It’s a tiny seed that fits on top of a pin and looks more like birdseed than a healthy dinner, but this ancient Incan staple is no Plain Jane: it’s a protein-packed superfood. Read on to find out why.
With a mild, nutty flavor and a texture similar to that of couscous or rice, quinoa (seriously, it's pronounced KEEN-wa.) is actually related to leafy green vegetables like kale and Swiss chard. But leafy greens lack the dense protein content of the quinoa seed, and it’s this unique nutritional makeup that makes it so special.
First and foremost, quinoa is one of the only grains or seeds that provide the nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce themselves . Quinoa is most noted for its large amount of lysine, the amino acid most directly responsible for tissue growth and repair. A one-cup serving holds 442 mg of lysine— or about 5% of your daily-recommended intake. The seeds are also very high in fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Sound good so far.... right?
FUN FACT: The year 2013 was actually called "The International Year of Quinoa" by the United Nations due to its rise in popularity!
There are three main types of quinoa:
White Quinoa – This is the most widely sold variety of quinoa, and takes the least amount of time to cook.
Red Quinoa – Because it doesn’t easily lose its shape, cooks prefer using this type of quinoa in cold salads or other recipes where the texture of a distinct grain is preferred.
Black Quinoa – The taste of black quinoa is more different than the white and red varieties, with an earthy, sweet flavor profile. It takes the longest to cook, needing about 15–20 minutes to be completely done.
But what are the health benefits of this magical seed?
Quinoa is very easy to cook, just cover it with water or vegetable broth and simmer it over medium heat until soft, about 15 minutes, giving it a couple quick stirs. You can also buy it pre-cooked in most supermarkets.
Give the following recipes a try, and I know you will love Quinoa as much as me!