If you are struggling to find a complete protein fuel source, look no further because you’ve found it! Quinoa is one of thee best complete protein foods out there.
A complete protein means that this food has all of the essential amino acids that our body needs. There are 8 essential amino acids (proteins) that our body needs and they can only come from food. Usually, we have to combine healthy foods - like eating a serving of rice and beans - just to get all 8. However, Quinoa comes fully loaded!
Before we dive into all things Quinoa, let’s go over one small detail - Quinoa is pronounced “keen-wah”. Many of us who have pronounced it wrong are fully aware of this because we’ve been laughed at by that one friend who somehow knows how to pronounce everything! But that’s ok, because we’ll no longer be the brunt of our friends’ jokes! At least, not when it comes to this particular topic, anyway.
Quinoa - What It Is and What It Isn’t
As mentioned above, Quinoa is a plant originating in South America and the small round balls you see are actually seeds from the plant. Therefore, Quinoa is not considered a grain but a seed. It has been cultivated in South America for thousands of years.
There are about 120 different types of Quinoa, but you are most likely to see them in the colors red, white, or black.
Benefits of Quinoa
Not only is Quinoa a complete protein (which is rare for plants) it is also a complex carbohydrate which means it has longer chains of sugar molecules. It is best to incorporate more complex carbs into your diet because they take longer to digest, thereby releasing more slowly into your bloodstream. In so doing, they provide long-term energy and prevent you from “crashing” later on in the day like you would from consuming simple carbs (sweets or caffeine). With Quinoa being a complex carb, it also helps stabilize the blood sugar and make you feel full for longer.
But wait, there’s so much more to Quinoa than meets the eye:
Quinoa is gluten free which is great news for those with gluten sensitivity.
It helps provide the minerals and vitamins that those on gluten free diets do not get because of omitting traditional grains
Aids in digestion
Improves gut health
High in manganese, phosphorous, and magnesium which help build strong bones
Contains potassium which protects against kidney stones
Aids in weightloss - the fiber and protein present increases satiety (feeling of fullness), and the minerals impact hormones which help your body digest and utilize the nutrients
Extensive research shows it may help prevent and treat cancer (1)
Contains antioxidants which decreases inflammation and are anti-aging. Bioflavoniods, one of the types of antioxidants, has disease preventing effects
It’s high in healthy fats. “About 25 percent of quinoa's fatty acids come in the form of oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and about 8 percent comes in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid most commonly found in plants" (Melinda Lund, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian and medical nutrition therapist).
How Should I Cook It?
Quinoa is cooked in the same way that rice is. It is boiled in water and is finished cooking when it has soaked up all of the water, is fluffy, and is soft when chewed. Speaking of rice, you can also use it as a replacement for rice in many dishes - I actually like to combine a few scoops of Quinoa with my brown rice.
Quinoa does not have much of a taste which is why it is good to put in a variety of dishes like salads, stews, burgers, oatmeal, pancakes, quinoa-stuffed peppers, or just used as a standalone dish. If you are looking for a bit more flavor, try experimenting with black Quinoa because it has a more noticeable taste.
When shopping for Quinoa, go to your local whole foods store, or to the organic section of your local grocery. Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin, which protects it from insects. This means, there should not be any need to spray pesticides on it. However, in this day and age, you really have to scrutinize what you eat so opt for buying organic Quinoa to reduce your exposure to and digestion of pesticides.
For those of us on busy schedules, which is just about everyone in America, it is good to note that Quinoa is time efficient and cost efficient. Just a little bit of it goes a long way and, in just about 15 minutes of cooking time, you will have yourself a hearty and healthy bowl of Quinoa!
Quinoa is a complete protein with a wide array of benefits. You can’t go wrong with incorporating it into your diet, so if you want to see significant benefits in your health, eat more Quinoa!
Oh, and remember...it is pronounced “keen-wah”.