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Try quinoa on Whole Grains Sampling Day

By Elizabeth Hall, Community Contributor • Mar 27, 2019 at 4:30 PM

Today, March 27, is Whole Grains Sampling Day! Whole grains are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber to help keep you fuller longer and promote a healthy digestive tract. While most of us think of whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice as whole grain options, quinoa is gaining popularity in Americans’ diets for its versatility and health benefits.

What is quinoa?

First of all, it’s pronounced KEEN-wah, not kwin-OH-a, despite the confusing spelling. This grain is often called a “pseudo-cereal” because its nutrient content is similar to grains, and we cook it and eat it like a cereal. The plant itself is actually more botanically similar to beets, chard or spinach. Quinoa grows on large stalks, the seeds of which can be multiple colors such as red, purple, green, yellow or even black. You can actually eat the leaves of the quinoa plant as well!

What are the health benefits of quinoa?

Quinoa is the only grain that is also a complete protein, meaning it supplies all of the essential amino acids, making it a great source of protein in a vegetarian or vegan diet. It is the highest of all whole grains in potassium to support a healthy blood pressure. Plus, quinoa is gluten-free, providing a high-fiber grain option for those following a gluten-free diet.

How do you cook quinoa?

Quinoa is cooked similar to rice, with a ratio of one part quinoa to two parts water. It typically only takes about 15 minutes to cook and is done when the “c-shaped” germ pops out of the grain. Make sure to rinse uncooked quinoa under running water before cooking to remove any residue of a bitter coating, called saponin, that quinoa grows to ward off pests. This coating makes it easier to grow quinoa more naturally, without the use of pesticides.

This versatile grain has a nutty taste that works well in savory or sweet dishes. Try a new grain, like quinoa, for Whole Grain Sampling Day this year! For quinoa recipes and more, visit eatright.org or the Oldways Whole Grains Council at wholegrainscouncil.org.

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Food City Registered Dietitian

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