I am a huge fan of whole grains, but quinoa (KEEN-wah) is my absolute favorite.
This staple of Incan culture (their army swore by it and considered it as valuable as gold) is a nutritional powerhouse which is finally sharing shelf space with rice, cous cous, and pasta at general supermarkets after years of taking a backseat in specialty health food stores.
Quinoa is not really a grain; it actually belongs to the same family of dark leafy green vegetables as spinach, but due to its texture and cooking method, it is referred to as a grain (thus, it is technically a pseudograin).
And what a pseudograin it is! Quinoa is the only complete plant protein (meaning it has all eight essential amino acids; many plants proteins are missing the amino acid lysine).
Containing very high levels of blood-vessel-relaxing magnesium -- half a cup provides 50% of the daily requirement for a 2,000-calorie diet -- quinoa helps treat hypertension and, some recent research suggests, migraine headaches.
One cup of cooked quinoa packs 503 milligrams of potassium -- another key mineral in preventing hypertension and offsetting the problems of too much sodium. To give you an idea, that's as much potassium as a large banana (15% of the recommended amount)!
This South American superstar leaves many others grains in the dust.
Compare one cup of quinoa with one cup of white rice:
Calories:254 Fiber (grams):4 Protein (grams):9 Potassiums (milligrams):503
Calories:205 Fiber (grams):0.6 Protein (grams):4.3 Potassium (milligrams):55
It gets even better!Quinoa is a prebiotic, meaning it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in our intestinal tracts. The healthier our bacteria, the better chance we have of warding off infections and fighting back and disease-causing bacteria.
And, as if all that wasn't enough,quinoa is gluten-free, so celiacs can enjoy it -- and all its benefits -- with no side effects.
Interested in trying some? Find unflavored quinoa in your supermarket (in the same aisle as rice) and go to town.Cooking it is easy. Simply mix in a pot with water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the water is evaporated.