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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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Are you eating wheat products?  Lately, the news has included many stories on how wheat is bad for you causing abdominal fat, triggering diseasewheat and breads, and being linked with Alzheimer’s, headaches, depression and others.

If all that is true why is wheat recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, by nutrition experts and American Heart Association?   Isn’t it a part of the Mediterranean Diet which is highly recommended by nutrition professionals.

Does wheat contribute to abdominal fat or belly fat?  High consumption of refined grains has been associated with greater belly fat in studies.  However, lower belly fat has been associated with the consumption of eating whole grains including whole wheat.  Thus, whole grains including whole wheat do not seem to be the problem.  The problem is our consumption of refined grains.  Cutting out processed foods made with refined wheat (wheat flour, white flour, enriched wheat flour, all-purpose flour) and loaded with sugar and saturated fat will help us all avoid or limit the “wheat belly.”   Limit your consumption of cookies, cakes, pastries, crackers, and white bread.

So what about the other charges on mental effects?  Research has shown that both the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet lower the risk of dementia.  Both diets include consumption of whole grains including whole wheat.  Following those diets showed better cognitive ability in adults ages 65 and up over a period of 11 years.  It is true higher glucose levels from too many carbohydrates is a risk factor for dementia, but cutting out all carbohydrates is not the answer either.  Our brain needs glucose (Carbohydrates break down to glucose in our body.) for energy as it does not store glucose.  Thus, diets low in carbohydrates can hurt our thinking and memory.

Again, it is important to eat whole grains.  Whole grains including whole wheat can provide the glucose needed for our brain.   Whole grains including whole wheat breaks down more slowly than simple carbohydrates like refined grains and sugar.

Whole grains also provide fiber.   Consuming the recommended amount of dietary fiber without whole grains would be very difficult.  Gluten-free diets usually only contain six gram of dietary fiber a day, a lot less than the 25-38 grams recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

Do cwhole-grain-stamphoose a variety of whole grains but including whole wheat, unless you need a gluten-free diet.  When shopping be sure to choose products made with “whole wheat” or “whole-grain wheat.”  You can also look for the 100% Stamp from the Whole Grains Council on foods made with all whole grains.

Note:  If your doctor recommends you follow a gluten-free diet, please continue to follow your doctor’s advice.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences

Reviewed by:   Liz Smith, M.S, RDN., L.D. NE Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Tufts University, [2014].  The truth about the war on wheat, Tufts University Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Health & Nutrition Letter, March 2014 Special Supplement, p. 1-4.

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saladWas your New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier in the New Year?  If so, you are not alone.  Many people set improved nutrition and increased physical activity as goals.  One way to improve nutrition is to eat more fruits and vegetables.  Adding more salads to your meals or making a meal out of a salad is a way to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.  But, are all salads healthy?  It really depends on how you build it – it could be 100 calories or it could be 1000 calories.  Choose wisely!

How to Build a Salad

USE

LIMIT

STAY AWAY

Fresh or frozen vegetables

Meats – limit to 2 oz.

Full fat salad dressing

Fresh or frozen fruits

Hard cooked egg – limit to 1/2

Olives

Herbs and spices in place of salt

Reduced or low-fat cheese – limit to 1 oz.

Pickled products

Dry beans and peas (cook from dry or rinse to remove excess sodium)

Imitation bacon bits

Macaroni, potato and other creamy salads

Low-fat whole grain breads

Low-fat salad dressing

Pudding

Whole grain rice, bulgur or couscous

Crackers and croutons

Gelatin made with sugar

Source:  Build a Better Salad Bar, Child Nutrition and Wellness, Kansas State Department of Education, July 2012.

Author:  Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, goard.1@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed, Ohio State University Extension, West Region, spires.53@osu.edu

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