Have you heard of quinoa? Quinoa is a seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. It is loaded with amino acids and nutrients, a food recently “rediscovered” and gaining praise for its health benefits.
Quinoa is a complete protein. This means it contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a superb options for vegetarians or vegans who are worried about omitting a few essential proteins from their diet (which is probably an unnecessary concern, but it doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side).
In particular, it is abundant in the amino acid lysine, one of the amino acids our body cannot produce. It plays a major role in calcium absorption, building muscle protein, and aiding in the recovery from surgery of injury from sports. It helps repair the micro-tears in muscle fiber that is a result of strenuous exercise. It is also a factor in the body’s production of hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.
Additionally, quinoa is a great source of manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium. Copper and manganese help protect antioxidants in the body. Magnesium has several important functions:
- Aiding in the contraction and relaxation of muscles
- Allowing function of certain enzymes in the body
- Helping in the production and transport of energy
- Aiding in the production of protein
It’s easy to see that a diet with sufficient magnesium is important, especially for those who exercise on a regular basis.
Some refer to quinoa as the “super grain for runners.” This is because, in addition to all of the properties listed above, it contains what is said to be the perfect balance of carbohydrates and proteins for recovery. (Surprisingly, chocolate milk is also said to have this perfect balance.) Its ratio of carbohydrates to protein is roughly 4 to 1; it is a great source of both.
To cook quinoa, treat it like rice. It can be used as a part of a main dish (e.g. a substitute for rice in a stir-fry) or a side dish (e.g. added to a salad), or even as a dessert (it can pack a powerful punch in a smoothie). Have it for breakfast (similar to oatmeal), lunch, or dinner; it is extremely versatile.