Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is one of those foods with a strange shroud of mystery around it. I’d like to dispel that mystery for those of you who aren’t already aware of how delicious, simple, and versatile an ingredient it is. But did you also know that it’s packed with health benefits? If you’ve yet to try quinoa or are curious of how to incorporate it more into your diet, consider these reasons why it should be the next super food you embrace, not only as a trend but for a lifetime.
1. Protein Powerhouse: Although it’s commonly found among other grains (like rice, barley, pasta, etc.) on store shelves, quinoa is actually a seed. This means that, like other nuts and legumes, it’s a complete protein that can be another meat alternative for vegans and vegetarians. According to the World Health Organization, quinoa has the same quality of protein as milk.
2. Gluten Free: For those with Celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities (or anyone trying to reduce gluten intake), quinoa is the perfect substitute for wheat-based grains and grain products. Fluffy and light, it doesn’t have the dense texture of some other GF products.
3. Headache Remedy: Riboflavin, magnesium, and vitamin B6, all of which are found in quinoa, are known to relieve headaches and migraines. Eating it regularly can also help prevent recurrent or chronic headaches.
4. Love Your Belly: Quinoa acts as a prebiotic, feeding the “good” flora in your GI tract– improving overall digestion.
5. Natural Healing: Cultivated and eaten by ancient civilizations for centuries, quinoa has natural healing properties for the inside (as above) and outside: saponins (chemicals with a foaming characteristic, found in many desert plants) that are in quinoa can soothe skin injuries.
Making quinoa is quick and easy: combine 1 cup of dry quinoa and 2-1/4 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, but keep the cover on the pot for 5 minutes to absorb the remaining water. Fluff with a fork and enjoy! Make a batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days; it also can be frozen and reheated for quick and easy meals.
Quinoa can be the star of any meal. Try these ideas for twists on old favorites.
Breakfast: Combine quinoa (warm or cold), soy milk (which adds more riboflavin, for those headache-y mornings), cinnamon, nutmeg, fresh fruit, and unsweetened coconut flakes for a new take on a quinoa bowl you might have for lunch or dinner.
Lunch: Tofu is classic vegan fare, and quinoa can add some crunch as an alternative to standard breadcrumbs. Toast cooked quinoa in the oven on a baking sheet at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs, and then use as you would traditional breadcrumbs.
To coat on tofu, mix 1 T. flax meal and 3 T. water (equivalent of 1 egg) with quinoa-crumbs until the mixture is moist. Dip slices of tofu in the mixture, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, flipping halfway through, or for 10 minutes under a broiler. Enjoy between slices of quinoa bread for a full quinoa experience, or cut into cubes to add to salads and vegetable stir-fries.
Dinner: This hearty quinoa burger will be the envy of your meat-eating friends.
Also by Jennifer: Crispy Herbed Gluten-free Croutons
Photo: Maurice Chedel; Jennifer Kurdyla; SodiumGirl.com; the Simple Veganista