Everyone is so wild over quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) these days that you’d think it had just been invented. But this ancient grain (which is actually a seed, though it’s treated as a grain) has been around for thousands of years.
Grown in the mountain regions of South America, quinoa has been a staple there for centuries. Recently, this seed has become popular in North America and Europe because it has such an excellent nutritional profile.
Let’s take a minute to see why quinoa is so healthy:
• Gluten-free. Because quinoa is a seed and not a grain, it’s the obvious choice for those trying to live a gluten-free lifestyle.
• Protein. Quinoa provides a complete source of protein, so vegetarians love this stuff!
• Healthy fat. Quinoa contains health-supportive fats. A quarter of the fatty acids in quinoa are in the form of oleic acid, a good-for-you monounsaturated fat.
• Vitamins. Quinoa is an excellent source of Vitamin E which is believed to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. This wonder seed also has good amounts of folate, phosphorus, calcium, and copper.
• Fiber. Quinoa is an excellent source of fiber, which keeps your digestive system and your blood sugar levels healthy.
• Antioxidants. There are a couple of antioxidant flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin) that are found in abundance in quinoa.
Quinoa lowers your cholesterol and helps keep those levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind!) nice and balanced. Quinoa is easy to digest, it’s easy to cook and it’s easy to love. Oh, did I forget to mention that it’s also delicious?
Now before you get all carried away, you need to know that while quinoa is a much more nutritious choice than rice or a wheat-based side dish, it is still pretty carb-heavy, so make portion control a priority.
Look for certified organic/fair trade quinoa
As mentioned above, quinoa has become tremendously popular in North America and Europe because of all these health benefits I just talked about. You may have come across some articles recently suggesting that this newfound popularity has forced South American quinoa farmers to raise their prices (supply and demand) to the point where locals can no longer afford to buy this staple food. Farmers can get a higher price if they sell to foreign markets, leaving many South Americans quinoa-less.
This is a complicated issue and it’s not as black and white as some may have us think. For instance, many South Americans who were once forced to leave the farming industry, moving to larger cities to earn a living, can now return to their homeland and do what they love.
If this issue is of concern to you, look for certified organic/fair trade quinoa which has been popping up in several places (and it will just become more easily available if we consumers demand the fair trade option)
Different types of quinoa
Most of us are familiar with beige-colored quinoa, but you can actually find these seeds in red, pink, black, yellow, purple, green, orange, and every color in between. The quinoa we’re most familiar with in the US is the traditional pale ivory varieties and red quinoa. The traditional quinoa is the tastier of the two options, but the red is more nutritious.
Is quinoa Paleo or not?
Honestly? That’s up to you. Some Paleoistas avoid quinoa because it is so high in carbs (39 grams of carbs per serving, 5 grams of fiber = 34 net grams carbs). However, quinoa is a transitional food for some since it is, in fact, a seed.
So there you have it. The whole scoop on quinoa. Enjoy it if you wish-just look for organic quinoa and keep the portions reasonable!
What’s your favorite way to enjoy quinoa? Let us know on our Facebook page!
Leanne Ely, Your Dinner Diva