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Food of the Month: Quinoa

The year 2013 has been declared “The International Year of the Quinoa” by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Complete Protein

Quinoa has a higher protein content than wheat, barley, or other major grains. One cup of quinoa has 9 grams, which is more than an egg. Quinoa is considered to be a complete protein which means it contains all 8 of the essential amino acids, especially lysine, which is required by the body to grow and repair tissues.

Digestion

Quinoa is easily digested, particularly when compared to other grains. As a complex carbohydrate, quinoa acts as an internal cleanser, easing the progress of food through the digestive tract. Used regularly in your diet, quinoa can help keep you free of constipation and bloating. Unlike more common grains such as wheat, quinoa is gluten-free and can be enjoyed by people with digestive disorders like celiac disease. The vitamin B and folate in quinoa also help the liver in its role of eliminating wastes from the body, adding to quinoa’s detoxifying properties.

Low-Glycemic Carbohydrate

The carbohydrate content of quinoa is low on the GI scale, meaning they are the “good” slow-burning carbohydrates. Low-GI ranking foods don’t adversely affect blood glucose levels; they support weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Cardiovascular Health

Quinoa is a rich source of the mineral magnesium. Magnesium supports healthy blood vessels by relaxing them and improving their elasticity. Thus, quinoa can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other disorders that are associated with restricted blood vessels. Quinoa also has the highest potassium levels of all grains, a mineral essential for balancing sodium blood levels and maintaining lower blood pressure.

Bone Health

The key ingredient required for good bone health—calcium—is present in quinoa in abundance. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 30 milligrams of calcium. It contains almost double the amount of calcium as compared to wheat. For vegans, people with lactose intolerance, or those who are simply looking for non-dairy sources of this mineral, quinoa is a flavorful source of plant-derived calcium. Calcium builds and maintains bones and teeth, helps regulate the contraction of the heart, and facilitates nerve and muscle function.

Migraine Relief

Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines. People who suffer from migraines have noticed far fewer headaches and migraines with an increase in magnesium intake. Quinoa is also a good source of riboflavin, which is necessary for proper energy production within cells. Riboflavin has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within their brain and muscle cells.

Serving Suggestions

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  • Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups.
  • Add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa and serve as breakfast porridge.
  • Use noodles made from quinoa for a twist on your favorite pasta recipe.
  • Sprinkle cooked quinoa onto salads.
  • Blend cooked quinoa into your homemade smoothies and shakes.
  • You can use quinoa anywhere you’d typically use rice. It’s great used in casseroles and stir fry, mixed with beans, or simply topped with vegetables.

How To Prepare

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Prepare according to package directions.

If you desire the quinoa to have a nuttier flavor, you can dry roast it before cooking; to dry roast, place it in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes.

Recipes:

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Avocado & Lime Quinoa

Ingredients
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 avocado cubed
  • 2 diced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Handful of chopped cilantro
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (Optional: Diced tomatoes, butter beans, other cooked/diced veggies of choice)
Directions
  1. Mix together all ingredients and toss gently to combine.

Berry Citrus Quinoa

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain or vanilla
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cup blueberries, fresh
  • 1 1/2 cup raspberries, fresh
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup honey
  • sliced or chopped almonds, for garnish
Directions
  1. Combine the almond milk, water, quinoa, cinnamon, zest, and 1 tablespoon honey in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed – about 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, keep covered, and let sit for 5 minutes. Gently stir in berries. Drizzle with honey just before serving and garnish with almonds.

Italian Quinoa

Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or broth)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced finely
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (approx 14 oz) fire roasted diced tomatoes (drained)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • about 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Directions
  1. Combine quinoa and vegetable stock in a medium sized saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed – about 15 minutes.
  2. In a pan, heat olive oil and sauté onion and garlic for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir sautéed onions and garlic, tomatoes, spices, and fresh basil leaves into the cooked quinoa.
  4. Add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.

Food of the Month Archives

August 2013 – Cucumber

July 2013 – Watermelon

June 2013 – Avocado

May 2013 – Kale

April 2013 – Chia Seeds


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