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The Advantages of Quinoa

Posted on August 23, 2014 at 12:05 AM

The Advantages of Quinoa


Why quinoa? Perhaps first, what is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and why should anyone with celiac or gluten sensitivity want to know about it?


Quinoa is not a grain, truly, but more closely related to beets and spinach—and it is actually the seeds of the quinoa plant. It is native to the Andes and was domesticated for human use over 4000 years ago—and may have been used as food for over 7000 years! The Incans believed quinoa to be a sacred food and called it chisaya mama or 'mother of all grains'. The Spanish conquistadores actually prevented the native Incans from growing it because quinoa had been such an important part of their religion and culture! It’s a tough plant—grown in the high Andes with times of both intense heat and cold—and little rainfall.


Quinoa has a very high protein and amino acid content (~18%)-and, it contains all the essential amino acids. It also is high in fiber (almost 12g per cup), and contains the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and magnesium. It contains all the B vitamins, as well as Vitamins A, E and beta carotenes. It is also rich in a number of essential fatty acids, but with zero cholesterol. In fact, quinoa is such a complete food and is so easy to grow and cultivate, NASA is considering using it for prolonged space flights. And, the United Nations has designated it as a “super crop” because of its nutritional value.


Cooked, quinoa is light and fluffy—most people describe it as having a slightly nutty, earthy flavor. It has a low glycemic index and a low glycemic load—making it a great addition for diabetics as well! There are three main types of quinoa—white, red and black. All have a slightly different flavor and all can be cooked very quickly—it’s almost an instant food! Generally, you can use two parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, bring it to a boil and turn down the heat—about 15minutes usually! Quinoa can be used just like you would use rice or pasta—in soups, stews, on the side, with a sauce, in a cold salad or as a breakfast cereal. You can even sprout the seeds and use it in salads as a raw, live food. Quinoa flour can be used to make breads and pastas. You can add your favorite herbs and spices (I always add some garlic and onions and usually some basil….as a breakfast cereal, I add some cinnamon and a touch of honey)


Most importantly for those of us with celiac or gluten sensitivity—quinoa is totally gluten/gliadin free! It came as a welcome relief to me when I first went gluten-free. I love to roast the quinoa in olive oil and then either add directly to vegetables or use it alone. My personal favorite is the red quinoa because it adds some color to the dishes. Very few people are sensitive to quinoa—and often, it is because the quinoa has not been properly washed—the raw quinoa has a coating of saponins which can give the quinoa a bitter taste—the saponins work well for quinoa because that bitter taste keeps birds, insects and fungus away from it. All you need to do with the quinoa before you cook it is put a cup in the strainer and rinse with cold water for a minute or two—that generally is sufficient to remove any residual saponins.


Most stores and many restaurants now carry quinoa—sometimes in the “nutritional section”…meaning the organic foods section. I laugh at that—and even one time asked one of the grocery clerks “If the organic section is the nutritional one, what do you call the other sections?” I thought it was funny….he didn’t….


So, if you haven’t tried quinoa already—please do! Add it to your menu of gluten-free, delicious foods.

 Text Box: Toasted Quinoa Salad*
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa 
1 cup diced carrots/peas/corn etc. 
1/2 cup chopped mixed bell pepper s (red/yellow/green)
1/4 cup minced parsley or cilantro 
2 sliced green onions  or ¼ cup chives
juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime (or 1 - 2 tablespoons of each) 
1-1/2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce 
2 cloves minced or pressed garlic 

Rinse quinoa and drain. Put in a pot and dry toast (with a touch of olive oil) until a few grains begin to pop. Add 1-1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool.
Mix carrot, red pepper, parsley and green onion in large bowl. Add cold quinoa and toss to combine, Whisk together lemon and lime juices, tamari, garlic and whatever else moves you. Combine and chill. 
Almond Rosemary Quinoa*
1 tablespoon sesame or olive oil 
1 small onion 
1-1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed in boiling water and drained 
1 small red/green/yellow bell pepper, diced 
3 cups water 
1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce (or, for a change, balsamic vinegar) 
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried 
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed if frozen (or any vegetable you prefer—I like chopped spinach)
1/4 cup almonds, chopped or slivered.
Preheat oven to 3500. Heat oil in a medium saucepan; add onion and quinoa. Sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and sauté an additional 2 minutes. Add water, soy sauce, rosemary and peas (if using fresh peas).
Bring to a boil and cover; simmer 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Meanwhile, roast walnuts in 3500 oven for 5 to 10 minutes. When quinoa is cooked, turn off heat and mix in almonds and frozen vegetables. Let sit an additional 10 minutes and serve.
*Recipes adapted from those  found at:



Categories: Gluten and Digestive Issues

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