In our family, we are keen on quinoa. It has quickly become our new staple.
Quinoa’s high protein content makes it a good option in place of rice and other high-carbohydrate, low-protein grains, especially for people with diabetes. Quinoa contains heart-healthy fats that can help boost your “good cholesterol.” It is filling and packs a nutritious punch in a small amount. This makes quinoa the perfect food to celebrate American Heart Month.
Not only is it rich in nutrition, quinoa is also easy to make, versatile, colorful, and has a kid-approved texture. My kids call quinoa “baby popcorn” because it pops in the mouth.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa ( pronounced KEEN-wah) is an ancient grain that originated in South America. It is a 7,000 year old plant grown as a grain crop so we can eat the edible seeds. Since quinoa is technically a seed, it does not contain gluten.
There are three types of quinoa – white, red, and black. There are slight differences in flavor, with the black quinoa be having the strongest taste and needing the most time to cook (about 15-20 minutes.)
One of the biggest benefits of quinoa over any refined grains is that it is a complete protein. A complete protein contains all 20 amino acids, including the ten essential amino acids we can’t make on own own. Since these amino acids are “essential,” we really need to find food sources to supplement.
In 1 cup of cooked quinoa there are 220 calories, 5 g of fiber, and 8 g of protein. One cup also provides approximately 20% of the iron and phosphorus needed daily.
1) Heart health: quinoa has a good source of fiber and healthy fats. 25% of the fat that is found in quinoa is a healthy, mono unsaturated fat and 8% is an omega-3 fat which has shown to decrease the risk of heart attack.
2) Anti-cancer: Rich in antioxidants, quinoa has been shown to reverse oxidative damage. Specifically, quercetin has been shown in some studies to slow the growth of lung cancer.
3) Weight loss: If you compare quinoa to refined grains, quinoa will leave you feeling fuller, longer. That’s because it has a higher amount of fiber and protein. Just to compare: quinoa has 8 g of protein per cooked cup, which is 3 g more than brown rice, and 4 g more than white rice. There’s 5 g of fiber in quinoa versus 0.5 g of fiber in white rice.
4) Gluten free: The seed is free of gluten, but rich in nutrition. Which makes for a nice alternative to wheat, barley, and rye. Since quinoa is primarily eaten whole, chances are you are getting more nutrition than a processed, gluten free product.
Quinoa is easy to prepare and quite versatile. It can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. To enhance flavor, you can try toasting it before cooking. I usually cook quinoa in a vegetable or chicken broth. Try rinsing the quinoa well to wash off the outer coating (saponin) as it can be bitter.
Black beans and Quinoa
This side became a regular in our rotation for dinners. Quick, easy and healthy!
- 1 Tsp Canola oil
- 1 Tsp Garlic Chopped
- 2 Cups Vegetable broth
- 1 Cup Quinoa
- 1 Cup Frozen corn kernels
- 1 Can Black beans 15-ounce, Rinsed and drained
- 1 Tsp Cumin
- Salt, pepper To taste
- Cilantro Garnish
Add on a oil to pan. Sauté garlic until slightly brown.
Add broth, quinoa, and cumin to the pan. Bring to a boil. Then cover pan and reduce heat until the broth is cooked off and quinoa is tender.
Add frozen corn and continue to heat through. Once corn is cooked (about five minutes) add black beans and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro.
Celebrate Heart Health Month with quinoa!