How many of you have heard the buzz about quinoa? Pronounced "keen-wah," it is a powerful little pseudo-grain that cooks like rice, has a ton of protein and is completely gluten free. It has been grown in South America for the last 6,000 years and was considered sacred by the Incas.
Its nutritional content makes it almost a complete protein with 10 essential amino acids (unlike wheat or rice) plus it’s high in fiber, phosphorus, iron, calcium, B-vitamins, vitamin E, and magnesium. As it is much easier to digest than wheat, corn, and rice, many top athletes, physicians, nutritionists, and even NASA (the space folk) are taking notice.
When using quinoa it’s important to wash it thoroughly to remove the outer layer. Many pre-packaged quinoa companies have already done this for you so you can begin cooking right away. Very similar to rice, you prepare it using a 2 to 1 ratio of water to grain, bringing the water to a boil, adding in the quinoa, and then covering it and letting it simmer for 12-16 minutes. The germ separates from the seed giving it a curled look out of the round seed. In fact, it looks very similar to couscous but smaller.
If you’re looking to balance your blood sugar, stave off hypoglycemia, and lose weight, quinoa is high in protein and about a 35 on the glycemic index scale, and 18 on the glycemic load. Plus, it is an alkaline food which is really important to the health of your body. This is amazing!
Many people find the taste of quinoa "interesting" when they first try it because it’s slightly nutty flavored but I suggest you keep using it in different recipes that call for couscous, rice, corn, wheat or barley and you’ll grow to love it like I do. Consider using it as your high protein hot cereal in the morning with a few almonds and blueberries mixed in. Make a pasta salad substituting quinoa for traditional pasta for lunch, or add quinoa when making your soup. It’s a great side dish if you’re looking for a starch with your meat and vegetable for dinner as well.
If you’re looking to become healthier in 2011 and wanting to kick up your dietary choice with higher protein, fiber and nutrition then consider quinoa as an addition to your meals. You’ll be glad you did!