For the past few weeks I have been toying with the idea of adding some posts on healthy foods to the blog, but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to do it. After much deliberation, I have decided to do a series of posts, one each Friday, that will go in depth about a particular food (or drink) that has some awesome health benefits. Some of these might be foods you’ve heard of or maybe seen while shopping, but aren’t really sure what they are, what they do for you, or how to prepare/eat them, but some of them might be completely new to you. I plan to give you the in’s and out’s of each food and give you some ideas/recipes of how to incorporate them into your diet.
For my first post I’ve decided to highlight Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”)
Quinoa originated from the Andes Mountain area of South American, but is grown more locally near the Rocky Mountains in North America. Historically it was a vital part of Incan diets.
Although quinoa is actually not technically a grain (it’s actually a seed!) it tastes and cooks like a grain. Quinoa is gluten free and has the highest amount of protein out of any other cereal-type food – it contains 9 grams in 1 cup (that’s more than an egg!) and has all 8 of the essential amino acids. It is also a great source of vitamin B6, folate, fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron and zinc. It also is high in vitamin E, potassium, selenium and antioxidants.
So what does all that mean for your health? Quinoa can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, protect against cancer, reduce risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and prevent gallstones. As with other whole grains it helps with weight management. Some studies have shown that it can help migraine sufferers due to its high levels of magnesium and riboflavin. Riboflavin helps to improve energy production within cells and magnesium helps to relax blood vessels both of which in turn can reduce frequency of migraines. It can also help to boost energy and can help inhibit mood swings.
Lately quinoa has gained popularity, I’ve seen it popping up all over blogs and magazines! Quinoa is a really great grain to cook with – that plus its amazing health benefits make it easy to understand why it’s so “in” right now. It not only cooks in half the time of rice, but can be substituted for any grain in just about any dish – and its really simple to prepare, what’s not to love about it?!
Its always best to start by rinsing the quinoa off in a fine mesh strainer under cool running water. This will help remove the coating around the outside of the quinoa (called saponin) – which can taste bitter and unpleasant. There are a few different varieties of quinoa – there is the typical golden variety, which is most common, but there is also red quinoa and black quinoa. They are all essentially identical but can be used to make a more appealing presentation :)
Basic Quinoa Preparation
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ – 2 cups water
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cool water until water is clear.
Heat quinoa and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bringing mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low,then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
Quinoa is really easy to dress up to suit your tastes – makes a great alternative to brown rice. The water can be substituted for vegetable broth (or your broth of choice).
I love switching up my breakfast cereal and using quinoa is a great way to do that! For this recipe I like to use coconut milk (to go more with the Hawaiian feel) but you can use any milk of choice. I have been on an agave nectar kick lately so I used that to sweeten my quinoa, but both brown sugar or honey would taste lovely with this.
Aloha Breakfast Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cup water
2 cups milk or milk substitute
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
3 tablespoons agave nectar (or sweetener of your choice)
Pinch of salt
1 cup diced pineapple
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup unsweetened coconut, toasted
Rinse quinoa thoroughly.
Heat water and quinoa in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bringing mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
Remove lid and add milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, agave, salt and pineapple. Heat mixture over medium heat, simmering for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in raisins and coconut. Serve warm.
Recipe: Nicole Original