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What is Quinoa?


Un-cooked quinoa
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) might be the most powerful super-food that you never heard of.  It is often used like grains and can even be ground into flour, but it is actually the seeds of the plant that are usually consumed, and unlike traditional grains, which are grasses, Quinoa is closely related to beets and spinach.

It may seem to be a 'new' food because we are just now learning of all its amazing qualities, but quinoa has been cultivated and consumed by humans for nearly 5,000 years.  The Incas called quinoa the 'Mother of all Grains' and the United Nations has declared 2013 to be 'The International Year of Quinoa'.

What's so great about Quinoa?  In a word: EVERYTHING! 

Quinoa is: 

a complete protein
a good source of fiber
gluten-free
highly digestible
a good source of many vital nutrients including iron, magnesium, folate, copper, manganese, phosphorus and calcium (quinoa has TWICE the calcium of grass-grains)

Quinoa provides valuable amounts of heart-healthy fats and all essential amino acids, as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protection.  It helps build strong bones, keeps your heart healthy and aids in blood sugar regulation. 

  But that's not all!  According to the "World's Healthiest Foods" research:

"The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa also make it a likely candidate for cancer risk reduction in humans. Given the preliminary animal results involving the digestive tract, risk reduction for colon cancer may turn out to be a special area of interest."
 "Another area of likely benefit involves decreased risk of allergy—especially for individuals who have adverse reactions to certain grains and seek practical alternatives. Already, several public organizations have recommended quinoa as a substitute for wheat whenever the avoidance of this gluten-containing grain is required. The low-allergy potential of quinoa—coupled with its relatively high digestibility—has also made it a food of special interest in the diet of children and toddlers."
When cooking quinoa use a 2-to-1 ratio with the liquid of choice. 
(1 cup liquid + 1/2 cup quinoa = 2 cups cooked (aprox)  
Quinoa has very little flavor of its own so it easily takes on the flavors of seasonings or other additions or choice of liquids used.  It can be made hearty or sweet.  My kids seem to like it better than brown rice because it is less chewy. 

We buy organic Bob's Red Mill Quinoa at the grocery store (near the corn meal & flours).  It may seem expensive, but it is actually more economical than brown rice because quinoa's bulk is nearly quadrupled when cooked, whereas rice is only doubled.  Combined with it's health benefits, quinoa is a budget friendly, nutrient-dense alternative to rice & pasta.

--->  Full quinoa profile available from "Worlds Healthiest Foods"

--->  For more recipes and tips for using quinoa, head over to "The Kitchn"

Quinoa is also a fairly easy and quite beautiful plant to grow, especially if you plant  several varieties (common types are white, gold, red and black)

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