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Eating Well with Whole Foods: Quinoa

by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski

Once referred to as "the gold of the Incas" because quinoa was said to increase the stamina of their warriors, this ancient "grain" is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. Native to South America, quinoa was rediscovered about twenty years ago by two Americans who, realizing its exceptional nutritional benefits, began cultivating it in Colorado.

Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids making it a complete protein and an excellent choice for vegans who want to assure getting their daily requirement. In addition to protein, quinoa is a great source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorous. Quinoa may be particularly valuable to those suffering from migraines because increased intake of magnesium has shown to be related to a decrease in headaches in migraine sufferers. Quinoa may also be helpful to those with hypertension because magnesium helps relax blood vessels. The whole "grain" and natural fiber it contains may also promote a healthy heart by reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack, as well as decreasing cholesterol. Other natural health benefits of quinoa include antioxidant protection, potential decrease in childhood asthma, gallstone prevention, and a lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Since quinoa is a low-gluten food, it is one of the least allergenic "grains." Quinoa flour and pasta is available in leading natural health food stores across the country.

Quinoa is an amino acid-rich seed with a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture. It has somewhat of a nutty flavor that is heightened when cooked or toasted. Although the most common type of quinoa is clear yellow, it ranges in color from orange, to pink, to red, purple, and even black. Available throughout the year in your health food store, quinoa should be stored in an airtight container. To extend its shelf life, place it in the refrigerator and it will keep for about three to six months.

Quinoa is simple to prepare and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Remember to rinse it under cold water and rub gently in a mesh strainer in order to remove any saponin residue that coats the seeds. To cook the quinoa, add one part quinoa to two parts water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer and cover, usually about 15 minutes, or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it. When finished, the quinoa will appear translucent in color. If you prefer a nuttier taste, try dry roasting it in a skillet for about five minutes before cooking. Quinoa makes a healthy and hearty breakfast porridge. Experiment with fresh fruit, cinnamon, and nuts to kick up the flavor. Quinoa is an excellent protein-rich alternative to rice in a vegetable stir-fry. Try replacing the water with vegetable stock for additional flavor, and season and serve with bitter greens like kale. The ways to enjoy quinoa are limitless! Experiment with quinoa to discover a favorite recipe that tickles your taste buds. And, remember that with each serving of quinoa you’re getting plenty of health-promoting benefits.

Quinoa Banana-Peach

Breakfast Porridge

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

½ cup raisins

1 sliced peach

1 sliced banana

1-teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sliced almonds (optional)

¼ cup brown rice syrup or honey (optional)

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Lower heat to simmer and cover for about 15 minutes. While simmering, add in fruit and spices. Poke with fork to see if it’s finished. It should be fluffy. Remove saucepan from heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. Drizzle in brown rice or honey and enjoy.

Suzann Pileggi is a certified holistic health counselor. She works with clients on nourishing their body and soul by helping them make better food and lifestyle choices. She uses food to naturally increase energy, control cravings and create a balanced lifestyle. She conducts special sugar seminars at Radu’s Physical Culture gym in NYC. Visit her website at www.suzannpileggi.com  , email her at  suzannpileggi@aol.com , or call her at (212) 799-4169 for a FREE initial holistic health consultation. Phone consultations and group seminars available.

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