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Quinoa & Nutrition

Quinoa -- pronounced keen-wah -- is a tiny, round, nutritious grain. The flavor of quinoa is a cross between brown rice and couscous, with a texture that's a combination of crunchy, creamy and fluffy, according to Food.com. Quinoa cooks quickly, in 15 minutes, and a cup of dry yields 3 cups cooked. Prior to cooking, rinse quinoa several times to rid the grain of bitter-tasting saponins, natural substances that cling to the grain's hull.

Quinoa is high in protein, and a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 222 calories, 8 g of protein, 39 g of carbohydrates -- of which only 3 g are sugar -- 5 g of fiber, 3 mg of iron, 118 mg of magnesium, 318 mg of potassium, 78 mcg of folate, 3.5 g of fat and zero cholesterol.

Quinoa contains complete, high-quality protein that includes all nine essential amino acids. It is especially rich in lysine, which is important for tissue growth and repair. With 8 g of protein per cup, quinoa surpasses rice, which has 5 g per cup and barley with 3.5 g.

Quinoa and other whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, unlike refined grains -- such as white rice and white flour -- which are stripped of their germ and bran. Whole grains are absorbed slowly during digestion, providing a sustained source of energy. Quinoa has 5.2 g of fiber per cup, or about 20 percent of the recommended daily amount. Fiber helps lower harmful LDL cholesterol, controls blood sugar and insulin response and keeps the bowels healthy by preventing constipation and diverticular disease.

Quinoa is low in gluten, so it's a suitable grain for those with celiac disease who can't tolerate wheat, barley, rye and many other grains.

Use quinoa as you would rice, couscous or pasta. Add dried fruits and nuts and enjoy it as a breakfast cereal. You can add it to vegetable soups, or use it as a substitute for bulgur in tabbouleh salad. Quinoa flour can boost the protein content in cookie and muffin recipes.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.