// By: Emily Fitzgerald, MScFN,RD

Have you ever tried quinoa? Do you know how to cook it? Did you know that NASA considered quinoa as a desirable food for long-term space flights back in 1993? Well, neither did I! Read on to discover more about this popular food.

Over the last few years quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has become quite popular in the nutrition world. Quinoa is a unique food for several reasons. Firstly, we eat and cook quinoa similarly to other grains, although it is actually classified as a seed. Botanically speaking, it is related to vegetables such as beets, swiss chard and spinach. You can eat the greens of the quinoa plant as well, although we traditionally purchase it in the grocery store in its seed form.

The farmer harvesting multicolored quinoa in his field in a village near Pisac, in the Peruvian Andes. The effect of all the mix of colors was terrific.

The farmer harvesting multicolored quinoa in his field in a village near Pisac, in the Peruvian Andes. The effect of all the mix of colors was terrific.

Quinoa offers more protein and iron than other grain choices out there. Quiona is one of the only plant-based complete protein sources. This means it supplies all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need but cannot make on their own. The majority of complete protein sources are animal-based such as meat, fish, poultry and eggs.

A common question I get asked is, “How do I cook quinoa?” The first step is to rinse the quinoa in a mesh colander. This helps remove quinoa’s natural coating, which can give off a bitter taste. The rest is simple – quinoa cooks very similar to rice, but in less time. In about 15 minutes, you have a light, fluffy edible seed ready to be enjoyed.

What I love most about quinoa is its versatility. Here are a few suggestions on how to easily incorporate quinoa in your next meal:

  • Enjoy this delicious quinoa salad for your weekly lunches or as a side dish for dinner

Healthy Quinoa Salad with red pepper and hazelnuts

  • Add quinoa to your favorite chili recipe, here is my vegetarian chili for an added texture, fibre and protein

A pan of chilli, ready to serve.  Soft focus, shallow depth of field.

  • Enjoy it with some veggies as a side dish
  • Try quinoa in replacement of oatmeal. Cook the quinoa in milk and stir in fruits, cinnamon or natural peanut butter for a delicious breakfast.

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Stay grounded,

Emily