Quinoa comes from Peru, Bolivia and Chile. It grows in the Andes Mountains, and for millennia it has been a food staple for the native people there. According to a field crops article by the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota, quinoa means "mother grain" in the Incan language.
Now touted as a modern-day “superfood,” quinoa has gained a worldwide reputation as a healthier substitute for white rice and pasta and a rare plant source of complete protein for vegetarians and vegans.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa acts like a whole grain, but it is actually a seed from a weed-like plant called goosefoot, which is closely related to beets and spinach. Whole grain quinoa can be prepared like brown rice or barley, and you can also purchase quinoa flour and quinoa flakes. In any form, it's among the more expensive of the whole grains.
How to cook Quinoa
To prepare quinoa, cover it with seasoned water, stock, or vegetable broth, bring it to a boil, then put a tight-fitting lid on the pot, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer it until it softens, about 15 minutes; look for the tiny spirals of the germ to appear, a sign that it's done. Drain it with a fine mesh sieve, return it to the warm pot to rest for about 10 minutes, and then fluff it with a fork to separate the grains. Or use your rice cooker, with a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water.
You should rinse quinoa before cooking it to remove the outer coating, called saponin, which can leave a bitter and soapy taste. Some brands do this before packaging their quinoa, but it's a good idea to do it again at home just to make sure you've washed it all away. You'll need a fine mesh sieve so you don't lose the tiny seeds down the drain.
Use quinoa in just about any recipe calling for rice or another whole grain, such as rice salads, couscous recipes, or pilafs. If you keep some cooked quinoa on hand in either the fridge or freezer, you are always ready to toss it into any dish for added texture, body, and nutrition.
What are the nutritional facts for Quinoa?
Overall, quinoa has an incredible nutrition base. Compared with refined grains, whole grains like quinoa are considered better sources of fiber, protein, B vitamins, and iron, according to the Mayo Clinic. But aside from these key nutrients, one of the greatest nutrient profiles quinoa can offer is its level of protein.
Because protein makes up 15 percent of the grain, as reported by the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council, quinoa is a high-protein, low-fat grain option. It’s also naturally gluten free, high in fiber, and provides many key vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B and magnesium, lists the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate guidelines. Because it is so nutrient-rich, quinoa is a wonderful choice for people on a gluten-free diet or any generally healthy diet.
According to the nutrition facts stated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 cup of cooked quinoa amounts to:
222 calories 39 grams of carbs 8g of protein 6g of fat 5g of fiber 1g of sugar