Ah quinoa, it’s such a miraculous little grain.  I admit, it took me a while to jump on this bandwagon.  I have a tendency to avoid things that are super trendy, so when all my foodie friends started raving about quinoa, I just could not understand what all the hype was about.  Being gluten free, I finally gave in and tried some quinoa on a salad.  It was AWESOME.  Light, fluffy and a bit nutty in taste, it added flavor and amazing amounts of protein.  And just like that I became one them, I became a quinoa groupie.

Quinoa is often referred to as the “Supergrain of the Future”, and has quickly skyrocketed in popularity among the nutritionally savvy, being regaled as one of the most nutritious superfoods in the world.  How did that happen, you ask?

Although referred to as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed from a vegetable related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets. Quinoa is pronounced “keen-wah,” not “kwin-oh-ah.”

Quinoa dates back three to four thousand years ago when the Incas first realized that the seed was fit for human consumption. According to WHFoods quinoa “was the gold of the Incas” because they believed it increased the stamina of their warriors. They grew quinoa in South America in the high altitude of the Andes. It was also their staple food for 5,000 years.  The Spanish conquistadors, not knowing its value, almost wiped out quinoa by making it illegal for Native Indians to grow.  It was in the 1980s when two Americans rediscovered quinoa and started growing it in Colorado.

Here are seven health benefits of quinoa:

1. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.

2. Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. Fiber is most widely known to relieve constipation. It also helps to prevent heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and diabetes. Fiber lowers cholesterol and glucose levels, may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids, and may help you to lose weight (it takes a longer time to chew than does other foods because it makes you feel fuller for longer and is less “energy dense,” which means it has fewer calories for the same volume of food).

3. Quinoa contains Iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. Iron carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction. Iron also increases brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. There are many benefits of iron; it aids in neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, enzyme activity and energy metabolism.

4. Quinoa contains lysine. Lysine is mainly essential for tissue growth and repair.

5. Quinoa is rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and thereby to alleviate migraines. Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.

Tips for Eating and Cooking Quinoa:

  • Always rinse quinoa. Place quinoa in a strainer, run cold water over it until the entire soapy residue has been washed away. You can taste test a few seeds; if they still have a bitter taste, run more cold water over them. Rubbing the seeds while rinsing with water takes away even more bitterness.
  • You may add quinoa to your salad or make quinoa porridge. Also quinoa pudding is a great substitute for brown rice while quinoa flour is a great substitute for your gluten free baking.
  • Quinoa can even be popped like popcorn, a treat popular with Peruvian children.
  • It is best to store quinoa in an airtight container; stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for three to six months.

The other thing I love about quinoa is how versatile it is!  It absorbs flavor really well, and my favorite tip is to use vegetable broth instead of water when you cook it to give  the quinoa a nice flavor.  Pair that with sauteed greens, lentils and a creamy savory cheesy sauce and you’ll have a meal that is not only hearty and filling but extremely addicting!  The flavors of this dish are so beautiful, and would make a great meal for the holidays! I have a feeling my family will be fighting over this dish next Thanksgiving!



  • ½ cup brown or green lentils
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 medium-large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth


  • 1 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh ground black


  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp tamari
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium-large clove of garlic, grated
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp tahini



  1. Add lentils, water, garlic and bay leaf to a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low-medium and simmer about 25-40 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are tender. Remove bay leaf and crushed garlic. Set aside.


  1. Add quinoa and water to a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low-medium and simmer about 12 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender.


  1. Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Once warmed, add the greens and cook until softened. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper, turn off the heat, and set aside.


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.

Putting it all together

  1. Divide quinoa between bowls, then add in the lentils and sauteed greens.
  2. Pour a healthy amount of dressing over each bowl. Serve warm!
EntreesAlicia Uhl