Quinoa – The Queen Of Grains

Lyn Jullien

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has declared 2013 to be the year of Quinoa. The focus on Quinoa is due to its dense nutrient content, giving it a role to play in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. This fascinating grain has a long history – it was a main food of the populations in the South American Andes Mountains for thousands of years and there is evidence that it was being used even 3000BC.

Quinoa’s Nutrient Content

Quinoa is not actually a grain, it’s a seed, though as a consideration in the diet it’s often referred to and consumed as if it were grain. It contains a high amount of protein and calcium, making it an ideal addition to a vegetarian diet. Compared with all the grains, it has the highest amount of protein, and also contains iron, phosphorus, B vitamins and Vitamin E. Its protein content is of considerable interest, because unlike other grains, it’s considered a complete protein. It is also high in good fats, including alpha-linolenic acid, an Omega 3 fatty acid.

Incorporating Quinoa Into The Diet

This nutrient dense food can be cooked like a grain, or ground up like flour and used in baking breads and cakes. It has a strong nutty flavor, so it’s often combined with other grains to soften the taste. Like many grains, quinoa should be thoroughly rinsed as it has a saponin (soap-like) coating on it. Saponins have a bitter taste and are mildly toxic but this can be remedied easily as they are concentrated in the outer layer of the quinoa.  The milling process rinses a lot of these off, but in preparation for cooking, the grain should be rinsed under running water – rubbing the grains together with your hands as you do so.  30 seconds rinsing should be plenty – taste to see if any bitterness remains.

Quinoa can be cooked like rice or oats, and should be cooked for 15 to 20 minutes. Here are some examples of how to incorporate it into the diet:


  • Use in place of oats or combine with oats for oatmeal
  • Quinoa flour can be used in muffin recipes

Lunch & Dinner

  • Quinoa can be used for a Tabouli recipe
  • Add cooked quinoa to soup
  • Serve in place of rice or pasta

Save The World

It can be difficult to produce enough quality food in growing populations and climate change – quinoa was chosen by the FAO as food of the year due to its exceptionally high nutrient content and ability to be grown in difficult climates. Save the world…try some quinoa.

  • www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/en/
  • www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice
  • Healing with Wholefoods, Paul Pitchford
About the Author: Lyn Jullien (BA, MSc, DipNT, DipNat) is a Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath and an active member of the Association of Registered Complementary Health Therapists. She has taught Nutrition courses and looks for simple life style changes to promote better health.
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