This pseudo grain is a great source of protein and fiber and can be easily included in your diet.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) originated from the Incas in South America around 5,000 years ago. Increasingly popular as an alternative to rice, quinoa is a healthy food that is growing in demand throughout the country. Just how popular is it? The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.

Often confused as a true grain, quinoa is actually a pseudo-grain. The seed belongs to a family of beets, spinach and Swiss chard. Extremely versatile, it provides numerous cooking and meal options, especially for those with gluten sensitivity. According to a study by Iowa State University, quinoa is ground into flour for baked goods, breakfast cereals, beer, soups, pastas, desserts and even livestock feed.

Quinoa packs in a powerful amount of protein (14-18 percent) for a plant food and includes a balance of nine amino acids. It also presents a quality source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Very low in cholesterol and sodium, quinoa’s diverse nutrient benefits make up an impressive list.

How does quinoa compare to brown rice? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 cup of cooked brown rice has about 215 calories, 5 grams of protein, 1.75 grams of fat, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of fiber and 1 gram of natural sugar. Conversely, a cup of cooked quinoa has 220 calories, 8 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat, 39.5 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of fiber. While brown rice has a lower fat content, the protein and dietary fiber values in quinoa win in the end.

Cooking tip

Rinse quinoa before cooking to remove the chemical compound saponin from the outer coat and rid it of bitterness.

Need a Superfood recipe? Try one of these:

Quinoa with toasted almonds and cranberries

Quinoa salad with grilled vegetables and feta

Gluten-free Moroccan skillet quinoa and chicken