Monday, November 21, 2011


While sitting at a work Thanksgiving luncheon today, I got into a conversation with some coworkers about the wonderful benefits of quinoa.  Some people had never heard of it, and my basic description made me realize I don't know a whole lot about it either, so I thought I'd do my research!

What I already know
Quinoa is really similar to couscous.  In fact, I thought my coworker's dish was couscous, but it was quinoa.  Basically, it's a small grain that you cook in the same manner as rice or couscous.  It's also a complete protein, which is very good for you.  It apparently contains a lot of nutrients that help with brain function, and so on.  It seems to be some kind of miracle food, from what I know.

So, quinoa sounds fantastic, doesn't it?  I thought so too, until my coworker said that she heard that quinoa is becoming so popular, that the people who are native to the country where it's grown are starving because all of their food is being exported to other countries.  This sounds horrible, so I decided to do some internet sleuthing.

Disclaimer:  It's the internet, not a medical encyclopedia, so we have to do our best to find reliable information.

So, let's get started!

What is quinoa?
Quinoa is a grain related to beets and spinach (two other extremely nutritious foods), made of edible seeds.  Quinoa sold in North America is most often processed to remove the bitter taste from the coating on the seeds.

Why is it good for you?
Quinoa really is chock full of great nutrients, including lysene, amino acids, calcium, iron, and phosphorous.  Even NASA has praised quinoa for its excellent nutritional value, and recognized it as a viable source of easily-sustained nutrition for astronauts.

Are people starving because of quinoa's popularity?
Well, not really.  According to the New York Times, because quinoa has become increasingly in demand in richer countries like America, farmers are able to export their crop for a higher price than before.  Now that quinoa is becoming more expensive (because of demand), the fear is that the natives of Bolivia are turning to more processed foods for sustenance.  Of course, the article also notes that younger generations in Bolivia tend to prefer noodles over quinoa, so changes in diets may also be due to changes in taste preferences.  The distinction is unclear, and the article seems to be a little more alarmist than the evidence suggests.

How do I eat quinoa?
In much the same way as you'd eat rice or couscous.  I frequently make brown rice in our rice cooker (we even had it tonight), and we have several recipes for couscous that we love.  Over the next few weeks, I will research and try out some different ways to prepare quinoa, and post successful recipes here, so check back.

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