Why You Need to Try Quinoa

Why You Need to Try Quinoa

The Incan Empire grew into the largest nation on earth, stretching 2,500 miles from Columbia to Chile along the Andes Mountains. It was linked together by sophisticated roadways and legendary runners -- the chasquis -- young boys who darted along high mountain paths to deliver communications between villages.

We’re betting their most sacred food -- quinoa, (pronounced KEEN-wah), which means Mother of Grains in Incan -- was one reason they were so strong. Quinoa is a complete protein, with all of the nine essential amino acids your body needs. This gluten-free grass seed is not a grain, but from a plant related to spinach and Swiss chard, and it packs incredible nutritional powers.

There are around 120 quinoa varieties -- white or yellow/ivory is the most common. The first step in cooking quinoa is that you MUST rinse it before cooking to remove the outer coating of bitter saponins, but you don’t lose any nutritional value. It has a high protein to carb ratio -- the germ makes up around 60% of the seed -- in wheat it’s only 3%. And quinoa packs more potassium than any true grain. Other nutritional facts: 1 cup has 625 calories; 1.2g saturated fat; 6g polyunsaturated fat; and 2.7g monounsaturated fat; 109g carbs; 12g fiber; 24g protein; 40% of vitamin B6 RDA; and 83% of magnesium.

When you give quinoa a try, remember, don’t over cook it. Boil 1 cup of seeds in 2 cups water for 15 minutes. Drain in a fine mesh strainer; return to covered pan, let rest for another 15 minutes. That’ll get you up and running!

Related: Try these healthy quinoa recipes.

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

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