When you think about nutritious foods, you realize pretty quickly that there’s an abundance available to us. Good thing, because providing your body with the nutrition it needs requires a diverse diet.
Still, we’d like to draw your attention to one particular food that you may have heard of but not yet tried: quinoa. It’s super nutritious, has impressive biodiversity, and plays a critical role in food security worldwide.
An important crop during Inca Empire, quinoa was called it “the mother of all grains” and believed to be sacred. Yet for thousands of years, quinoa was only known in South America.
The Andean people didn’t know of its nutrition. They didn’t need to. The story of its origin implied it was special.
While many who are familiar with quinoa think of it as a grain, it’s actually a pseudo-grain – a grain crop grown for its seed. We eat the seeds. Like other seeds, it has a fat content that provides monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid. It also contains a small amount of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.
While fats can oxidize, studies show quinoa doesn’t oxidize quickly. Nor does boiling, simmering or steaming it seem to have a significant effect on its fatty acids. This means, cooked, quinoa still offers nutritive value. Researchers think this oxidative protection may come thanks to the diverse array of antioxidants found in quinoa – the alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherols and flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol that ensure oxidative protection.
Studies also indicate that quinoa contains anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Animal studies have shown a decreased risk of inflammation issues when animals are fed quinoa on a regular basis.
No matter what color – beige, red, black or tricolor – quinoa is a very good source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids. It offers high levels of manganese and is a good source of iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate and zinc. It’s easy to digest, and since it is not in the wheat, oat, barley or rye plant families, it’s gluten free and not known to be highly allergenic.
To get all the benefits quinoa has to offer, all you have to do is eat it. These recipes will get you off to a good start.
Andean Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Food and Wine
You can make this salad four hours ahead of serving.
- 1 c. quinoa
- 2 c. water
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 3/4 c. finely diced bell peppers, preferably a mix of colors
- 1/2 medium cucumber—peeled, seeded, and finely diced
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped mint
- 1 tbsp. minced jalapeño
- 1 scallion, minced
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- In a medium bowl, rinse the quinoa under cold running water for 2 minutes; drain.
- Transfer the quinoa to a medium saucepan, add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender – about 17 minutes. Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet and let cool completely.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the oil and lime juice. Add the bell peppers, cucumber, mint, jalapeño, scallion and quinoa. Toss. Season the salad with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Makes about 4 half cup servings
Egg-Topped Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
Adapted from Cooking Light
Packed full of healthy fats and protein, this is a great way to start your day!
- 1 oz. finely chopped bacon
- 1 bunch kale, thinly sliced (about 5 oz.)
- 1/2 c. halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 c. cooked quinoa
- 1/3 c. sliced avocado
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add bacon to pan and cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add kale; and cook 2 minutes or until kale wilts. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, and salt. Remove from heat.
- Divide quinoa evenly between 2 bowls and top evenly with the kale mixture. Arrange avocado slices next to the kale.
- Wipe pan dry with a paper towel and return to medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Crack eggs, 1 at a time, into pan and cook 2 minutes. Cover and cook 1 minute or until whites are set. Top each bowl with an egg. Sprinkle evenly with pepper and hot sauce, if desired.
Makes 2 servings
Broccoli-Quinoa Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit
A creative take on a salad, it can be dressed with any fresh herbs you have on hand.
- 3/4 c. buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. (or more) fine sea salt
- 1 c. white, red, or black quinoa
- 1/2 c. coarsely chopped parsley
- 1/4 c. coarsely chopped tarragon
- 1/4 c. coarsely chopped pistachios
Dressing (can be prepared up to 5 days ahead)
- Whisk buttermilk, olive oil, vegetable oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, rice vinegar, pepper, and sea salt in a medium bowl. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
- Cover and chill.
- Rinse quinoa under running water for two minutes; drain and set aside.
- Stir together shallot and 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk dressing in a small bowl and set aside.
- Cook broccoli in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Drain and place on a kitchen towel–lined baking sheet.
- Return water in pot to a boil and cook quinoa until slightly al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, then toss quinoa and 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk dressing in a large bowl to coat. Season with salt and let cool.
- Add dressed shallot, broccoli, parsley, tarragon, pistachios, and 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk dressing to quinoa and toss to combine. Add salt/pepper to taste.
Makes 4 servings.