April Tip: Quinoa – KEEN What?

Quinoa 1

ON-CORE Fit recently gave a presentation entitled “Carbohydrates: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and our audience was relieved to learn that they can and should be eating foods containing carbohydrates as long as they choose nutrient-dense vegetables, fruit and whole grain sources of carbs.  In an ideal world, we would only consume whole foods rather than rely on pre-packaged, convenience foods that are loaded with added sugars, added salt and added fats.  Unfortunately, these processed foods are ubiquitous in our current food environment and there is limited access to wholesome, plant-based foods.

We may not be able to avoid processed foods but we can certainly increase our intake of nourishing nutrient-dense grains, nuts and seeds.  When we hear the word “carbs” most of us think about pasta, bread, bagels and rice.  Yes, these foods contain carbohydrates, but so do vegetables, fruit, dairy, legumes, whole grains and seeds.  Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) is often thought of as a grain yet it is considered a pseudo-cereal because of its seed-like properties.

Quinoa seeds, which come from the goosefoot plant, are small, flat and oval and resemble a mix of sesame and millet seeds.  They’re cooked like a grain (similar to couscous or rice), but they are more nutrient-dense and protein-packed than traditional grains.  Most grains lack lysine, an essential amino acid.  Quinoa, however, is loaded with lysine and is therefore considered a complete protein.  This superfood is also rich in manganese, iron, vitamin E, multiple B vitamins (riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and B6) and heart-healthy omega-3 fat.  Due to its high nutritive value, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.”

The high iron and protein content makes quinoa a superstar staple for vegetarians and vegans.  Yet omnivores should reap the benefits of this delectable food too!  Quinoa may be boiled into a pungent pilaf or added to savory soups and stews.  It can also be served as a side dish combined with vegetables and beans.  Be sure to try our quinoa recipe that you can find in ON-CORE Fit’s April Newsletter and don’t be afraid to use quinoa as a substitute for rice, couscous or barley!!