We are being told to eat more whole grains. For many people, this means whole wheat, brown rice, and a question about what else qualifies as a whole grain. One answer to that question is quinoa.
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a grain that was widely used in South America before Columbus. Botanically, quinoa is a seed rather than a grain, but is used the same way as a grain. It is related to another ancient seed called amaranth and also to spinach and beets. It even comes in three colors, white, red, and black! The flavor of white quinoa when it is cooked is mild and it can replace oatmeal, rice, and couscous in many recipes. But the best thing about quinoa is its health benefits.
Quinoa is high in protein. It has a higher protein content than barley, oat, rice, and corn. It is complete protein, which means quinoa gives you the 10 essential amino acids needed for adult nutrition.
Quinoa is gluten-free. Despite all that protein, none is gluten, which means it is an excellent whole grain for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Quinoa contains 10% of your day's requirement for fiber, which you need for digestive health. Fiber makes you feel full, reduces cholesterol absorption, and reduces your risk and severity of gastrointestinal infection and inflammation.
Quinoa seed oil contains polyunsaturated fats with a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than other plant oils. Other essential fatty acids in quinoa contribute to brain development, insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, immunity, and membrane function.
Quinoa is rich in Vitamins A, B, C, and E. These vitamins play a role in metabolism, regulating cell growth and development, and improving vision.
Quinoa contains more minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc than rice, wheat and other cereals.
One interesting fact about quinoa is that the grains are coated with a substance similar to soap. This makes quinoa bitter tasting unless it has been washed. Almost all quinoa sold in the United States has already been processed, but wash it in a fine strainer and enjoy this healthful food.