What is quinoa?

Quinoa, its nutritional value and how it can benefit your health.

If you’ve ever hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you may have been slightly embarrassed to have to move to the side of a flight of steps carved into a mountainside to make room for the sturdy Peruvian hill farmers and porters surging past, carrying your entire camp on their backs. You may also have wondered how they did it.

For thousands of years, quinoa (pronounced ‘Kinwa’, rhyming with with Renoir, not Noah!) has been a staple of the Andean diet. Now it’s becoming popular in the northern hemisphere, appearing in our health stores as a superfood. The UN even declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa!

What is quinoa and why is it so good for everyone?

Like buckwheat, quinoa is a “pseudo cereal”, a member of the goosefoot genus more closely related to beetroot and spinach than to wheat. Because it isn’t a true grain, quinoa is suitable for anyone with a gluten intolerance.

Its low glycaemic index and high protein content gives you slow-burning energy, making you feel fuller for longer and helping your body to repair and replenish after exercise.

Quinoa is also a good source of fibre and contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it an essential part of a vegan diet.

Even on religious grounds, quinoa is proving its worth – it’s now widely considered a kosher substitute for leavened grains which are banned during Passover.

The nutritional value of quinoa

Quinoa is a whole-grain food containing slow-digesting carbohydrate, with a low GI.

It has twice the protein content of, say, rice, and is particularly rich in the amino acid lysine.

It’s packed with vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamins B and E.

As if that’s not enough, quinoa is a source of anti-inflammatory agents and Omega-3 fatty acids.

The colours of quinoa

Quinoa comes in a range of colours, the most common being black, red and white. Many people don’t differentiate except on grounds of visual impact in their meal but I think the white variety is slightly softer and quicker to cook than black, red being a happy medium. Try each for yourself and see which you prefer.

Cooking with quinoa

By now, I hope you’ve all been sold the benefits of adding quinoa to your diet. It’s become a regular fixture in mine and here’s a recipe I particularly enjoy.
Cashew and quinoa salad


150 grams of quinoa

1 vegetable stock

6 spring onions

100 grams of cashew nuts

2 tablespoons of sesame oil

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

3 large carrots (grated)

Seasoning (Salt and Ground Pepper)


Weigh out the quinoa and place in the pan. Boil 350 ml of water and dissolve a stock into it. Then pour into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for around 10-15 minutes until soft. While the quinoa is cooking, chop the spring onions and grate the carrots. Combine the nuts, sesame oil, soy sauce, grated carrots, spring onions and salt and pepper into a serving bowl. Then add the quinoa into the bowl and mix all together. Enjoy.

This can be eaten hot or cold and used for both dinner and lunches. You can also add some chicken to this to add more protein.

I hope you’ve found this blog interesting and useful. To find more healthy recipes and tips for improving your health and wellbeing, please take a look at the recipe page http://bodyconditioning.info/recipes