Quinoa, The Ancient Superfood

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Quinoa is a food we loved to cook often.  We use it for a lot of things.  One of the things we love about Quinoa, outside of its many health benefits, is that it is easy to cook, can be made ahead of time and set aside in the frig.  Quinoa can even be made and stored in the freezer and thawed for use in meals without looking its flavor.

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa), which originated in the area surrounding Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia.  The plant dates back 3,000 to 5,000 years BC when it was domesticated by the peoples of South America.  According to existing archeological evidence, quinoa fragments were found in tombs of Arica in Chile, Tarapacá, Calama, and in different regions of Peru.  Although Quinoa has become a staple in the kitchens of many health-conscious individuals over the past few years, it has been a staple in many diets in South America for thousands of years.  Pre-Columbian civilizations cultivated and used quinoa as a staple food.  As a matter of fact, the Incas called quinoa the “mother grain.” 

Quinoa is not a cereal grass at all, but rather a member of the same food family that contains spinach.  In fact, the leaves of the Quinoa plant taste very similar to spinach.  Most people think of Quinoa as a grain, but the truth is that the part of Quinoa usually eaten is actually the seed of the plant, however, all parts of the plant can be eaten, including the leaves and stems.  

More than any other “grain” quinoa has the highest protein content, providing all 9 essential amino acids, thus making it a complete protein.  Most grains are considered to be inadequate as total protein sources because they lack adequate amounts of the amino acids lysine and isoleucine.  By contrast, Quinoa has significantly greater amounts of both lysine and isoleucine, and these greater amounts of lysine and isoleucine allow the protein in quinoa to serve as a complete protein source. Quinoa also contains a variety of antioxidant phytonutrients, including ferulic, coumaric, hydroxybenzoic, and vanillic acid.

Antioxidant flavonoids including quercetin and kaempferol are also especially plentiful in quinoa. Anti-inflammatory polysaccharides in quinoa include arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans. Many members of the vitamin E tocopherol family are provided by quinoa, including important amounts of gamma-tocopherol. Quinoa is a very good source of manganese. It is also a good source of B Vitamins, iron, potassium, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate, and zinc.

Quinoa is a gluten-free and cholesterol-free low glycemic whole food offering many health benefits.  Different animal and human studies have shown that Quinoa helps lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels, reducing the risk of diabetes.  Quinoa improves digestion and hearth health, helps prevent anemia, hypertension, kidney stones, and osteoporosis.  Quinoa also has been shown to support muscle metabolism, improve metabolic health, and protect the liver.

No wonder it has quickly become thought of as one of the most-healthiest foods in the world. 

Some of the ways we like to eat Quinoa:

  • Combining it with garbanzo and/or black beans for vegan nachos, tacos, and burritos

  • Topping it with various nuts and fruits for breakfast in place of oatmeal.

  • Using it in Tabuleh/tabulah as a gluten free substitute for the bulgar wheat.

  • Using it in place of rice to stuff tomatoes, cabbage, collards, and add to stir-fry.

  • Most often we use it simply on its own as the protein component in our meals.

Recipe:  Black Bean and Mango Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup diced Ataulfo Mango

  • 1 cup black beans, cooked

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked

  • One yellow bell pepper finely chopped

  • One red bell pepper finely chopped

  • One large heirloom tomato diced

  • ½ cup goat or vegan feta crumbles

  • One Reed avocado sliced

  • ½ cup stemmed and chopped coriander (cilantro)

  • Homemade or bought sprouted grain taco shells

  • 1/4 cup purified water

  • Prepared Taco Seasoning (recipe available in A Tahur Kitchen)

Instructions:

In a large cast iron skillet, add black beans, water and prepared taco seasoning.  Cover skillet and sauté on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.  Add diced bell pepper and sauté an additional 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add cooked quinoa and diced mango, then spoon mixture into taco shells.  Top with feta cheese followed by tomatoes and finish with avocado slices.  Serves 3 to 4 people

For information on other clean eating recipes and tips, purchase and download A Tahur Kitchen here.