By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
What It Is
You’ve heard the phrase, “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” Be a rebel and make an exception this once for a nutrition powerhouse, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), which is a seed we cook like a grain. Follow the lead of your vegetarian and gluten-free friends who may be shoveling it in morning, noon and night, and add these little mealtime gems to your daily eats.
The Dirty Deets
Quinoa is a slacker’s dream: It takes only 15 minutes to prepare, is as simple to cook as couscous or rice, and is ridiculously healthful. The laundry list of benefits is as long as said slacker’s to-do list. Here are a few:
- Quinoa will help your muscles grow. Rarely do you find all nine essential amino acids in one little food (that doesn’t come from something with a heartbeat). But this little seed has ‘em all. Take that, spinach! (Popeye may even develop a wandering eye.)
- It's a great “grain” for people with diabetes because of the high fiber content, which helps maintain good blood sugar control.
- It's being touted as great fuel for lactating mothers because it's so rich in iron, B vitamins, zinc and calcium. Your kids might even thank you one day (but don��t hold your breath).
- The high iron content helps oxygen reach all parts of the body -- especially the brain, which boosts alertness.
- This magnesium-rich super seed helps fight migraines. No more “Honey, I have a headache” evenings.
The Lowdown On The Chow Down
The deal with quinoa is that it is pretty Plain Jane when it is prepared with water alone. That’s good in one sense, because almost everyone can find a way to enjoy it: babies, picky eaters and food neophobics alike. But if you want to get a little more Fancy Pants with it, pumping up the flavor requires very little extra work -- and the possibilities are almost endless.
If you like to color inside the lines and follow instructions, then try some of these recipes:
- Graduate your plate to make Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers or Quinoa with Moroccan Winter Squash and Carrot Stew.
- If you are looking for an exciting new cereal, try quinoa granola, which is great for breakfast or snacking.
If you prefer to unleash your artistic license and throw a few things together a la effortless "I just whipped this up for you, honey" style, give these a try:
- Feelin’ hot hot hot for breakfast: Make the quinoa similar to how you would make oatmeal, but substitute the water with milk (cow’s, almond or soy). Top it with your favorite hot-cereal toppings such as nuts, dried cranberries, Greek yogurt, cinnamon, berries or a drizzle of honey.
- Savory petite lunch or snack: Cook your quinoa in a soup stock, broth or consomme instead of water, and dice some onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley and make it into a salad.
- Decadent dessert: Cook your quinoa in coconut water with a cinnamon stick and a few grates of nutmeg. When it is finished, top with shredded coconut, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a handful of raisins.
So there you have it, friends. You can pronounce it, you can cook it, now go eat it!