Is Quinoa a grain?

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a pseudo-cereal that is actually a seed from a plant called Goosefoot; a member of the beetroot/spinach family. Quinoa is often considered a superfood/super-grain as it is packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. It has been cultivated in Peru, Chile and Bolivia for over five thousand years and has been a staple in the region for its nutritional properties.

There are many varieties of quinoa, but the white variety is the most common. Red and black varieties are also widely available. They taste a little different and take longer to cook that the white, which has a fluffy texture and nutty flavour.

Quinoa has many health benefits

Protein: Quinoa is a great vegan source of protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are ones our bodies can’t make itself and must obtain through food sources. Protein is necessary for muscle growth and recovery, brain function and overall health. Quinoa is the only grain to contain the amino acid Lysine. Lysine is used to form carnitine which transports fat across the cell to be burned as energy. Lysine is also used for tissue repair and growth.

Fibre: Quinoa contains more fibre than most other grains. Fibre supports digestion by promoting regular bowel movements and feeding beneficial gut bacteria. A diet high in fibre can support a healthy body weight and metabolic health by keeping you full for longer.

Antioxidants and anti inflammatories: Quinoa contains two well studied flavonoid plant compounds; quercetin and kaempferol. These have anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help protect the body from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. By including nutrient rich food like quinoa you can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and infection.

Vitamins and minerals: Quinoa is rich in many vitamins and minerals but is especially high in iron, manganese, magnesium, folate, potassium, zinc and vitamins B1, B3, B6 and E.

Quinoa is so versitile

Quinoa contains bitter tasting compounds called saponins. These naturally keep insects away from the plant without the use of pesticides, and are especially concentrated on the outer part of the seed. These are usually removed by the manufacturers by rinsing with water. It is still a good idea to give it an extra rinse with water before using it.

Quinoa is naturally gluten free and is a nutritious choice for those on a gluten free diet. It is much higher in nutrients than most gluten free products made using refined ingredients.

Quinoa can be used in many ways. It takes about 15 minutes to cook, using 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Most of the water should be absorbed. Fluff it up with a fork and serve. It can replace cous cous or rice as a side in any dish or added cold to salads. Quinoa flakes can be used for a delicious change from oats for porridge. Quinoa pops can be added to fresh fruit and yoghurt for a bit of crunchy texture and added nutrients. Quinola brand do a lovely pack of ready to eat red and white quinoa, ideal for days when time is short.

My all time favourite quinoa salad recipe is as follows:


It serves 4 as a main or 8 as a side.

3\4 cup of uncooked Artisan quinoa

2 cups of shredded red cabbage

1/2 red pepper diced

1 small red Onion diced

1 grated carrot

1/2 cup of chopped fresh coriander

2 spring onions chopped

1/2 cup cashews

1 tin of Biona organic chickpeas drained


1/4 cup Meridian (no salt) peanut butter

2 tsp grated ginger

3 Tbsp Biona tamari

1 Tbsp Biona agave syrup or honey

1 Tbsp rice/red wine vinegar

1 tsp Meridian organic sesame oil

1 tsp olive oil

Water to thin if necessary


Cook the quinoa, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Make the dressing:

Heat the peanut butter and honey together until softened. Remove from the heat.

Add the ginger, tamari, vinegar and oils and mix well.

I put all the dressing ingredients into a jar and shake it well to mix.

Add the salad ingredients to the cooled quinoa and mix well.

Pour over the dressing, garnish with chopped spring onion and lime wedges.

Blog by one of our Wexford Store Nutritional Therapists - Wendy Moxley

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