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Food Focus: Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is a nutritional powerhouse with ancient origins. It was originally cultivated by the Incas more than 5,000 years ago; they referred to it as the “mother of all grains.” It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a great source of protein for vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in magnesium, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, manganese, riboflavin and zinc.

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While quinoa is widely considered a grain, it’s actually the seed of a plant called Chenopodium or Goosefoot, related to chard and spinach. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain and has a similar effect as other whole grains in helping to stabilize blood sugar.

It has a waxy protective coating called saponin which can leave a bitter taste. For best results, rinse quinoa before you cook it or even soak it for a few hours or overnight. When cooked, it has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture. Try it in soups, salads, as a breakfast porridge or as its own side dish.

For quinoa, and whole grains in general, the majority of digestion occurs in the mouth through chewing and exposure to saliva. For optimal nutrition and assimilation, it is vital to chew your grains well and with awareness. A great meditation is to find a calm place, without distractions, to sit down for your meal. Make it a habit to chew each bite 20 times or more. See how this simple practice can help your digestion and overall focus for the rest of your day.

Recipe of the Month: Quinoa Salad

Prep Time: 5 minutes Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa 3 cups water 1/4 cup lime juice 1/2 cup olive oil 1 cup parsley, chopped 1/2 cup scallion, chopped 1/2 cup tomato, diced salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

• Rinse quinoa well with cool water in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. • Add rinsed quinoa to sauce pan over low heat; stir with wooden spoon until all water has evaporated and grains emit a faint, roasted aroma. • Add water and a PINCH of sea salt; stir once to dislodge any grains that may be stuck to bottom of pan. • Cover and bring to boil. • Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 10-15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed; let sit, covered for about 5 minutes before fluffing with fork. • Combine all ingredients in bowl and serve room temperature.

*Try a Mediterranean version of this salad by using tomato, cucumber, small crumbles of feta cheese, onions, and even some avocado! YUM!