Is Quinoa Just a Rice Substitute? - 24Seven Wellness & Living

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You must have been living under a rock for the past 3 years if you haven’t heard of quinoa (pronounced keen-wha)! But what is this super grain and where does it come from?

Quinoa was first domesticated about 5,000 years ago in the Andean region of South America. Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile were among the first countries to grow it.

It is a very sustainable food source. Unlike rice, which requires abut 7 feet of water each year to grow, quinoa needs only 8 inches. The United Nations were so impressed by this naturally gluten-free food that they designated 2013 the International Year of Quinoa in an effort to raise awareness of its’ health benefits.

The ancient Incas called quinoa “the mother grain” as it was thought to promote a healthy pregnancy and increase a new mother’s milk production. True or not, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that must come from food since our bodies cannot produce it. Hence the term “super food” given to it from nutritionists around the world.

One of the complete proteins quinoa provides is lysine, a vital amino acid. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lysine may help the body absorb calcium and it also plays an integral role in the formation of collagen which is important for bones, skin, tendons and cartilage.

Various medical studies suggest that increased levels of lysine may help to reduce outbreaks of cold sores and herpes, as well as assisting muscle tissue recover more quickly after a workout.

Quinoa has also been classified by the National Academy of Sciences as one of the best sources of protein for vegetarians.  It is also a digestible food source for those with wheat allergies or sensitivities.

So there is no doubt that adding quinoa to your diet would be a wise move but most of us just use it as a rice substitute but you may be surprised what recipes you can add this nutritional power-house to. Think of quinoa muffins, pancakes, cookies, granola bars, sliders and quesadillas.  Adding it to soups, salads, casseroles or substituting if for pasta or rice are a few ways to go.  You might be surprised how many recipes are available and what a great way of sneaking such a nutritional food into your kids meals, what child doesn’t love a brownie, and yes, you can make them with quinoa!