While this food is becoming more and more standard in the American diet, I still find that I run into people who at the very least, don’t know how to pronounce it. Quinoa. If you say it right, it makes you feel like you’re speaking French or something. Pronounced “KEEN-wa”, this little seed is often mistaken for a grain. It’d actually be considered a pseudo-grain or pseudo-cereal. This just means that is has a similar look and nutrient profile as other cereals and grains, but is actually related to the beets, chard and spinach family. The leaves of the quinoa plant can be eaten as well.
There are over 120 types of quinoa that we know about, but usually the yellow, red and black quinoa are the ones we purchase and use most frequently. Quinoa flakes and quinoa flour is also being produced and sold more readily these days as people look to other forms of nutrition without gluten. Plant-based diets are becoming more and more common place as we begin to understand the health benefits of eating this way. Quinoa is an excellent addition to a plant-based diet or any diet for that matter as it’s one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids in a healthy balance. Not only is the protein complete, but quinoa grains have an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain. (For comparison, wheat germ comprises less than 3% of a wheat kernel.) Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure. Quinoa is gluten free, which makes it extremely useful to the celiac community and to others who may be sensitive to more common grains such as wheat or to all grains in the grass family.
Quinoa can be sweet or savory. My family uses it in granola, in breakfast bakes, pancakes, but also in salads, chili, and as a side dish. Here are two ways that we use quinoa frequently in my house.