Q is for…

This week on What’s the Word? Wednesday, Q stands for the epitome of a complete food. It’s to grains what kale is to vegetables. If you haven’t guessed already Q is for Quinoa!

Q is for QuinoaFirst thing is first, pronunciation! You will never be able to find the stuff if you can’t pronounce it. Quinoa actually sounds like “keen-wah”, not “quinn-no-ah” which most people (including myself) started off calling it.  Quinoa is a complete protein and even though it’s a grain it’s closely related to beetroots and spinach (thank you wikipedia!).

What is it?

Quinoa is an ancient grain originally sourced from South America, usually traced back to the Andes (source). It’s the most nutrient-dense grain available often considered a complete protein and whole food. Quinoa comes in a  few different colors ranging from pale yellow to a rusty-red. Quinoa is one of the few grains that is still (mostly) harvested by hand, even for commercial production.

What does it taste like?

Regardless of the colour quinoa tastes the same, slightly nutty but similar to couscous in flavour. The individual grains are bigger than traditional couscous (not the Israeli kind you can find which are big pearls) and have a bit of texture to them (a snap if you will) even when cooked properly.

Where do I use it?

Quiona can be used as a substitute for any grain you can imagine. It makes a great substitute for your morning oatmeal, meat replacement in chili or shepherd’s pie, you can add it to soups to add texture and bulk. You can swap out your usually rice or potato sides, it makes a great base for a cold salad. Because of its new found popularity over the last few years, you can find quinoa in a raw/dry state as well as popped similar to puffed rice. This popped quinoa (see how to make your own here) can be eaten like popcorn (it’s teeny-tiny) or added to your homemade granola, protein bars or dessert like peanut butter balls, marshmellow-y type squares (marshmallow confections are not typicall vegetarian/vegan but there are recipes around the web if you have such a craving) or chocolate bark etc. Quinoa is also ground down to make flour, and can be used in conjunctions with other nut/grain flours to prepare gluten-free baked goods.

White Bean and Quinoa ChiliWhat are the health benefits?

Where do I start? There is so much good to say about quinoa, it contains heart-healthy fats, it’s a vegetarian source of protein, fibre and B vitamins. It’s super high in manganese, typtophan, magnesium, folate and phosphorus making it an ideal choice for women’s health in particular (source). It’s known mostly for being anti-inflammatory food choice and contains a good proportion of vitamin E which is good for you skin, hair and nails among other things. Oddly enough it’s one food that doesn’t have a drastic drop in nutrients once it’s cooked, so start subbing your grains with quinoa today! It’s primarily gluten-free only people with severe gluten allergies may have difficulties with some quinoa depending on how it was processed. For more information on how it may affect you if you are gluten-intolerant please check out this article.

V- Spot Recipes using Quinoa:

Quinoa Inspiration around the web:

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