Every year there seems to a new miracle food– acai berries, pomegranate juice and coffeeberry all promised to be the key to health and beauty, but just turned out to be expensive fads. When I started to hear about quinoa, I thought it was just another hard core health food. But quinoa is truely a great new addition to a beauty diet.
Quinoa is a pseudo cereal that looks like a grain but is actually closely related to beets and spinach. It has the mild taste and texture of couscous or rice but with more protein and HALF the carbs. Gluten-free quinoa is so nutritious that it is a candidate crop for NASA’a Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long term human space flights.
How healthy is quinoa? One cup of cooked quiona has 155 calories, 30 carbs and 6 grams of protein. By contrast brown rice has 248 calories, 48 grams of carbs and 3 grams of protein. But wait there’s more good news. The glycemic index ( GI) of quinoa is 18. By comparison, the GI of brown rice is 50 while a baked potato is 92. Since most experts recommend including foods with a GI under 50, quinoa is a nutritional superstar. Keep in mind that studies have linked high carb diets to earlier skin aging and wrinkles so low carb quinoa has certainly earned its health and beauty creds.
I have to confess that I don’t feel satisified without a serving of some sort of carbs. I can eat a sink full of salad, but without some starch, I get cranky hungry within an hour. A small dish of quinoa fills that need at half the carbs and calories.
A Word of Caution
Quinoa is naturally coated with saponin, a bitter soapy substance that keeps birds and insects away. To remove it, the grain needs to be soaked in water for several hours or rinsed in running water for several minutes. Most boxed/packaged quinoa has been pre-rinsed and only needs a quick run under the faucet. I buy my quinoa in a store packaged plastic container so I play it safe and rinse it in the sink for 3 minutes.
You can get fancy and use quinoa in salads, veggie burgers, soups, casseroles and stir fry dishes. I tend to keep it simple and just love to use it as a regular side dish in place of rice, couscous or pasta. I even use it instead of rice when I order chinese take-out.
My Go-To Quinoa Recipe ( adapted from Healthy Kitchen– America’s Test Kitchen)
Ingredients: one medium onion, chopped, one teaspoon olive oil, one cup quinoa, 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Directions: Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onion until softened. Stir in quinoa and cook for about 3 minutes until it is lightly toasted. Add chicken stock, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove cover, fluff grains with a fork and serve.