What is Quinoa?

With so much talk about avoiding carbohydrates these days, it would be easy to overlook quinoa.

But, that would be a mistake… a big one!

For those of you who are wondering, it’s pronounced “KEEN-wah“.

If you’re looking for a highly nutritious carbohydrate, that’s not only going to help you stay lean, but will also maximize your energy levels, look no further… quinoa really does have it all! 

So, what does quinoa taste like?

The taste and texture of quinoa is a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal. It’s fluffy, creamy, crunchy and somewhat nutty, all rolled into one.

The great thing is, it can be prepared in so many different ways, making it extremely versatile.

Quinoa is commonly thought of as a grain, probably because of how we use it, however it’s actually a relative of leafy green vegetables, like spinach and Swiss chard.

Nutritional qualities

A cup of quinoa will give you around 127 calories, 2 grams of fat, 23.4 grams of carbohydrates (2 of those being fibre), and 4.5 grams of protein.

In fact, it has a pretty similar nutritional profile to that of brown rice, except it’s slightly higher in overall protein content.

So, qunioa is a really great option if you’re trying to maintain an active lifestyle.

4 health benefits of quinoa

1. Complete source of protein
Unlike most grains, which contain an incomplete source of protein (you need to pair them with another food to make the meal complete), quinoa provides the full spectrum of nine essential amino acids.

So, it’s a really great choice, particularly if you’re a vegetarian or vegan.

2. Great for cardiovascular health
Quinoa is especially high in is magnesium, which is important for maintaining good cardiovascular health.

Magnesium helps to relax the blood vessels, reducing the rates of hypertension, heart disease, or heart arrhythmias.

3. Provides antioxidant support
Regular intake of antioxidants is so important for warding off the damaging effects of free radicals, which we encounter on a daily basis.

Quinoa does a wonderful job of boosting your antioxidant levels — being high in both manganese and copper, which help to promote a healthy immune system, and ensure that red blood cells remain in top condition.

4. Reduces the risk of gallstones
Since quinoa is high in fibre, it helps keep the digestive system running smoothly, and can also help reduce your chance of getting gallstones.

A study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, found that those eating foods mostly rich in insoluble fibre, had a 17% lower risk of getting gallstones.

So, if you love your carbs, but would really like to find a healthier option to plain old white pasta or rice, quinoa is a great substitute for those higher-carb foods.

So, now that you know how great quinoa is — you’ve dashed down to the shops to buy some — what do you do with it? 

How to cook quinoa

  • Wash the seeds in cold, running water to remove any residue.
  • To cook, add one part quinoa to a saucepan, with two parts liquid.
  • Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer covered.
  • One cup of quinoa normally takes 15 minutes to prepare.
  • You’ll know it’s ready when the grains become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself.

Here are some tips for using quinoa

#1 Eat as breakfast porridge — just add nuts and fruit when cooked.

#2 Add quinoa to your favourite soups, stir-fry or casseroles.

#3 Combine cooked, chilled quinoa with chickpeas, roasted red pepper, scallions and coriander.

#4 Use sprouted quinoa in salads and sandwiches — similar to alfalfa sprouts.

#5 Ground quinoa flour can be added to cookie or muffin recipes.

#6 If you’re after a wheat-free option, make a tabouli salad using quinoa (rather than bulgar wheat).

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