Let’s talk about quinoa. These tiny seeds are classified as a superfood because they are chock full of nutrients. Many healthy drinks, shakes, and foods include quinoa. But what is quinoa? Where does it grow? And what are the benefits of consuming it?
Quinoa is often classified as a whole grain, even though it is really a seed. Its relatives are chard, beets, and spinach. Quinoa is like cereal grains as it is classified as a pseudocereal grain. This means it is a grain that does not come from a grass plant. The seeds are sprouted, baked, ground into flour, toasted, and popped. It can also be consumed raw or cooked. You may use the long leafy greens in place of spinach.
Quinoa is a good crop for higher elevations where the growing season might be shorter or where other traditional crops may not thrive. It has been cultivated in the altiplano of the Andes Mountains in South America for thousands of years. Quinoa needs short days and cool nighttime temperatures and prefers temperatures to not get above 95 degrees during the day. Similar to amaranth, quinoa grows on tall stalks with beautiful flowering ends that turn to seed. There are more than 120 known varieties of quinoa grown in the world today, but most people know quinoa as red, white, or black.
Even though quinoa has been produced and safeguarded in the altiplano for generations, the rest of the world has only relatively recently discovered the benefits of this superfood. Quinoa is a good source of plant protein, fiber, and amino acids. One cup of cooked quinoa is equal to 8 grams of protein and 5 grains of fiber. Quinoa is also high in antioxidants and is a good source of manganese, iron, folate, and magnesium. It is naturally gluten free and contains more nutrients than traditional gluten free products.
Quinoa can be a main ingredient of salads, salsas, soups, stews, and more. I add a small scoop of quinoa to my shake every morning for breakfast. If you haven’t yet discovered the benefits of quinoa for yourself, give it a try today.