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Did you know there is a whole grain for every month, according to the Whole Grain Council? This month, quinoa takes center stage. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a nutritious, versatile whole grain. It’s becoming quite popular on salad buffets and in many household favorite recipes.

Quinoa is considered a whole grain and a complete protein packed with nutrition. In fact, it is the only plant food providing all nine essential amino acids needed in the human body. Quinoa is high in potassium and full of antioxidants. This grain provides at least 20% of the recommended daily values for magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid and manganese. As a whole grain, quinoa is unique in that the germ makes up 60% of the grain (compared to 3% of wheat germ). One quarter cup serving of quinoa has 160 calories, 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Quinoa is a gluten free grain and provides a healthy alternative for people who must avoid gluten.

Image of quinoa growing in Andean Plain

Considered an ancient grain, Quinoa originates from the plains near the Andes mountains of South America. Now it is grown in over 50 countries. Quinoa seeds grow on plants with stalks that can be three to nine feet tall. The seeds are harvested by hand, because they mature at different rates. There are over 120 varieties of quinoa grown today, and a variety of colors. Interestingly, quinoa seeds are coated with a layer of saponins which provides natural protection against pests. The saponin can taste very bitter, therefore quinoa is rinsed during production. Often recipes will instruct to rinse quinoa before using to wash away any remaining saponin.

There are many ways to prepare quinoa, including as a whole grain, flakes and flour. To cook quinoa, use one cup of dried grain and 2 cups of liquid, such as water or soup stock. Boil, then simmer for 12- 15 minutes to yield 3 cups of cooked grain. You may see a small white ring ‘pop’ out of the grain when the quinoa is done. This ring is the germ.  You can also prepare quinoa in a rice cooker, using 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups liquid. Quinoa works well in cold and hot grain salads, side dishes and pilafs. You can cook quinoa as a hot breakfast cereal, stirring in cinnamon and diced fruit or nuts. You can swap rice for quinoa in dishes. Try serving quinoa on salads or using in place of pasta in salads. You can even ‘pop’ quinoa using these instructions from Harvard School of Public Health. You can use quinoa flakes interchangeable with oatmeal in many recipes like granola.

Colorful quinoa salad

My favorite dish is Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. You can search for that title and find many yummy recipes. Mmm makes me hungry just thinking about it. Try a few recipes and see which is your new favorite.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by:  Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, County

Sources:

Quinoa. 2020. Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/quinoa/

Quinoa – March Grain of the Month. Whole Grains Council. Retrieved 3/20 from https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/grain-month-calendar/quinoa-%E2%80%93-march-grain-month

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