Naturopathic Kitchen: Quinoa

Two bowls of cooked and uncooked quinoa on a countertop

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is a pseudocereal grain–an edible seed that can be used in the same way that we typically use cereal grains. 1 Quinoa is a versatile gluten-free option that can be used to replace grains in many recipes. It has a mild, slightly nutty taste that pairs well with both savory and sweet flavors, making it an extremely adaptable ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of cuisines.

The Health Benefits of Quinoa

More Fiber Than Most Grains

Quinoa is rich in dietary fiber and is a better fiber source than most grains. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 5 grams of fiber, which is 18% of the recommended daily value. 2 A high-fiber diet can improve digestive health and aid in weight management. 3 If you are looking for simple, healthy ways to increase your fiber intake, quinoa is a great option. Try adding cooked quinoa to a breakfast bowl with coconut milk and your favorite toppings, such as cinnamon, fresh berries, and walnuts.

Good Source of Plant-Based Protein

Quinoa is an excellent protein source, with 8 grams of protein per cup of cooked quinoa. 4 Quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids, some in lower amounts, making it a nearly complete protein. 5 If you follow a vegan diet and struggle to get enough protein, or if you are looking for more plant-based protein options to add to any diet, try eating more quinoa. It is very versatile and can be incorporated into many different recipes, including bean salads, soups and stews, or used in place of rice.

Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Quinoa is packed with vitamins and minerals, but it is particularly well known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 6 This is because quinoa contains kaempferol and quercetin, two flavonoid plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. 7 Eating a diet high in flavonoid-rich foods like quinoa may reduce the risk of certain diseases and promote overall health. 8

Roasted Acorn Squash with Cranberry Quinoa Stuffing

This stuffed squash isn’t trying to trick you into thinking it’s stuffed with meat, and it is so flavorful, it doesn’t have to! The quinoa filling is satisfying enough on its own, full of spiced warmth and salty sweetness.

Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University.

Ingredients

  • 2 small acorn squashes
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup roasted, salted and shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

Instructions

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each squash in half lengthwise and scoop out and discard the seeds. Arrange the halves in a large baking dish, flesh-side up.

Whisk together the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the oil and the maple syrup in a cup. Brush the flesh side of the squash halves with some of the maple mixture and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Put the squash flesh-side down in the baking dish, then brush the skin side with maple mixture and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast until the squash is fork-tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Poke the inside of the squash halves with a fork and brush generously with more of the maple mixture.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the quinoa, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until the spices are toasted, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Add fresh cranberries. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer until the quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and stir remaining maple mixture, half of the parsley and half of the pistachios.

Stuff the squash halves with the quinoa and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and pistachios. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

 

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