Quinoa – a Super Grain for Health

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen wa’, is an ancient grain that comes from the Andes Mountains of South America. We think of quinoa as a grain. It is actually the seed of a plant that is a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard.

Although not a common item in most kitchens today, quinoa is high in protein, and the protein it supplies is a complete protein, meaning it includes all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is also a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium.

As a healthy way of eating, whole grains may significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Only ½ cup serving quinoa contains about 30 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.

A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. When cooking is complete, you will see that the grains have become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself and looks like a tiny curl. As an alternative, you can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, using the same instructions as used for white rice.

Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to white rice or couscous. Try quinoa as a cereal, as a substitute for a rice side dish, or in a salad. For recipes see www.quinoa.net.

Eleanor Summers
Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences