Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has only recently become popular in the United States, but it has been cultivated by native peoples in the Andes Mountains of South America for over 5,000 years. Quinoa flakes are flattened grains of quinoa that still contain all the nutrition of quinoa, but cook more quickly.
Higher in protein than any other grain, quinoa is so nutritious that NASA has used it to feed astronauts on long-term space missions.
Unlike most plant-based foods, quinoa is a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins that make up your muscles, bones, skin, and blood. The nine classified as “essential” must be obtained from food daily — your body cannot produce or store them — and quinoa provides all nine.
The USDA recommends that at least half of the grains you eat be whole grains like quinoa. Refined grains have been stripped of most of the fiber, iron, and vitamins present in the whole grain. Including whole grains in your diet can help lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Quinoa is a great source of fiber. Fiber can prevent or treat constipation and may lower your risk of intestinal cancers. It also helps you feel full longer, so it may help with weight loss.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health. The fiber in quinoa can also help with cholesterol and blood sugar levels, lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Quinoa is rich in antioxidants, which can prevent damage to your heart and other organs. A diet high in antioxidants has been linked with a decreased risk of heart disease.
Quinoa and quinoa flakes are also good sources of:
Nutrients per Serving
A half-cup of cooked quinoa contains:
- Calories: 111
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Carbohydrates: 20 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
Things to Watch Out For
As is the case with many superfoods, quinoa has been used to make packaged snacks and cereals sound healthier than they are. Quinoa chocolate bars and sweetened cereals are often still high in sugar, so be sure to consult the nutrition facts on all processed quinoa products.
How to Prepare Quinoa and Quinoa Flakes
Quinoa is a great base for salads, as it can soak up dressing without becoming mushy. As a savory side, quinoa makes a lovely bed for chicken, fish, or grilled veggies. It must be prepared properly, however, or it may taste bitter.
Quinoa flakes can be cooked like instant oatmeal (see Quick Quinoa Flakes Breakfast recipe below) or used in place of quick oats in recipes.
Cooked Quinoa for Use in Recipes
To make 3 cups of cooked quinoa:
- Place 1 cup raw quinoa in a fine mesh colander and rinse for at least 30 seconds.
- Mix 2 cups water and the rinsed quinoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Decrease heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until all of the water has been absorbed.
- Cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and let it steam for 5 more minutes.
Savory Quinoa with Corn
To make 4 side dishes:
- Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add 1 ½ cups of corn, season with salt and pepper, and cook 10 minutes or until corn starts to brown, stirring a few times.
- Add ¾ cup rinsed and well-drained quinoa and stir until it begins popping.
- Add 1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth, stir, cover, and turn heat down to low.
- Do not disturb for 15 minutes. Check to see if grains have opened and are soft. If not, add just enough broth or water to keep the quinoa from sticking, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes.
Quick Quinoa Flakes Breakfast
To make 3 cups of quinoa flakes:
- Heat 1 cup milk and 1 cup water in a pot over high heat until boiling.
- In the meantime, lightly toast 1 cup of quinoa flakes in a dry skillet until golden. (This helps with the bitterness and makes the quinoa flakes taste sweeter.)
- Add to the boiling liquid and stir. Let it cook a minute or two and stir again.
- Just like instant oatmeal, quinoa flakes can be dressed up with berries, sliced banana, nuts, or extra milk.