Unless you have been sleeping under a rock for the past few years, you have probably heard the name of some exotic sounding grain being spoken about. No doubt a bit of debate about the correct pronunciation too, but I think we shouldn’t get too fussy about that – the goodness of this grain is not in the name!
I’m talking about Quinoa.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah if you’re really wanting to know) is an ancient South American seed (not a grain) that has been cultivated for over 5000 years. Quinoa was the secret of the Incas who were known for their endurance and ability to run messages at the top of the Andes, 3000ft above sea level. Most people struggle to sit and breathe at this level, but these people had no problem running everyday marathons – this seed with its many health benefits, was their secret.
You see, once the Incans discovered the nutritional power of quinoa, they named it the ‘Mother Grain’ and made offerings of quinoa in gold vessels to the Sun God. There are over 1800 varieties of the seed which comes in yellow, red, green, tan, and black husks.
It’s naturally gluten free (yay!) and is labelled a superfood because it is one of the few food sources of a ‘complete protein.’ This means that quinoa contains all nine of the essential amino acids which means you’re giving your body all of the nine key building blocks for making protein..
So it really is kind of super.
Being high protein, it makes for a perfect food for controlling blood sugar levels, important for people with diabetes or insulin sensitivity especially. This is good news for everyone however because balancing blood sugar levels is important for anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits on the body too.
It’s a highly nutritional food with low calorie density – the best of both worlds! Some of the nutrients that quinoa contains are –
- iron – important for carrying oxygen around the body and then production of energy
- magnesium – required for the function and growth of all cells particularly nerve and muscle health
- manganese – powerful antioxidant that helps to slow down the aging process by destroying free radicals
- calcium – healthy nerve function and bone health
- folate and other B Vitamins – energy production, nerve health, metabolism, reducing migraines, health of the good bacteria in the tummy
- high in both soluble and insoluble fibre – blood sugar balance + keeping our digestive system moving and well fed 🙂
Quinoa is a tenacious grain that grows well even in drought. It also has the added bonus of never having been genetically modified or hybridized too. Traditionally, it is rarely grown inorganically because the seed is coated in a natural pesticide called saponin. This soapy like substance protects the crop from birds, but is often pre-rinsed before packaging.
It’s always best to rinse quinoa 3 times before cooking to remove the bitter like coating. It’s not poisonous for you but does affect the flavour after cooking.
So how do I enjoy Quinoa? Well, the question is how don’t I use quinoa because it’s a staple in my kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and anything in between –
Quinoa Porridge/pudding – quinoa grain or quinoa flakes make good porridge, make a big batch with coconut milk or almond milk
Quinoa Fried rice – quick and easy, add veggies to quinoa some Tamari and sesame seeds + protein of choice
Quinoa Salad – warm salad with spinach and veggies and a dressing of lemon juice and tahini
Quinoa Stuffing – for meats or capsicums, throw in any flavours you like and quinoa absorbs them!
Simple cooked quinoa in chicken stock for extra flavour or just as is with coconut oil and pink salt -yum!
Macro bowl – quinoa in the middle, add various steamed greens + cooked vegies on the side for simple meal
Quinoa in Baking – cookies, brownies, muffins, breakfast bars and more cookies– endless possibility!
Quinoa Crumble – it makes a wonderful crumble topping with almond meal and maple syrup!
Quinoa Macaroons – yes, simple and easy!
To keep up with the world demand of this South American import, farmers in Australia have been producing Australian quinoa with great results. I like knowing that I can buy food that was grown closer to home, not imported across the world and diminishing the ability for local Peruvians or Bolivians to be enjoying their own produce.
Due to its rising popularity, most supermarkets like Coles or Woolworths stock the seed in the health food aisle and also in quick cooking varieties often mixed with brown or wild rice. Commonly, it comes in white, black or red varieties or a mixture of them all which I think is quite festive!
One of my favourites is the Olive Green Organics range, which includes their Andean Grains Mix – a multi-tonal quinoa mix with Amaranth, another South American superfood pseudo-grain. This will be on my family Christmas table for sure!