Nutritionally, quinoa might be considered a super grain, although it is not really a grain, but the seed of a leafy plant that is distantly related to spinach. Quinoa is rich in protein, and unlike other grains, is not missing the amino acid lysine, so the protein is more complete, making it an excellent source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. The World Health Organization has rated the quality of protein in quinoa at least equivalent to that in milk. Quinoa offers more iron than other grains and contains high levels of riboflavin (vitamin B2) as well as other B vitamins. It is also a good source of potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Nutritionally, quinoa is rich in fiber, providing 5 grams per cup of cooked quinoa. Quinoa has a light, delicate taste, and can be substituted for almost any other grain. It can be used instead of couscous, as a side pilaf or as a breakfast cereal. Quinoa has been cultivated for over 5,00 years and sustained the ancient Incas. Quinoa thrives in poor soil, arid climates, and mountainous altitudes. Today, most quinoa is imported from South America. Quinoa’s survival through the millennia may be attributed to the resinous, bitter coating that protects its seeds from birds and insects and also shields them from the intense high-altitude sunlight. This coating, called saponin, is soapy and must be removed in a strong alkaline solution to make the grain palatable. Most quinoa available at the grocery store has already been cleansed of its saponin. Quinoa is sold commercially as quinoa pasta, flakes, and the seed. It is usually grown organically and is non-GMO. This month, try incorporating more quinoa into your diet for some additional variety.
Dr. Alene Falomo, ND, RAc