What is Quinoa and Why Should You Eat It?

quinoa-tabouliMaybe you’ve heard about the “new grain”, Quinoa (pronounced “Keen-wah”) that is cropping up in stores and restaurants everywhere? So what is quinoa and why should you eat it? Quinoa is not actually “new”, nor is it really a “grain”.

Quinoa was one of the main food staples for the ancient Incas in Peru. According to history, the Incas would make balls of quinoa combined with some fat for their warriors to subsist on during battle.

Quinoa is a seed, which is related to beets, chard, and spinach –you can eat the greens — but the seeds are cooked and eaten more like a grain. Here are some of the many health benefits of quinoa:

  • Quinoa is the only plant-food that is a complete protein–it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that must come from our diet, because the body can’t produce them.
  • Because it’s a complete protein, quinoa is a great way for vegans to get protein in their diet.
  • Besides being high in protein (8 grams per cup), quinoa is also very high in iron, with 1-cup of quinoa containing 185 grams of iron, and 5 grams of fiber.
  • Quinoa is gluten-free, and easy to digest.
  • Studies have shown that eating quinoa can greatly reduce blood-pressure. In one study, participants eating quinoa were able to reduce their blood-pressure medications by half.
  • Quinoa cooks up in about 15 minutes, so is a fast, nutritious meal. It can be used as a substitute for rice and other grains, or as a hot breakfast “cereal”.

Quinoa has a slight “nutty” taste, and is a great substitute for any type of grain in recipes. Here is a delicious recipe for Quinoa Tabuli , which uses quinoa instead of couscous, courtesy of PCC Natural Markets in Seattle.

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