Quinoa – Ancient Sacred Food, Modern Superfood

Dried Quinoa

Dried Quinoa

Quinoa is an ancient food that has been cultivated in the Andes mountains for at least 5,000 years. While it has been well-known in South America, it was virtually unheard of in North America until the 1980s. Considered sacred by the Incans, now it’s hailed as a ‘super food’, and has been classified as a ‘super crop’ by the United Nations because of it’s high protein content.

Pronounced KEEN-wah, quinoa is often thought of as a grain, and in fact it is often used in the same manner as many grains, but technically it’s a pseudocereal, a seed. The quinoa plant also produces nutritious edible greens as well as seeds, but the greens are not as commonly available as the seed. The seed can be cooked and used like you would rice, barley or couscous. It also comes as a flour, for baking, and can be sprouted.

Benefits of Quinoa

The amazing thing about quinoa is that it’s very high in protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids. Besides being 15-18% protein, quinoa is also high in calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins E and B, and contains a good amount of all-important fiber too.

Because of it’s high protein and complete amino acid makeup, quinoa should be considered a staple in any vegan’s or vegetarian’s diet, but you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy it. It’s so high in protein that only half a cup will fulfill a child’s protein requirements.. It’s extremely versatile, being used in both sweet and savory dishes, puffed, rolled, and ground into a flour. The real clincher though, is that it tastes great too.

Quinoa is high in saponins, which have been found to have anti-cancer properties. Saponins block the development of cancer and boost the immune system. Saponins, also found in chickpeas and responsible for the layer of foam that appears on the top of the water during boiling, produce a bitter taste. The taste discourages birds and insects from from eating the seed – it’s the plant’s natural defense. Despite their anti-cancer benefits, saponins can be mildly toxic in large quantities. Even though most quinoa sold commercially has been processed to remove most of the saponins, it’s a good idea to rinse well before cooking.

How do you cook quinoa?

Cooked Quinoa

Cooked Quinoa

Quinoa is easy to cook, and it takes only 15 minutes. You need 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of dried quinoa.

Put the quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse thoroughly under running water. Put 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water and a dash of sea salt into a saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat then turn down to simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. If there is excess water in the bottom of the saucepan, remove lid and continue to cook for another minute or so until it evaporates.

How To Use Quinoa

The cooked quinoa can now be used in savory dishes as you would use use rice or couscous. Added to bread dough or pancake batter it boosts the protein content and adds a nice texture. Or you could add dried fruit, honey, milk and cinnamon for a sweet breakfast porridge.

No matter how you use it you’ll find quinoa as delicious as it is nutritious.

Where To Buy Quinoa

You can Buy Organic Quinoa here for reasonable prices.

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DISCLAIMER: The statements enclosed herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information mentioned on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information and statements found here are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional.

13 Responses to “Quinoa – Ancient Sacred Food, Modern Superfood”

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  1. RhondaL says:

    I like quinoa but my husband despises it. He acted as if I were poisoning him when I served him some. But — if I could find some savory-flavored recipes, I might get away with it. He’s a more adventurous diner now than he was then (thank you, Tony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel.) Are there any savory recipes that use it?

    • @Rhonda yes, I can think of far more savory recipes using quinoa than I can sweet ones. To start off with here’s one which I’ve been meaning to post, and since you asked I’ll post lots more too. I’ll make up some recipes that hide the quinoa as well, you might have to start off that way if he’s really picky about it ;-). But for starters, here’s a nice Quinoa Salad.

  2. aran says:

    One of my all time favourite mountain foods – easy to prepare and cook, light to carry and full of energy -great!

    • @aran Great idea! I usually have pasta when I’m tramping, but quinoa would be even better. More protein, high fiber, more nutritious all around and you can use it for breakfast and dinner. It’s perfect!

  3. RhondaL says:

    Thanks for the recipe. And thanks for the smile — “hide the quinoa” sounds like a frisky game. ;) More fun than “food that’s good for you.” :)

    RhondaL’s last blog post..Review of “Equus” on Broadway

  4. Grace says:

    Quinoa–one of my favorites involves cooking it with nut milk (almond or hazelnut) instead of soy or milk, and adding about 2 cups of peaches with a little almond flavoring. When it’s done, sprinkle with ground flax. I sometimes make up a pot and keep it in the fridge to microwave in the morning when I want something quick for breakfast. G.

  5. Sheila says:

    I made quinoa stuffed peppers once that were awesome. I followed a recipe on a quinoa box, and I wish I had thought to cut the recipe out and keep it!

    Sheila’s last blog post..There’s more than one right way to solve a math problem

  6. Nick says:

    Oh quinoa is amazing! I only discovered it a few months ago but now I make it often as a rice replacement. I served it recently with a lime peppered chicken recipe:

    http://www.macheesmo.com/2008/12/lime-pepper-chicken-with-fresh-pico/

    I never knew the history of it though. Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Nick
    http://www.macheesmo.com

  7. Here’s another “Hide the Quinoa” recipe (thanks RhondaL it’s catchy, maybe I’ll make it a category ;-) hehe)… this time a slow cooker recipe for lentil soup. Try this one, I bet he’ll never even spot the quinoa… Slow Cooker Lentil Quinoa Stew

  8. I was delightfully surprised by how tasty quinoa is. Such an easy replacement for rice. Fabulous!
    .-= Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny´s last blog ..Are You Creative, Fun and Interesting? How to Stay Young – from the inside out =-.

  9. Thanks for this post. I found it really useful. I tried cooking quinoa before and it went sooooo wrong. I just chucked the rest of the packet in the bin!

    • Donna says:

      Oh what a shame you had such a bad first experience that you ended up chucking the rest in the bin! Quinoa is beautiful, and so healthy I hope my instructions produce a better batch for you.

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