Why Quinoa Deserves a Permanent Spot in Your Diet (with recipe links!)

Why Quinoa Deserves a Permanent Spot in Your Diet
Image by Jennifer via Flickr CC

By Beth Ricci, Contributing Writer

It was the year 2001. I was a high school kid on a short-term missions trip to Bolivia. We were doing a touristy day trip to Lake Titicaca, and I trepidatiously boarded a sketchy looking boat to go out on the lake for a little tour with my trip mates.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I was in the very place where quinoa first originated thousands of years ago! I’m not sure my 18-year-old self would have found that little factoid as fascinating as my 30-year-old self finds it, but nonetheless, I’m definitely holding on to this little fact for bragging points among my crunchy/foodie friends.

Most people’s first question about quinoa is “how the heck do I pronounce it?!” The answer is: “KEEN-wah.” Say it with me, now. All the cool kids say it with a little gusto, by the way. It’s a fun word, so roll with it.

Nutrition & History

I love quinoa. It’s an ancient superfood that is packed with nutritional benefits, and it’s even gluten-free! It’s technically a seed, but functions like a grain. It’s better for you than the more starchy grains like rice and oats, however, because it is very high in protein, and low in starch. It also has a low glycemic index, which means that it won’t spike your blood sugar like wheat and other starchy grains, and is very high in essential vitamins and minerals.

As I mentioned above, it originated in Bolivia, where it is still grown to this day. It is said that it was a superfood for Inca warriors, and gave them stamina and strength.

Personally, I am pretty sure that I basically turn into an Inca warrior when I eat it. Like a transformer, basically. I’m certain that eating quinoa builds up my muscles and is basically the exact same thing as a heavy workout. Right? (Just nod and smile, okay?)

North Americans have only been growing this superfood since 1982, but the Incas have known how amazing it is for thousands of years. The Spanish conquistadors nearly wiped it out by making it illegal to grow, but thankfully they did not succeed. It was later brought to North America to grow in the 80′s, and has surged in popularity since then.

Zucchini Quinoa Micro Greens Salad

Image by Gourmande in the Kitchen

Bitter Saponin Coating

The outside of quinoa is coated in saponin – a bitter substance that actually helps protect it from being eaten by birds while it is growing. According to one article I read, scientists decided at one point to try to modify it to grow without the saponin, and – of course – the birds ate it all.

Isn’t that the way it usually goes? God designed our food in certain ways for good reason, and when we start messing around with it, it doesn’t usually end well. (Ahem – GMO’s, anyone?)

Because of the bitter saponin, it’s really important to be sure to rinse your quinoa under cold water really well before cooking. This will remove the bitter taste.

More about quinoa

  • There are several different varieties and colours
  • Quinoa flour is a great flour for gluten-free baking
  • You can even pop it like popcorn!
  • Quinoa can be sprouted for better nutritional value
  • It was called considered sacred by the Incas, and called the Mother Seed

Recipe links

So now that you know just how amazing it is, here are 20+ of the most mouth-watering recipes I could find that use quinoa!

Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate

Quinoa Tabouli

Lime Quinoa Chicken Salad

Spicy Salsa Crackers

Grilled Chicken Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs and Goat Cheese

Mediterranean-Salmon Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Apple Salad

Quinoa Stuffed Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls

Homemade Sushi Nori Rolls with Quinoa

Spinach and Feta Quinoa Cakes

Chicken, Broccoli, and Quinoa Salad

Grain-Free Quinoa Bars

Quinoa-Oat Protein Bars

Overnight Oats and Quinoa

Easy Quinoa with Corn and Cilantro

Zucchini Quinoa Salad with Microgreens

Soaked Gluten-Free Whole Grain Flatbread

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Quinoa Chocolate Streusel Muffins

Quinoa Brownie Truffles

Quinoa Blueberry Muffins

Quinoa Chocolate Cake

Do you love quinoa? What’s your favorite way to eat it?

About Beth Ricci

Beth blogs at Red & Honey, a lifestyle blog for the naturally-minded homemaker. She recently began a passionate love affair with coffee and her life will never be the same. She has had three babies in less than four years, is a professional laundry-avoider, and loves to stay up way too late making weird stuff from scratch that normal people tend to just buy in a store. Hence, the coffee.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post

Comments

  1. I just found this roundup! Thanks so much for including more than one of my recipes :)
    I love finding different ways to use quinoa. You can even throw leftover quinoa in a soup or smoothie.

  2. We make it a point *not* to buy or cook with quinoa.

    Why? Quinoa is the staple food of native Bolivians and Peruvians. Since it has become a fad health food in America, the price has tripled, making it impossible for poorer people in these countries to afford this nourishing staple. These people have few choices of affordable healthy food, and rich Americans, who can afford many types of healthy food come in and make it impossible for them to afford their own native diets. So what are they turning to instead? Cheap imported junk food. Because they have no other options. (source : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa )

    I’m not saying that no one in America should ever buy or eat quinoa ever again, but this is certainly something that should be considered before making it a staple in your diet.

  3. My favorite way is as a breakfast cereal – I make this “red, white, and blue” quinoa breakfast salad that is PERFECT for Memorial Day or Fourth of July breakfasts! :) http://happystronghome.com/red-white-and-blue-quinoa-breakfast-salad-recipe/