Diabetes Diet: Have You Cooked With Quinoa Lately?
“While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom,” wrote researcher Philip White in 1955.
Though a seed, and not a true cereal grain, quinoa (KEEN-wah) is considered a “pseudo-cereal” because it’s cooked and consumed as a grain, and has a similar nutrient profile.
Diabetes Related Health Benefits
A plant sacred to the Incas, quinoa was called chisaya mama, the mother of all grains, because of its heartiness, versatility, and nutritional value.
Quinoa is one of the few plant foods containing a healthy balance of all the essential amino acids. It also has an incredibly high ratio of protein to carbohydrate since its germ comprises about 60 percent of the grain. Wheat germ, by comparison, is less than three percent of a wheat kernel.
Besides supplying us with plenty of protein, quinoa has an abundance of heart-healthy fats. About one third of the fatty acids in quinoa are from oleic acid, the same beneficial monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Another five percent of the fat in quinoa is alpha-linolenic acid, a plant based form of omega-3.
For people who need help with appetite control, a University of Milan study showed that quinoa was more filling and satisfying than either wheat or rice. This is likely owed to quinoa’s wealth of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Several studies also indicate that quinoa has a normalizing effect on blood sugar levels.
With all these health benefits, plus a rich store of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it’s no wonder that Inca warriors ate balls of quinoa mixed with fat to sustain and energize themselves during their long campaigns.
Basic Quinoa Prep
Today, it’s easy to enjoy quinoa (an excellent rice substitute) since it cooks up in about 15 minutes:
- Bring two cups of water or broth, and 1 cup quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, and the quinoa is tender (about 15 to 20 minutes).
- Remove pan from heat and set it aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover, and fluff with a fork. (Yields 3 cups cooked quinoa.)
Because quinoa plants have a bitter coating that keeps pests away, called saponin, rinsing quinoa seeds before cooking is recommended. Though most quinoa sold today already has the saponin removed, a quick rinse will eliminate any remaining residue. Quinoa purchased in bulk should be rinsed more thoroughly.
Before boiling quinoa, you might consider roasting it. Roasting enhances its distinctive nutty flavor:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Rinse the quinoa using a fine-mesh sieve, then spread it across a shallow baking dish in a single layer.
- Roast the quinoa for about 5 to 8 minutes; jiggle the pan about halfway through for even roasting. When ready, the quinoa will have a strong nutty fragrance and golden color.
- Remove from the oven, and cook according to the basic procedure above.
If cooked quinoa will be mixed with additional ingredients, it’s prudent to drain it using a fine-mesh strainer. Quinoa holds a lot of water that, if not drained-off, can make dishes a bit soupy. To dry the drained quinoa completely, return it to the pot it was cooked in. Cover the pot and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
During March, quinoa is featured as the grain of the month by the Whole Grains Council. Learn more about quinoa at their website (link below). Also, Google “quinoa recipes” for interesting meal ideas.