In our world where grains of every kind—gluten-free or not—turn to sugar when you eat them, quinoa is a fabulous superfood you should make part of your diet. With its high fiber content and good quality protein, plus a wide variety of powerful health-giving compounds—from polyphenols, saponins and phytosterols to free radical scavengers—it’s not only yummy, but a great meat-free food to grace your table. It has very little carb content compared to all those stodgy grains and is far lower on the dangerous glycemic index.
Although it’s spelled “kwin-OH-a” you pronounce quinoa’s name as “KEEN-wa”. It has been a staple of South American diets for an amazing 4000 years. But not until 50 years ago did curious scientists start to investigate the nature of this food and discover that it comes as close as any other in the plant kingdom to supplying a vast array of the essential nutrients we humans need to thrive. This seed is high in magnesium to calm the body and reduce blood pressure. It brings you an abundance of good quality fiber when you eat it. Quinoa also contains a lot of anti-inflammatory compounds. It is safe to eat even if you have delicate digestion, inflammatory bowel trouble, celiac disease or gluten intolerance. And it’s brimming with important minerals and vitamins from magnesium, zinc and phosphorous to vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate. This makes quinoa an excellent choice for people savvy enough to go for foods that are low on the glycemic index, low-carb dieters, vegans, and all of us who need to increase our fiber intake.
THE NEW FUNCTIONAL FOOD
Studies continue to report that eating quinoa brings us all sorts of health-promoting effects. It can help reduce high blood pressure, alleviate cardiovascular troubles, promote cellular energy production and act as a pre-biotic. Thanks to its high level of bio-active compounds, many also believe this unique natural food has the potential to help lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart conditions. At the University of Milan, researchers discovered it also satisfies your appetite far better than, say, wheat or rice. It promotes a sense of fullness, helping to alleviate your desire for more food and helping to halt weight gain. The seeds of quinoa can also help reduce most of the negative effects that come from fructose on your lipid profile and glucose level. To discover what this wonderful non-grain can do for you, you need to know how to prepare and use it in your life. After all, the proof of any pudding is in the eating. And there is an art to preparing it.
Make sure the quinoa you buy is fresh and organic.
Most of the stuff in supermarkets is neither, so shop in good, reliable organic food stores. Read labels carefully to check for both before you buy. Stale quinoa is dusty and can taste “dead” since it has lost so much of its goodness through food processing or just sitting on shelves for too long.
Rinse it well
Do not be tempted to skip this direction. You must wash away the thin coating on these tiny seeds, otherwise they will taste bitter. You will need a very fine-meshed strainer so that the little seeds don’t slip through it in the process. Hold it under streaming water for two minutes while swirling around its contents.
Time to Cook
To 1 cup of your rinsed seeds add two cups of water, a pinch or two of sea salt or Himalayan salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat as much as possible and let it simmer until it becomes tender. This usually takes about 15 minutes. You’ll be able to tell when it is cooked because the tiny grains will have become translucent and the germ of each seed will show up as a little spiral on its surface. You do not want to overcook it as this will make it mushy.
Remove from heat and drain it using the same fine-mesh strainer. Then put the drained quinoa back in the pot, cover it and let it sit without any heat for another 15 minutes. This helps dry it a bit so it does not become clumpy.
Time to serve
Aerate it with a fork. It should look light and feel fluffy, and you should begin to see the way the germ is separating from the seed itself. Its texture is very much like that of rice or couscous.
You can eat it as a porridge with a handsome glob of butter on top, add it to a casserole, a curry, or the way you might serve rice on a plate with other vegetables.
MORE FABULOUS FAUX GRAINS
Quinoa is but one of the amazing “false” grains which have none of the negative effects of grains and cereals. You can make all sorts of wonderful things using them, from muffins and pancakes to loaves and pilaf. Learn more about all of these by clicking here, and enjoy!
Do let me know how you get on, and if you discover any of your own wonderful recipes using this gem of a faux grain, so we can share them with other people in the future.