Quinoa: The Unknown Superfood

quinoaIn recent times, people have become more aware that the best foods that nature provided are the most unlikely ones that have been found in the most exotic regions in the world.

You may have heard about health supplements based on the Spirulina algae, and now a type of grain from South America that was ignored by European conquerors is taking the spotlight as one of the world’s "superfoods."

What is quinoa?

Pronounced as "KEEN-wah," quinoa is a type of edible seed relative to the goosefoot and is grown as a crop. It is found in the Andean region of South America, consisting of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Although it is commonly found in the high altitudes, quinoa is generally undemanding as it grows best in well-drained soils. Quinoa has been an important food in the region even during the height of the Andean civilizations.

What are the benefits of quinoa?

Quinoa has been highly appreciated for its nutritional value, particularly because of its very high protein content for such small grains that wheat and rice do not have.

Quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids that humans need to function, making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. The crop also contains dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Quinoa is also gluten-free, making it easy to digest.

How to prepare quinoa?

Quinoa is distinct for its very nutty flavor, and is commonly cooked like rice or couscous, only quicker. Cooked quinoa has a light, fluffy texture, and can be used for making pilafs, risottos, salads, soups, and even desserts.

The first step in preparing quinoa is to soak the grains in water for several hours in order to remove the saponins, then rinsing them in running water using a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Note that boxed quinoa is usually pre-soaked.

Cook quinoa by boiling two cups of water for every one cup of grain, then cover at a low simmer (or use a rice cooker) for 14 to 18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed.

You can add vegetables and seasonings before serving, as well as substituting chicken stock for water. Quinoa can also be eaten like a breakfast cereal by mixing cooked quinoa with milk, honey, almonds, or berries.

Where to find quinoa?

You can find quinoa in the rice aisle or the health food section of your local grocery store. You can also purchase quinoa online if the nearby stores do not offer such.