Discovering the Ancient Grain: Quinoa

Today is Whole Grains Sampling Day! Whole grains are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help keep you fuller longer and promote a healthy digestive tract. While most of us think of whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice as whole grain options, quinoa is gaining popularity in Americans’ diets for its versatility and health benefits.

What is Quinoa?

First of all, it’s pronounced KEEN-wah, not kwin-OH-a, despite the confusing spelling. This grain is often called a “pseudo-cereal” because its nutrient content is similar to grains and we cook it and eat it like a cereal. The plant itself is actually more botanically similar to beets, chard, or spinach. Quinoa grows on large stalks, the seeds of which can be multiple colors such as red, purple, green, yellow, or even black. You can actually eat the leaves of the quinoa plant as well!

What are the health benefits of Quinoa?

Quinoa is the only grain that is also a complete protein, meaning it supplies all of the essential amino acids, making it a great source of protein in a vegetarian diet. It is the highest of all whole grains in potassium to support a healthy blood pressure. Plus, quinoa is gluten-free, providing a high fiber grain option for those following a gluten-free diet

How do you cook Quinoa?

Quinoa is cooked similar to rice, with a ratio of one part quinoa to two parts water. It typically only takes about 15 minutes to cook and is done when the “c-shaped” germ pops out of the grain. Make sure to rinse uncooked quinoa under running water before cooking to remove any residue of a bitter coating, called saponin, that quinoa grows to ward off pests. This coating makes it easier to grow quinoa more naturally, without the use of pesticides.

This versatile grain has a nutty taste that works well in savory or sweet dishes. Try this easy quinoa recipe courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Corn

By Monique Ryan, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN


1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup fresh corn kernels

3 green onions, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 small red pepper seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice from one lime

2 teaspoons cumin

1 clove garlic, minced

⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper


1      Cook quinoa in boiling water for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the little "tails" appear.

2      Place the warm quinoa in a large bowl. Add the beans, corn, onion, red pepper and tomato. Mix olive oil, lime juice, garlic, black pepper and cumin and stir into quinoa mixture.

3      Salad can be served warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: ⅔ Cup

Serves 6

Calories: 278; Total Fat: 7.7g; Saturated Fat: 1.1g; Trans Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Total Carbohydrate: 44.7g; Dietary Fiber: 8.7g; Protein: 10.7g; Calcium: 54 mg; Iron: 4.8 mg.

For more quinoa recipes, visit or the Oldways Whole Grains Council at