What is Quinoa – Information on this Gluten-Free Food

vegetable salad

The ancient seed quinoa, pronounced [KEEN-wa] is popping up in more and more restaurants and grocery stores in America. It has the feeling of being something new and fresh, which is quite a compliment for a grain whose humble beginnings date back nearly 6000 years.

Where Quinoa Originated

Deep in the Andes mountains of South America, the Incas cultivated this seed and considered it the “mother of all grains.” As of 2005, the countries with the highest production rate of Quinoa are Peru, Bolivia and Equador, respectively.* It is relatively easy to grow and can withstand various altitudes, which makes this an excellent crop in the more mountainous regions of South America.

The Nutritional Value of Quinoa

Over all, quinoa is packed with nutrients. It is what is considered a complete protein, meaning that it has an excellent proportion of all nine essential amino acids that are key to human nutritional function and nutrition.

One serving (100g) of quinoa has 14 g of protein, 7 g of fiber and a powerful pack of essential B vitamins and iron. The combination of fiber and protein gives quinoa excellent sticking power, so it helps sustain the feeling of being full for a longer period of time.

Quinoa is also gluten-free, which makes it a fabulous addition for those who are unable to eat certain grains due to dietary choices and/or restrictions.

How to Use Quinoa

This seed can easily be incorporated into the standard North American diet, thereby making it an easy choice when looking for ways to increase nutrition with minimal shock to the Western palate. It can be easily made into a nutritious salad, or used in place of rice as a quick and easy side to any meal. Cooking directions are very similar to that of rice, making it even more simple to transition it into the rotation.

Easy Cooking Directions for Quinoa

Quinoa requires the same ratio of grain to water as rice, so when cooking prepare:

  • One cup quinoa
  • Two cups water
  • Simmer gently for 14-18 minutes.

Note: be sure to rinse or soak the quinoa prior to cooking. It is coated with saponins, and rinsing helps to remove this soapy, protective outer chemical. Most boxes of commercial quinoa has already been rinsed, but another dousing in a fine mesh sieve won’t hurt. Removing the saponins actually helps to aid in digestion, and reduces the laxative-inducing effects of this outer chemical layer.

Once cooked, fork through gently and notice the tiny sprouted curls of the cooked seed. They will gently pop in the mouth, adding a wonderful texture to meals and salads.

Quinoa may seem fresh and new to the Western diet, but it has been a part of many South Americans’ diet for thousands of years. It’s becoming more and more accessible to those all over the world, and thereby offering a wonderful addition to a healthy and vibrant diet.