It’s an ancient South American grain that is relatively new to the American diet – but it’s gaining popularity due to its impressive health and weight loss benefits. It can be eaten as a hot cereal for breakfast, as a warm side-dish or whole-grain carbohydrate source in any well-balanced meal, or can be used to make a delicious cold salad – perfect for packed lunches or pre-workout snacks. Quinoa is also gluten-free, so it’s a versatile grain that can fit into any diet.
Why Include Quinoa in Your Diet Rotation?
- Quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain, with 8 grams of protein and 132 calories per cup. This doubles the protein content in rice (4 grams/cup) and barley (3.5 grams/cup).
- Quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein. Complete proteins contain all 9 amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own. Most animal proteins including meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs are complete proteins. Quinoa and soy are two of the very few plant-based complete proteins! This makes it quinoa and important addition to any vegetarian or vegan diet and a great complement to a healthy omnivorous diet as well.
- Quinoa contains high levels of the essential amino acid, lysine, which helps repair and grow body tissues, including muscle! This means that regularly including quinoa in your diet plan will help repair your muscles after tough workouts.
- Quinoa is high in fiber – 5 g per cup – so it will help keep you feeling full. It is also a slow-burning whole grain carbohydrate source which will help stave off hunger, stabilize blood sugars and keep your energy levels high.
- Eating whole grains like quinoa, instead of refined grains (like white rice and wheat flour) can also help you decrease body fat in the abdominal area, according to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Quinoa is high in many other important nutrients including iron (15% daily value), folate (19% daily value), manganese (58% daily value), phosphorus (28% daily value) and magnesium (30% daily value).
Tasty Quinoa Recipes!
So, how can you include this beneficial new grain in your diet? On its own, quinoa can taste a little bland, but it has a tasty nutty flavor when combined with the right spices and ingredients. Here are a few ways you can include it in your diet.
1) Marvelous Morning Cereal If you want to switch things up for breakfast, try preparing a hot quinoa cereal. Quinoa is tasty when lightly sweetened with honey and fruits such as in this Fruited Breakfast Quinoa with Honey recipe or this Breakfast Quinoa recipe from Fit Sugar with strawberries, walnuts and yogurt.
2) Super Side Dish: Quinoa pilaf For a tasty whole grain side dish to serve in place of rice, potatoes or bread follow these easy steps. First saute chopped onion and garlic in a tsp. of olive oil. Rinse a cup of dry quinoa and add it to the saute pan, toasting it for just a minute or two. Add 1.5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth, bring to a boil and then cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. If you like, stir in cooked veggies or some frozen peas.
3) Spice It Up! Quinoa can also make a tasty main dish, as in this Curried Chicken Quinoa with Peas recipe. For a tasty vegetarian burger, give this vegan Quinoa Burger recipe a try.
4) Snack Time Salad Prepare a healthy quinoa vegetable salad and store in the fridge for snack time or as a great accompaniment to any meal. One of the tastiest salads is any one of many variations on the Quinoa Black Bean Salad. For more awesome Quinoa Salad recipes, check out this article from Fitness Magazine, Quality Quinoa: 13 Easy, Healthy Recipes.
Want to know the best way to eat to meet your fitness and weight goals? The Athlean-XX for Women program includes a no-fail Nutrition Plan that encourages you to eat frequently and healthily. You won’t have to starve on this plan! In fact, it’s a plan that’s designed so that you can follow it for life. It includes lots of tasty foods like quinoa that will help you have more energy, workout harder and trim your waistline. Give it a try!