Super Grain: Quinoa
by Carly Bergenholtz
You are on a long run when suddenly hunger sets in and your pace is off from heavy legs and fatigue. You realize your most recent meal wasn’t enough to fuel your difficult workout. Yes, we want our foods to be delicious and satisfying, but as an athlete it is crucial for them to sustain you and power the machine you call your body. Quinoa is the answer!
Although it’s considered to be a grain, quinoa is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant and is actually in the same family as leafy green vegetables like beetroots and spinach. Translated as “mother grain,” it was first cultivated in the Andes Mountains 5,000 years ago where the ancient Incas believed that the indigenous plant was a gift from God and that it possessed super powers. In Bolivia, when messages had to be delivered from region to region, relay teams of barefoot runners would cover 150 miles in 24 hours, at an altitude where oxygen is considerably reduced. According to Ernest Small, author of Top 100 Food Plants, the runners relied on a combination of ash from the quinoa plant and coca leaves which they held inside their cheek. Still practiced among Bolivian athletes, this method increases the body’s oxygen because quinoa ash releases alkaloids into the coca.
Quinoa has become popular over the last few years, and for good reason. The super grain is one of the most protein rich foods we can eat, which is why it is able to keep us fuller longer. It is rich in iron and magnesium, has twice as much fiber as most grains, and it is the highest in potassium, which can help us with blood pressure and muscle repair. The grain is also gluten free, so it is easy to digest and a great option for individuals who suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerances.
So what does it taste like? When cooked the seeds have a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor. The grain’s versatility makes it very easy for us to get into our daily diet. It tastes great as both a sweet or savory dish. Mixed with herbs and nuts, it can be a nice accompaniment to your chicken or fish. For a satisfying breakfast turn it into a hot cereal. Craving a childhood comfort food? Make Quinoa Mac and Cheese!
Quinoa Mac and Cheese
1 ½ cups of cooked quinoa
2 large eggs
1 cup almond or low fat milk
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup of veggies of your choice (I like broccoli and spinach)
Cook quinoa according to the package’s instructions. Lightly saute your vegetable. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an oven safe dish with olive oil. Whisk together eggs and milk in a large bowl. Fold quinoa, vegetables, and cheese into a bowl. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until top is browned. Serves 4-6.
Carly Bergenholtz is a nutrition who is taking on new clients. She can be reached at freshieshealth