Quinoa (keen-wah) is a naturally gluten-free food, that is considered a complete protein. Because of these factors, it is increasingly growing as a staple menu item for people with digestive sensitivities, those living a plant-based lifestyle, and those looking to grow their pantry nutrition.
The plant comes to us from the Andes, where it has long been cultivated by the Inca. Botanically a relative of swiss chard and beets rather than a “true” grain.
Once processed you have a small, light-colored round grain, sometimes mistaken for couscous. But make no mistake, quinoa’s nutrition far exceeds couscous. Quinoa is available red, purple and black.
Most quinoa must be rinsed before cooking, to remove the bitter residue of saponins, a plant-defense that wards oﬀ insects.
Quick Facts on Quinoa
- Easy to incorporate into soups, salads, baked goods, and more.
- Simple to prepare. Bring water to a boil, follow package directions for the ratio of water to quinoa, stir in quinoa, reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer 12-15 minutes.
- Is a complete protein because it has all of the essential amino acids our body cannot create on its own.
Quinoa is also naturally gluten-free, but unlike many other gluten-free products, quinoa is loaded with nutrition.
- B vitamins for energy metabolism
- Complete protein for muscle and tissue repair.
- Potassium to help lower blood pressure.
- 8 grams of high-quality protein, and 39 grams of slow-digesting carbs
1 cup cooked quinoa provides approximately:
- Calories: 229 calories
- Fat: 3.5 grams (mostly from unsaturated, healthy fats)
- Carbohydrates: 42 grams
- Fiber: 3.5 grams
- Natural sugar: 0 grams
- Protein: 8 gram
- Potassium: 453mg
- Source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate
A Vegan Protein Staple
Entering into a vegan lifestyle can be a pathway to better health. Or, like any diet, it can be full of pseudo-health foods that are highly processed and loaded with fillers, that just happen to be considered vegan.
Vegan athletes have come to know quinoa as not only a complete protein source, but a source of vital vitamins and minerals that help promote solid performance.
- Magnesium: Energy production, muscle contraction, nervous system function, protein formation
- Phosphorus: Acid-base balance, hormone activation, energy production and storage
- Folate: Protein metabolism
- Iron: Energy production, red blood cell formation, wound healing, immune function
Athlete highlight: Quinoa easily fits into an athletes workout fuel. Create quinoa energy bites, blend into smoothies, or enjoy as your primary protein and carbohydrate combo source for dinner the night before a race.
Simple Quinoa Recipes
Breakfast: Quinoa Breakfast Bowl or Parfait
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup Yumbutter Organic Superfood Peanut / Almond / Cashew / or Sunflower Butter
- 2 Tbsp honey https://life.spartan.com/post/honey-can-improve-gut-health
- ½ tsp Maca powder (optional) https://life.spartan.com/post/maca-nature-s-aphrodisiac
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 medium ripe pear, cut into bite-sized chunks
- In a large saucepan, bring quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and reduce to a low simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir every few minutes to keep quinoa from sticking to the bottom of pan.
- Remove quinoa from heat. Stir in Yumbutter, honey, maca (optional) and cinnamon.
- Top with pear, then drizzle with additional honey and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve immediately
Lunch: Lean Green Quinoa Bowl (Makes 4 servings)
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup spinach, chopped (substitute any of your favorite greens)
- ½ cup pesto sauce
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts
- Pink himalayan sea salt to taste
- In a large saucepan, bring quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and reduce to a low simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir every few minutes to keep quinoa from sticking to bottom of pan.
- Stir spinach into cooked quinoa (the heat of the quinoa will wilt the spinach nicely). Stir gently until mixed evenly.
- Stir in pesto sauce. Transfer to four bowls and top with pine nuts. Add sea salt to taste. Serve warm.
Side Dish: Quinoa Tabbouleh (Makes 4-6 servings)
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon pink himalayan sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 4 plum tomatoes, diced
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 3 green onions, diced
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Enjoy cold as a main dish or a side.
Pre/ Post Workout: Quinoa Energy Bites
- 1 cup cooked white quinoa, chilled
- 1 cup quick cooking oats
- ¼ cup Yumbutter Organic Superfood Peanut / Almond / Cashew / or Sunflower Butter
- ⅓ cup dark chocolate (80% or darker, chopped)
- ¼ cup maple syrup or honey
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp pink himalayan sea salt
Line a small baking sheet with wax paper
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.
Using your hands, roll the mixture into individual small balls slightly smaller than a golf ball.
Place balls onto lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for 4 hours or overnight. Enjoy straight out of the freezer.
Pull desired amount out of the freezer roughly 10 minutes before you wish to enjoy it. This will allow it to mostly thaw. Great as a pre or post workout fuel, or as a sweet treat to curve cravings.
Dinner: Slow Cooked Quinoa Chili (Makes 8 servings)
- 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
- 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 14 ounces diced tomatoes, canned with juice
- 1/2 yellow onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker, stir and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours.
- Tip: This recipe makes 8 servings. Take half of the finished recipe and store in four individual freezer containers. This will make the perfect lunch or dinner in a pinch.
Smoothie: Chocolate Quinoa Smoothie (Makes 1 serving)
- ¼ cup cooked quinoa
- 1 banana, frozen,
- 1 Tbsp Yumbutter Organic Superfood Peanut / Almond / Cashew / or Sunflower Butter
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 ½ cups coconut water
- Add all ingredients to blender or smoothie maker and blend 60 seconds. Enjoy cold.
Here is your grocery list to produce the above recipes:
Tomato, plum variety
Dark chocolate (80% or darker)
Maca power (optional)
Olive oil, extra virgin
Oats, quick cooking
Sea salt, pink Himalayan
Tomato, canned & diced
Yumbutter (or your other favorite nut butter)