Quinoa’s Qualities – and Sorry if I Bashed You
If you read my recent blog about quinoa, which was pretty popular, you might have felt like I was bashing it. And I don’t mean to get the husk off. So I’m going to write about the benefits of quinoa in more depth, than my previous piece (where the goal was to dispel the myth that quinoa is high-protein).
I take your feedback seriously. So this one’s for you and for Quinoa.
What it is:
It’s a seed but nutritionally it resembles to a whole grain. The outside is poisonous and is removed before it reaches the package or store.
- 1 cup cooked, about 150-175 calories
- 96 calories from carbs
- 4 g of fibre (0 calories)
- 25 calories from fat
- 26 calories from protein (6.5 g which is not much, and thus dispells the myth that it is high-protein)
Compared to a grain like rice which has 200-250 calories per cup, quinoa is a better choice for most people, since the average person is trying to avoid excess calories, and needs more fibre in the their diet. And yes, quinoa has a bit more protein than rice.
Adding 1/3 cup of quinoa to a salad is a great way to get more carbs, since the leafy greens and peppers aren’t enough. The quinoa would obviously be a better choice than croutons.
Quinoa generally has more minerals than rice. But it’s not such a huge difference that it could make-or-break your nutrition. We get the same minerals from fruit, veg, nuts, meat etc. which a balanced diet must have.
A carb of similar cost and calories – acorn squash – has way more vitamins and minerals than quinoa. You should expect that when choosing a colourful vegetable over a seed.
Nutritional summary vs rice and healthy bread: Quinoa has less calories, more fibre, more minerals (mostly) and it’s gluten free. Quinoa is healthier. But it’s not a significant difference in an overall nutrition plan.
Quinoa vs processed grains like white bread and pizza crust: no contest. Quinoa dominates here.
What’s it taste like?
This may be where quinoa really shines. Well… that depends who you ask. If you ask a cynical person, or one who eats processed food every day, it tastes like cardboard. If you ask a clean eater (clean eaters have more sensitive taste buds) they will describe it as an earthy, mineral, or nutty. I can eat plain quinoa and enjoy it, but I can’t eat plain rice and enjoy it.
I like it. I like the taste, texture, and it pairs well with anything. It can be served cold on a salad or hot with a meal.
I don’t mean Rob Wolf vs Brendan Brasier, I mean more important considerations. Quinoa exporting has driven quinoa prices through the roof. So locals in Peru who used to eat it several times a day, can’t afford it anymore. And the majority of the farms that used to rotate crops and produce a variety of foods (sustainable) now only grow quinoa (not sustainable). This is from an article I found here. If this is meaningful to you, eat carbohydates of similar makeup grown closer to home, such as grains (wheat), yams, squash, and apples.
We could find political issues with many foods. The best way to support sustainability is to buy directly from farmers when possible.
It’s expensive. 16 cups cooked costs about $15, so about a dollar a serving. Similar servings of potatoes, rice, or bread are about 10-20 cents per serving (one-fifth the cost).
Qunioa is slightly healthier than bread, potatoes, and rice, but not 5x healthier, that would justify a 5x the price.
Quinoa is kind of like rice, only a bit healthier, a bit tastier, and more expensive. You can take it or leave it and it’s not a big game-changer. If you enjoy it, the amount you eat will dictate its effect on you, since it is calorically dense.