You’ve more than likely heard the excitement about this new “superfood” QUINOA, but what is it all about? To be honest up until now I knew it was good for me and loved recipes I have created with it, but didn’t realize just how amazing it is! And of course I’m committed to bringing you all the latest information in what’s going on in the health/nutrition industry. So here it goes..

quinoaYou may hear Quinoa referred to as a grain or supergrain, but in actual fact it is a seed. This seed was considered a sacred crop by the Incas (the largest empire in pre-Columbian America), who referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains’. During the European conquest of South America, the Spanish colonists scorned quinoa as ‘food for Indians’, and suppressed its cultivation. But luckily for us today 2013 has been declared International Year of Quinoa but the United Nations! One of the most common things I have come across when speaking to others about the seed is no-one is sure how to pronounce it, so for those of you reading this thinking how am I suppose to walk into a health food store and ask for this seed its pronounced KEEN-wah.

What is QUINOA?

It is a highly nutritious gluten-free (yay!) seed. Ideal for vegetarians and vegans, and great for allergy-conscious dieters, or for those with diet restrictions. Quinoa is highly appreciated for its nutritional value, with its high protein content and the fact it is considered a complete protein. It has a great source of calcium (once again great for vegans and the lactose intolerant) and easily digested along with essential amino acids like lysine and great quantities of phosphorus and iron.

Types of QUINOA..

Quinoa comes in many different types and forms, but don’t let this scare you away, here is the breakdown of different types:

Quinoa or White Quinoa:
This is the most common kind of quinoa available in stores, so you’ll often see it just called quinoa. Sometimes it’s also called ivory quinoa.

Red Quinoa:

Cooks report that red quinoa holds its shape after cooking a bit better than white quinoa, making it more suitable for cold salads or other recipes where a distinct seed is desired.

Black Quinoa:

A bit earthier and sweeter than white quinoa, black quinoa keeps its striking black color when cooked.

Quinoa Flakes:

As with rolled oats or barley flakes, quinoa flakes are created by steam-rolling the whole grain kernel. Flaked seeds always cook faster than whole kernels but since quinoa is already a quick-cooking grain, these flakes make a great instant breakfast.

Quinoa Flour:

Quinoa flour is made from the ground up seeds of the quinoa plant. It is grain free and gluten free. The flour itself is cream-coloured. The coarseness of the granules can vary from brand to brand, but you will find that flour made from quinoa is more coarse than ordinary wheat flour. The flavor itself is quite strong compared to other flours. It gives your recipes a slight nutty flavor. It is suitable for use in sweet and savoury recipes, such as cookies, cakes, breads and pastas.

How to cook Quinoa?

Seed:

Quinoa can be prepared much like rice. It should usually be rinsed or soaked before to remove its bitter coating, so check packet instructions. Bring two cups of water to the boil to one cup of grain, cover, simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ should have a slight bite to it (al dente).

Flakes:

Quinoa flakes are easy and simple (great on the run option). You can prepare them on the stove top by bringing 1 cup of water to boil in a saucepan, adding 1/3 cup of quinoa flakes, and letting the quinoa cook for about 90 seconds. Turn off the heat and allow them to cool slightly. The mixture will thicken- Just like oats!

You can also prepare them in the microwave by combining 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup of quinoa flakes in a microwave-safe bowl that’s twice the volume of the serving size being prepared. Microwave on HIGH for 2 – 2 1/2 minutes until thickened. Stir well before serving.

Flour:

If you want to replace 100% of gluten containing flour in a recipe, you will need to vary the amounts of the other ingredients, the cooking time and the cooking temperature. It doesn’t behave the same as gluten containing flours in the oven.

Every recipe is different, but some very general rules of thumb are:

-Reduce the cooking time

-Reduce the cooking temperature

-Increase the amount of moisture in the recipe

-Increase or add more binding agent (such as eggs). The lack of gluten can mean the final result doesn’t hold together as well. This rule is the least likely to be true, but it’s worth keeping in mind if your results are less than amazing.

So why should you incorporated Quinoa into your diet like I have? Well like I mentioned earlier it is a complete source of protein (packed with protein), for every 100grams of quinoa you get 14g of protein! Its high in magnesium, which is important for maintaining good cardiovascular health. Magnesium helps to relax the blood vessels, reducing the rates of hypertension. Quinoa also provides antioxidant support… what does this mean? regular intake of antioxidants is important for warding off the damaging effects of free radicals, in saying this quinoa does a great job in boosting your antioxidant levels – promoting a healthy immune system.

So what do you think of Quinoa now? Is 2013 really the year of Quinoa? In my opinion it is! This superSEED and nutrient powerhouse is great to nourish not only your body, but mind and soul. Next time you’re in the supermarket or health food store pick up some Quinoa in any form to try. Stay in contact through my GET FIT CHICKS social media pages to keep up-to-date with giveaways!

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Eat Healthy, Live Happy & Get fit

xo j xo