We are so pleased at DiabetesCare.net to continue our series on Meatless Mondays! This month we are featuring the 100 percent whole grain quinoa (Keen-Wah - pictured, left), which is considered a super-grain and the most nutritious grain by many people around the world. It is thought to have been a sacred food in Ancient Inca cultures and is referred to as the mother grain in many references. Quinoa is a gluten-free food. Today we would like to present nine interesting questions and answers about quinoa, one of the healthiest whole grains here on earth!

1. What is the history of quinoa? Quinoa is an extremely old food that has been grown in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and enjoyed by native people for over 5,000 years. In the recent past, quinoa has become so popular in the United States and Canada that farmers in the Rocky Mountains have started to plant and successfully grow quinoa. African and Asian farmers are also beginning to experiment with its cultivation as well.

2. What Plant does it come from? It is interesting that Quinoa is the seed of the goosefoot plant (the leaves of the plant looks like a webbed foot of a goose - pictured, below), but is sometimes referred to as vegetable caviar and Inca rice.

3. Is it a cereal grain? Quinoa is not actually a cereal grain but is referred to as a “pseudo-cereal,” which is defined by the Whole Grain Council as: “a food that is cooked and eaten like a grain and has a similar nutrient profile. It is in the related to beets, chard and spinach.” The leaves can be eaten as well as the seed.

4. Is quinoa a good nutritional choice? The nutrition value of quinoa is considered excellent! The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that the balance of essential amino acids in quinoa protein is comparable with milk protein and superior to the proteins found in wheat, barley, soy, rice or corn.

5. The fat in quinoa is mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which are considered healthy fats.
Some of the minerals you consume when eating quinoa include calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It also contains many of the B vitamins with only a few milligrams of sodium. Please note that one cup of quinoa contains 5 grams of fiber making it an excellent source.

6. What food has the United Nations declared to be featured in 2013? According to “UN News Centre,” a website focusing on news from the United Nations (UN), 2013 has been declared the International Year of Quinoa. The hopes of the UN are to raise awareness of a vegetarian food that contains all of the essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Quinoa is a food source that can be grown in many areas where there are high malnutrition rates. The UN has a "zero hunger challenge," which focuses on many issues which include providing nutritious food to all people throughout the year.

7. How do you include quinoa in a meal plan for a person with diabetes?
a. If counting carbohydrates, 1 cup of cooked quinoa has 39 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fiber.

b. People who use the Exchange lists can count 1/3 cup of quinoa as 1 starch exchange.









8. How do you preparing quinoa? (Basic recipe)
a. Place the quinoa in a strainer with extremely small mesh or wrap in cheesecloth and rinse under cool running water for a few minutes until the water is clear. This step is to rinse off the outer coating of the seed which contains saponin which forms a soapy lather and is very bitter. An alternative to rinsing quinoa is to buy a brand that is has already been thoroughly rinsed and dried.

b. You will need 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rinsed quinoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed. Quinoa is transparent when fully cooked. It expands to approximately 3 times the original size. It is a quick food to cook and a small batch usually takes about 15 minutes to make.

9. How do you get fancy with quinoa? Add frozen or sautéed vegetables to the basic recipe. Peas, edamame or beans are delicious additions as well. You can also substitute a low sodium chicken or vegetable broth to replace the water. Adding a few raisins or other dried fruit adds a sweet touch. Quinoa is a very versatile grain and can be substituted in many recipes for rice, barley, couscous or pasta. A fun and tasty treat is to pop the rinsed and dried seed like popcorn. If you can buy the leaves of the quinoa plant, you can use them like lettuce leaves in a salad or cook them like spinach.

10. What is one of the favorite quinoa recipes that Diabetescare.net features?
We would love you to try our recipe for Quinoa Berry Breakfast. We can’t think of a better way to start your day. The recipe includes quinoa, walnuts, cinnamon and blackberries. Please go to here to find it!

More Quinoa Recipe Suggestions:

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Nutty Quinoa Salad

Meatless Quinoa Burgers

Quinoa Crunch Tomato Soup

Quinoa Salad

Banana Cake Quinoa