In today’s modern world people are looking to this ancient grain, officially a seed, to get and stay healthy.  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is easy to make and can be used in a variety of foods. The health benefits of quinoa include that it is high in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. It is also rich in fibre. Due to its versatility, quinoa can be used as a morning cereal, as the flour in breads, eaten cold in salads and used as a grain with your main meal. It also can be used to make desserts and to thicken soups and stews.

Highly Nutritious

Quinoa is the perfect addition to the diets of most vegans. Vegans are people who don’t eat any meat or any animal by-products, sometimes making it difficult to get enough protein in their diet. Since quinoa is an excellent plant-based protein and contains all the essential amino acids this grain can help vegans (and the rest of us) get the protein they need to remain healthy without causing them to suffer from that “too full” feeling. Quinoa provides a good amount of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, zinc, B vitamins and iron.

There are three main types of quinoa, red, white and black. The darker the colour the more phytonutrients. Quinoa has been consumed in South America for thousands of years. To help quinoa be more nutritious we can soak it. This reduces the phytic acid, which binds to the minerals in the quinoa and reduces their availability.

Low GI

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Containing fewer carbohydrates than most other grains quinoa is low on the glycemic index allowing people with diabetes to get the fibre they need without suddenly increasing their blood sugar levels. In addition, quinoa is loaded with vitamins, minerals and photochemicals that may actually help you to balance blood sugar levels. Quinoa is still fairly high in carbs though so if on a low carb diet it’s important to only use a small portion and consume with protein and healthy fats.

Ideal for those that need to follow a Gluten Free Diet

People who are gluten intolerant or suffer from celiac disease should not consume wheat or other grains containing gluten. This can make it difficult to achieve a healthy and rounded diet. However, quinoa can be the replacement to enjoy a variety of cereals and baked goods without risking their health. Quinoa is a perfect addition for those people who need to get vitamins and minerals and fibre in their diet without worrying about gluten making them ill. If a gluten-free diet is full of naturally gluten-free foods it can be healthy and balanced, but if gluten is replaced with the refined gluten-free products this can contribute to weight gain and blood sugar issues.

If you’ve never tried quinoa it’s worth experimenting with this pseudo-grain to find how you prefer it. Porridge is a warming and satisfying breakfast for the winter. Try a quinoa and coconut milk version as part of your diet upgrade. This can help with weight loss and digestive health for those avoiding gluten and oats.

Quinoa is low FODMAPs as well as gluten-free, so is a good solution for many people with FODMAP sensitivity and IBS symptoms eased by a low FODMAP diet.

Preparing quinoa

It’s always best to rinse quinoa to ensure you wash off the saponins, they can have a bitter flavour and they’re found in the outer layer. Some quinoa comes pre-washed. You can buy quinoa in the health food section of most supermarkets and health food stores these days.

If I’m making quinoa I usually make extra to add to salads or to have with dinner. It keeps in the fridge for about 5 days once cooked.

Place 2 cups of water in a pan and add 1 cup of quinoa with a pinch of salt.

Boil for 7-10 minutes and then allow to stand to soak up any remaining water.

When ready quinoa is light and fluffy with a light, nutty flavour.

Quinoa is available in flakes and flour form as well as the grain.

Some quinoa recipes you could try:

Quinoa Flake Porridge (serves 2-3)

1 cup quinoa flakes
1 cup water
1 cup coconut or almond milk
1 apple grated
Cinnamon to taste

Bring the water and milk to a boil then add in the quinoa flakes. Reduce the heat and cook for 5-10 minutes.

In the last minute add the apple and cinnamon.

When serving add a little extra milk.

Optional extras: serve with 1 Tbls of chopped nuts or seeds to taste and a piece of fresh fruit like berries or sliced banana.

Quinoa Salad – not only is quinoa gluten free, it’s also low FODMAPs

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