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with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Five Reasons to Try Quinoa


Photo: iStockphoto

Unique Whole Grains with High Quality Protein — Part One

I had read about the ancient grain with the fun-to-say name, quinoa (keen-wah), but I didn’t actually taste it until a few months ago. Once considered the “gold of the Incas,” quinoa is thought to have been an important food for over 6,000 years — Inca tribes in the Andes Mountains cultivated it. Knowing that long and rich history kind of makes you want to try it, right?

Quinoa comes in a few different colors. You might come across black quinoa, for example, which at first glance looked like poppy seeds on steroids. I cooked up some of the yellow colored quinoa in my rice cooker with chicken broth (2 cups per cup of dry quinoa). I pressed the “brown rice” setting. The rice cooker shuts off when it is done, but generally it should cook up in about 20-30 minutes. It worked like a charm and couldn’t have been easier.

If you don’t have a rice cooker, just cook it in a covered saucepan. Add 1½ cups of cold water to 1 cup of dry quinoa. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit covered for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Why try quinoa? Here are five nutritional reasons:

  • Quinoa is a unique grain in that it has all nine essential amino acids (making it a complete protein)
  • Quinoa is higher in protein than similar grains (7 grams protein per ¼ cup dry)
  • Quinoa is notably rich in polyphenols (phytochemicals known for their potentially protective antioxidant activity) compared to other grains
  • Each serving also adds 3 grams of fiber and 10% of the daily value for iron

Give quinoa a try! Cook it like you would brown rice and you can substitute it for rice, bulgur or cracked wheat in most recipes to make dishes like pilafs or tabbouleh.

Use quinoa in any recipe calling for white or brown rice — it has twice the protein and iron of brown rice.

You can even enjoy cooked quinoa for breakfast — just mix it with almonds or berries and add a light drizzle of honey.

Stay tuned for the next blog post on another whole grain that’s a complete protein.

Have you tried quinoa? What’s your favorite way to use it?

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 7:50 am

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