If you're looking for something new to bring to the table, consider quinoa next time you need a healthy side dish. This amazing pseudograin is packed with nutritional components and can help you create lots of satisfying meals.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa is actually a type of seed, coming from a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium). It's considered a whole grain, just like millet or barley, because of its nutritional structure and can be prepared in much the same way. This is why it's referred to as a pseudograin or pseudocereal. Quinoa is native to South America, where it has been a staple food for centuries.
Nutritional Value of Quinoa
First of all, quinoa is a complete protein, offering more protein than any other whole grain, at about 8 g per 1-cup serving. This means a serving of quinoa provides all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Protein is essential for energy, development of lean muscle mass and more. Quinoa is also a complex carbohydrate. This means it won't cause drastic spikes and crashes in the blood sugar. Instead, you'll experience sustained energy between meals to help you get through work, school or your workout.
Another great thing about quinoa is that it's gluten free, making it a great substitute for other grains that can irritate those with a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Like other whole grains, quinoa is also a great source of fiber, providing about 5 g per serving. Fiber promotes digestive regularity as well as heart health by binding with cholesterol to remove it. Fiber also helps you feel full longer between meals. Lastly, one serving of quinoa provides about 15 percent of your daily iron for circulatory health.
What's great about quinoa is that it cooks just as quickly as white rice -- in about 15 minutes. Here are some tips to make sure you prepare it properly:
Always rinse the quinoa two to four times in cold water before cooking to remove excess starch.
Boil it in water, usually one-and-a-half to two parts liquid to one part quinoa, or stock to add more flavor.
You can also add salt or a little olive oil to the water, just like pasta, to add flavor.
Combine the liquid and quinoa and bring to a boil, then cover with a tight lid and reduce heat to a simmer.
Don't lift the lid while cooking to allow the steam to build up and the water to be absorbed.
The quinoa will expand when cooked, making the outer ring more visible. It will fluff when it's done.
Quinoa is just like rice in that it has a very mild flavor. Enhancing it with low sodium or homemade stock while cooking is a great way to start. You can also add some minced garlic to the water to provide flavor while cooking. Garlic is also great for your heart!
Once it's done, you can season it with herbs and spices. Try adding chopped mint and parsley as well as tomatoes to make a side dish similar to tabouli. You can also use seasonings to make it sweet by treating it like oatmeal -- combine it with cinnamon and nutmeg and fruit like apples or raisins to make a breakfast dish (stock wouldn't be recommended for cooking this).
Serve quinoa as a side dish or make it a main meal by combining with beans and vegetables. You can also add it to a salad to up the nutritional value and make it more filling. Lastly, treat it like rice in baked dishes like casserole or stuffed chicken to make a healthier version.
Quinoa is a great way to bring more nutrition to the table. Shop for healthy foods every day at eVitamins and save!