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Quinoa: Super Grain with Environmental Benefits

By Marie Oser, Managing Editor
May 11, 2009
File under: Healthy Eating, Vegan


Elegant, delicious, and easy to digest, quinoa (keen-wa) is a small disk shaped seed that looks a lot like a sesame seed. Classified as a grain, quinoa is actually the seed of a leafy plant related to spinach.

Quinoa is simple to prepare and cooks in just 15 minutes to a light, fluffy consistency with a delicate, nut-like flavor. The germ is external and pulls away slightly when cooked, forming an attractive, delicate ring around the perimeter. Quinoa makes a lovely presentation and can be used in place of most other grains in any recipe.

Revered as sacred by the ancient Incas, quinoa has been recognized as a “superfood” because of its remarkable nutritional value. Like soybeans, quinoa is exceptionally high in lysine, an amino acid that is rare among vegetables. This versatile grain is high in protein, calcium and iron, a good source of phosphorous, vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. In addition to all this, quinoa tastes terrific!

Before cooking, quinoa must be rinsed thoroughly several times in a wire mesh colander to remove saponin, a bitter, resin-like substance that is thought to be a natural insect repellent. The seed coat contains the saponin compounds that keep the crop nearly untouched by birds.

Two studies¹ in 2008 have shown the effectiveness of saponin used as a natural pesticide in controlling agricultural pests, such as the Iberian Slug and a variety of invasive snails that can cause extensive damage to seedlings, leaves, shoots and roots.

Chemical pesticides damage the environment, upset the balance of the ecosystem and have been shown to have carcinogenic and other adverse health effects on wildlife the human body. Biological substances like saponin offer safe and sustainable natural alternatives.

Elegant and delicious, Quinoa Paella is a healthful rendition of the Spanish classic. Soyrizo, a plant-based alternative to traditional chorizo, is available at natural food stores and many supermarkets across the country. Perfect for a dinner party, Quinoa Paella makes a lovely presentation and reheats well.

Quinoa Paella

Quinoa is high in magnesium, which helps dilate blood vessels, good for diabetics who are at higher risk for coronary heart disease.

12 servings
2 (1 oz. pkg) dried Portobello mushrooms
1¼ cups water
¼ tsp saffron
½ cup chardonnay (or other white wine)
1 pkg Melissa’s or ElBurrito Soyrizo (soy chorizo)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 zucchini sliced
2 cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 (13 ½ oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained
4 cups hot vegetable broth

Combine portobello mushrooms and water in a medium saucepan simmer for 15 minutes, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine saffron and wine, and set aside. Spray an electric skillet or Dutch oven with olive oil cooking spray, add the Soyrizo at medium high heat. Break Soyrizo into small pieces with a fork and cook 8 minutes or until crisp and brown. Remove Soyrizo from the pan and set aside. Spray the pan with olive oil, add garlic, onions, bell pepper and zucchini. Cook for 3 minutes and add quinoa. Cook mixture for 3 minutes, add artichoke hearts, tomatoes, saffron/chardonney mixture and broth, stirring briefly after each addition. Reduce heat, cover and and simmer for 15 minutes. Top with Soyrizo and serve immediately.

Quinoa Paella

Nutrition Analysis: per 2 cup serving

Protein: 13g, Carbohydrate: 33.g, Fiber: 5g,
Fat: 7g, Sat Fat: 0g, Cholesterol 0 mg,
Calcium 71 mg  Sodium 441mg

Calories: 208
from Protein: 20%
from Carbohydrate: 53%
from Fat: 24%

  1.  Efficacy of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) saponins against golden apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) in the Philippines under laboratory conditions
    Crop Protection, Volume 27, Issues 3-5, March-May 2008, Pages 553-557
    Ravindra C. Joshi, Ricardo San Martín, Cesar Saez-Navarrete, John Alarcon, Javier Sainz, Mina M. Antolin, Antonio R. Martin and Leocadio S. Sebastian
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An alternative approach to health, wellness and disease prevention. Marie Oser and her team of bloggers bring you creative natural solutions to issues affecting our health and wellbeing.

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