By Sara Faye Green
And everything else you need to know about this nutrient powerhouse.
Odds are, if you’re a human who’s been to a supermarket, read a magazine, or eaten at a healthy restaurant in the last three years, you’ve heard of quinoa. The health food world is obsessed with the superfood—people are using it in salads, as a rice substitute, in chilis and soups, and in burritos and wraps. And for good reason. Nutty, nutritious, and filling, quinoa is one of only a few plant-based foods that provides complete protein, meaning it contains all of the amino acids your body requires—no additions needed. It’s also one of the only foods that gives you a unique combo of protein plus fibre, making it unusually filling, says Karen Ansel, author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer.
According to Ansel, there are three main kinds of commercially-available quinoa: white, red and black. Rainbow, or tri-color quinoa, is a mix of the three. White is the type you’re most likely to find in the supermarket. It’s a little softer than red and black which tend to be more firm. Because red and black hold their shape more than white, they’re better suited to salads. Of the three types, black is the sweetest-tasting, says Ansel.
And, while it’s considered a whole grain, quinoa is technically a seed—making it naturally gluten-free. (It’s actually a relative to beetroot and spinach, according to the Oldways Whole Grain Council.) However, it can be contaminated by other grains depending on where it is processed, so if you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, be sure to avoid buying it from bulk bins and seek out brands that are certified gluten-free, says Ansel.
Quinoa is a nutrient powerhouse. One cup of quinoa has eight grams of protein (that’s more than an egg!), five grams of fibre, 58 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of manganese (to boost your metabolism), 30 percent of the RDA of magnesium (to fight inflammation), 28 percent of the RDA of phosphorous (which helps your kidneys with detoxification), and high amounts of B vitamins, folate, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium to boot.
But how to prepare it? Unlike brown rice, quinoa is relatively unfussy. Simply simmer one part quinoa to two parts water in a covered saucepan, and it’s ready in 15 minutes (a third of the time it would take to make brown rice). If you do want a kick of flavour, try adding some curry powder or chilli powder to the cooking water or substituting fruit juice, broth, or tea for half of the cooking liquid, says Ansel.
FYI: You might want to rinse your quinoa before cooking, in order to remove saponins (naturally-occurring chemicals that can give your quinoa a bitter flavour). According to Ansel, most packaged varieties are pre-rinsed. But if you’re not sure, it can’t hurt to give yours a quick spritz before cooking.
And now, how to eat it. Ansel’s suggestions:
> We usually think of quinoa as a side dish, but it also makes a really filling breakfast. Add a little orange juice to the cooking water and toss in some toasted pine nuts for crunch, or try it with peaches and peanuts.
> Whenever you cook quinoa, make extra and freeze it in single servings to defrost and toss into salads for added protein, fibre, and complex carbs.
> Stir quinoa into veggie chilli for added protein. You can also do this with any soup!
> Layer cooked, cooled quinoa into a yogurt parfait to transform it from a snack into a meal.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com