts of trace nutrients including flavonoids, according to the source. Plant antioxidants found to have various beneficial effects on health, the two flavonoids in quinoa are quercetin and kaempferol, which are good for the heart, according to Chef Anthony.
Depending on the variety you purchase, quinoa may have to be pre-soaked prior to cooking. The coating around quinoa seeds – intended to keep birds at bay – is naturally bitter, according to Reader’s Digest. To remove the coating, soak 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water for 5 to 10 minutes, until its coating has dissolved. Then drain and rinse the quinoa so that it is ready for cooking. If it was bought packaged however, it’s likely that this step has already been done for you.
“For the best quality and flavor, toasting the quinoa before adding liquid is great,” said Chef Anthony. “It brings out that ‘nuttiness’ in it which makes it more enjoyable and satisfying.”
Then, to cook this protein-packed grain, pour it into a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water over medium-high heat. Add any additional spices if desired. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, covering with a tight pot cover. Once finished, remove from heat and let it sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Before serving, fluff quinoa with a fork until it’s at the desired consistency.
One of the best things about this healthy grain is its versatility. With nutty, earthy and sometimes sweet flavors, it can be enjoyed as a side dish to accompany dinner, as part of breakfast or lunch and even as a tasty midday snack. It can serve as a healthier alternative to rice, used as a baking grain for more nutritious muffins and cookies or made into meatless stuffing and burgers. As part of your healthy eating plan quinoa can transform into a variety of tasty meals, protein bars and baked goods. When it comes to using quinoa in the kitchen, Chef Anthony has a few favorites.
“My favorite is adding it to my oatmeal, using it to stuff acorn squash or adding it in a white bean paella,” he said.
ARTICLE CREDIT: https://www.pritikin.com/quinoa-health-benefits-and-recipes