These days, quinoa seems to be all the rage in the food industry. There are countless varieties lining the shelves in grocery stores, and restaurants are adding this nutrient dense whole grain to their menus. Quinoa has been labeled a super-food by many nutritionists and dieticians, and reasonably so. Quinoa is a great addition to any healthy diet, and is a great substitution for starchy grains like rice and pasta.
This ancient grain boasts numerous health benefits. First, quinoa is one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids. In addition, quinoa contains a high ratio of protein to carbohydrates due to the fact that the germ makes up 60% of the grain. Another appealing trait of quinoa is that it is gluten free, which makes it a great option for anyone with a gluten sensitivity.
In a study aimed at measuring how satisfying quinoa is compared to rice, researchers at the University of Milan found that quinoa has a higher Satiating Efficiency Index than white or wheat rice. Participants reported that they felt more full after eating quinoa than they did after eating rice. This is probably due to the fact that quinoa contains twice as much fibre than other grains. So, quinoa is a great way to satisfy your hunger and keep you feeling full throughout the day.
The high vitamin and mineral content in quinoa also contributes to its super-food classification. Quinoa is high in iron, which helps to increase brain function and boost the energy metabolism. For those who suffer from migraines, quinoa may be able to help, as it is a rich source of magnesium. Riboflavin, or B2 is also found in quinoa, which helps to improve energy metabolism and facilitate proper energy production in cells.
So, how do you prepare quinoa? First, you have to choose from the many varieties at the store! I usually purchase white or red quinoa. When you are ready to make your quinoa, always be sure to rinse it thoroughly before cooking. To cook, use a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa. The package usually recommends 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. This makes about 3 cups of cooked quinoa. If you want a smaller portion, use 1 cup of water and 1/2 a cup of quinoa. Any leftovers will store great in the fridge for about a week!
Just like rice and pasta, flavour needs to be added to quinoa. This can be done a few ways. First, you might want to cook the quinoa in chicken or vegetable broth. Try using 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of water. Or, you could add a tablespoon or two of olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process along with the water. I like to make my quinoa with water, add a little oil, and sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper. I bring everything to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid, and is light and fluffy. This will usually take about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it!
Now you are ready to start experimenting with your quinoa! Add some fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley. Steam and chop some vegetables such as zucchini, mushrooms, or carrots, and mix them in at the end. The possibilities are endless when it comes to quinoa, and this is just the tip of the iceberg!