Quinoa: The Mother Grain of the Ancient Incas and a Powerful Grain for Modern Times

Quinoa (pronounced keen wah) is a relatively new discovery. Thought of as a grain, it is actually related to the leafy Chenopodium (beets and spinach) family. Grown in this country only since the mid-1980s, it has gained popularity because it ideally fits the needs of so many: for the athlete, endurance; for the scholar, brain food (the brain is the only organ of the body that demands glucose for energy); for nursing mothers, its ability to stimulate breast milk; for allergy-sufferers, a non-gluten grain for rotation; and for those interested in bone health, a high-fat and high-calcium non-dairy food (it leads all grains in both these two categories).

Quinoa has an especially well-suited balance of amino acids to supply our nutritional needs, since it is high in three amino acids that are deficient in grainscysteine, lysine, and methionine. It is a nearly-complete protein and has an essential amino-acid profile that is at least equal to milk in protein quality. While no single food can supply all of the essential life-sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes asclose as any other in the vegetable or animal kingdom.link Ounce for ounce, quinoa has four times the calcium found in milk. Quinoa is also a rich source of vitamin E, the B complex vitamins, fiber, and the minerals iron, calcium, and phosphorus.

Compared to grains, quinoa has a huge germ, or embryo portion, which explains its sustaining and regenerative qualities. While the germ of most grains like wheat and rice are a tiny dot at the end of the grain, quinoa has a germ that spans its whole circumference, a fact that explains its high protein and fat content, as well as its ability to grow in harsh conditions. It is little wonder that quinoa helps tonify and strengthen the whole body and is particularly beneficial for the kidney (essence). It is warming in temperature and sweet and sour in flavor. It is a great choice at any season and for any individual. It is perfect should you want a change of pace or want to rotate grains because of allergies or other health issues.

Quinoa is about the size of sesame seeds and is similar to couscous in texture. Mother Nature coats it with bitter, inedible saponin (this protects the grain from birds feasting upon it). While sometimes removed in processing, it is a good idea to wash quinoa thoroughly and then soak it overnight to remove (as in other grains) its anti-nutrients.link

Quinoa with Oats or Millet
1 cup quinoa
1 cup rolled oats or millet (soak millet)
3 cups water
Salt to taste

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then simmer 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes covered. Serve with stewed fruits and nuts.

Quinoa Tabouli
Make your favorite tabouli with parsley and other ingredients, but substitute quinoa for couscous. This is especially good dish for stronger bones, because parsley teams up with quinoa as good source of calcium. Parley provides not only calcium, but it also contains ergosterols that make it a good source of vitamin D.

Quinoa Hot Cereal (Gluten-Free Alternative)
1 cup quinoa flakes
1 cups filtered water
1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit

Bring water to a boil in a heavy pot. Add quinoa and cranberries. Reduce heat and cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Serve, topped with your favorite chopped nuts, seeds, oils, etc.

Quinoa (try half regular and half red quinoa)
Carrots, cubed or half-mooned
Scallions, sliced
Celery, sliced
Roasted Almonds (or tamari almonds), cut in half across width
Arame, optional (small quantity, about 1/4 Cup for 1Cup grain type of thing)

Cook quinoa separately and let cool (1 part quinoa to 2 parts water, pinch of sea salt per cup, boil open lid, cover simmer, about 15 minutes)

Cook arame separately (rinse a few times; pre-soak about 10-15minutes or until soft; cook in a little water, open lid boil; then cover, simmer 10-15 minutes. Add a few drops Shoyu, then cover and simmer for another 5 minutes of so. Drain. Set aside and allow to cool.)

Once quinoa and arame are cooled, mix with carrots, scallions, celery, almonds and toss. (You may want to leave vegetables raw for summer, since they are more cooling this way; and blanch the carrots and celery for cooler times of year.)

For the dressing, mix and whisk together: Equal parts, shoyu, mirin, and tahini.

Add dressing to quinoa salad, toss and enjoy.

Source: Gina@theorganiccoach.com

Quinoa Pudding (Serves 4-6)

Quinoa pudding is smoother and more nutritious than rice pudding. It is delicious as a dessert, snack, or even for breakfast.
1/2 cup coconut sugar or maple sugar
2 T. soft butter or coconut oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk or nut milk
1 T. vanilla
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. ground nutmeg or cardamom, optional
t. sea salt
2 cups cooked quinoa
~ cup chopped toasted almonds
1 cup dried berries (blueberries, goji berries, etc.) or raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree F. Cream sugar and butter. Stir in eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until blended well. Add quinoa, nuts, and berries/raisins and mix well. Grease a 1 quart casserole or souffl dish. Pour mixture into the casserole and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 40 minutes or until just set. To serve, loosen the edges with a knife and invert pudding onto a plate.

Source: Adapted from Rebecca Wood

Copyright 2010 Pathways4Health.org

  1. Philip White, Nutrient Content and Protein Quality of Quinua and Canihua, Edible Seed Products of the Andes Mountains. [link]
  2. Sources: Nourishing Traditions, Healing with Whole Foods, Whole Foods Encyclopedia, and Quinoa, the Supergrain. [link]