In the last few years, quinoa has passed from being a complete stranger to become one of the trendiest foods in the western market. Grown in South America (Bolivia, Chile and Peru) for thousands of years, quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. It is known to Bolivians as “the mother grain” and believed to be sacred.
Quinoa is high in fibre, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and is gluten-free. Cooked like a grain and considered a pseudo-cereal, while the part that we eat is actually a seed, it still counts as a whole grain food.
The mother grain has a glycemic index of 53 which is considered low, contributing to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range and therefore helping in weight loss. However, it is relatively high in carbohydrates so it must be eaten in small amounts.
A 100g serving of quinoa provides:
- 368 calories
- 14g protein
- 6g fat
- 64g carbohydrate
- 7g fibre
There are eight types of quinoa: white, red, black, purple, orange, green, grey and pink. Only the first three are available in most health foods. They have slightly different flavours and textures. The white one is often used as a white rice replacement while the red and black quinoa is great for cold salads.
Quinoa benefits prevention and treatment of disease due to is high amount of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. It has been also linked to coronary health as it contains small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and high content of monounsaturated fat compared to other common cereals.
Finally, quinoa is packed with antioxidants, which help you neutralize free radicals, fight aging and many other diseases.
How to cook quinoa
Put the seeds in a sieve and rinse well under cold water. Add the quinoa and double amount of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until most of the water has been absorbed. Remove from the fire only when the seed coat starts splitting, after 15 – 20 minutes. Add a drizzle of olive oil and stir gently with a fork to prevent it from drying out too much. Cover it and leave it rest.
Quinoa, mint, feta and nuts salad
Whenever possible, choose local, fresh and organic ingredients to enjoy this recipe at its best.
Remember that the portions here are meant to serve as a guideline. Adjust always to your daily energy expenditure and fitness goals.
Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Ingredients for 2 serves:
1 cup of quinoa
¾ cup of feta cheese
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp. white vinegar
3 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
3 cups of chopped stir fried zucchini or steamed green beans
½ small cup of almonds (flakes also good) or pistachios
½ cup of mint leaves (washed and torn)
Himalayan / sea salt and black pepper
Cook the quinoa and leave it to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
Toast the almonds / pistachios for about two minutes at medium-low fire. Stir the nuts every 20 seconds or so to prevent them from burning. They get burned very quickly due to their high content in fat. (Note: Do not eat them if they get overcooked / black as their chemical composition changes and become toxic).
Plate the portion of cooked vegetables mixed with the quinoa and top with the crumbled feta, mint leaves, and nuts. Add salt, cracked black pepper, white vinegar, and olive oil to taste.
Written by Pilar