Quinoa has been named the “Food of the Year” by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). They’ve also claimed 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa.”  Quinoa is touted and revered around the world for it’s super nutrient qualities, but is not a familiar food in the United States. In fact, Quinoa is a food on the forefront of food security and nutrition.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is a grain-like crop and pseudo-cereal. Quinoa is actually a  chenopod a member of the flowering plant family. This makes Quinoa a close relative of both spinach and beets, but with more a grain-like flavor since the seeds are the portion of the plant most consumed. Quinoa typically replaces rice or grains in recipes.

Nutritional Benefits

Quinoa is unique in that it retains most of it’s nutritional profile even after being boiled, steamed or cooked. This means the food does not have to be eaten raw to receive all the wonderful nutrients. Quinoa is unique in that it can be prepared like many grains without their shortcomings. Quinoa is commonly eaten in its seed form by being boiled or steamed; however, it can also be ground and used as a flour substitute. Unlike grains which are not complete protein sources, Quinoa is a complete protein and utilized my many vegetarians.

Quinoa is also a source of good fats. In fact, 25% of it’s fatty acid makeup is oleic acid which is considered a heart-healthy fat. Quinoa is high in calcium, unlike most grains. Quinoa offers twice as much calcium as whole wheat. Surprisingly, Quinoa also has a super antioxidant profile. Quercetin and kaempfero can be found in Quinoa in such high concentrations that Quinoa sometimes beats out high-flavonoid berries like cranberry.

Animal studies on Quinoa show that Quinoa may decrease bad cholesterol and maintain appropriate levels of  good cholestoral while lower chance of obesity. Quinoa may also have cancer-fighting capabilities and includes a number of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients including:

  • hydroxycinnamic acid
  • hydroxybenzoic acid
  • quercetin
  • arabinans
  • rhamnogalacturonans
  • kaempferol
  • oleanic acid
  • hederagenin
  • serjanic acid
  • omega-3 fatty acid
  • alpha-linolenic acid

Quinoa Recipes

Now that you know all the reasons to include Quinoa in your diet, here are a couple easy recipes to get you started.

Quinoa Omelette Bites

I recently tried this recipe from tablespoon and it is amazing. This makes for a perfect start to the day. The recipe includes a few simple ingredients: quinoa, cheese, egg, and spinach. The recipe is simple but the taste is phenomenal.

Quinoa Tabouli

This is a recipe I got off the back of one of my bags of Quinoa and it is a definitely must-try.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked Quinoa
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 a cucumber peeled and diced
  • 1 clove of garlic minced small
  • parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste (all dried or in flake form)

Directions:

Simply mix all the items together in a large bowl. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours for best results. Serve cold.

Have you tried Quinoa? What is your favorite recipe?