Superfood Spotlight: Why You Should Be Eating More Quinoa

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
Quinoa: A Superfood You Must Get Into Your Diet

We hear a lot about trendy “superfoods” that are touted for their ability to make us healthier, slimmer, more energetic and build up immunity against all sorts of ailments. Quinoa is one that actually lives up to its hype. Pronounced “keen-wah,” the grain has been a staple of South American cuisine for centuries, but recently it’s become popular among healthy eaters in North America because it truly is exceptionally nutritious and versatile.

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Like other whole grains, this superfood is considered a SmartCarb on Nutrisystem—high in essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, low in calories and low on the glycemic index. A half-cup of cooked quinoa counts as one serving. With that serving, you get 111 calories, more than two grams of fiber and significant amounts of iron, potassium and phosphorus.

All of that would earn quinoa a place in healthy diets, but its protein content moves it up to “superfood” status. The half-cup serving has more than four grams of protein. Even more valuable, quinoa has the perfect balance of all nine essential amino acids, which is rare for plant foods.

Technically, quinoa isn’t a grain—it’s seeds from the plant in the same family as beets. Unlike grains such as wheat and rye, quinoa has no gluten, so it’s especially appealing to people who avoid it.


The three types of quinoa you see in grocery stores—red, black and white—are similar in taste and nutrition. White quinoa tends to be fluffier after cooking, while red and black varieties are a bit crunchier and stickier.

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Quinoa is often rinsed before cooking because the seeds are coated with a layer of saponin, a bitter compound that protects them from predators. Most quinoa sold in supermarkets, however, is pre-rinsed before packaging, so the bitterness is already gone. If you want to be cautious, put the quinoa in a bowl, cover it with water, swish it around and then drain it in a fine-mesh sieve.

To prepare quinoa, pour one cup of the grain and two cups of water in a medium saucepan. (For even more flavor, use low-sodium vegetable broth instead of the water—it’s a Free food in the Nutrisystem program.) Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then cover the pot and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. When quinoa is fully cooked, it will look translucent and have a little white “shoot.” Before eating, fluff the grains gently with a fork. A cup dry quinoa yields three cups cooked or six (half-cup) servings.

For baking, look for quinoa flakes and flour. To make your own quinoa flour, use a clean coffee grinder to turn the raw grains into fine powder.

Quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor and lightly chewy texture. It works in so many dishes, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert.

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1. Veggie Breakfast Bake >

breakfast bake

Counts as: 0.5 SmartCarb, 1 Vegetable

Power up your mornings with a filling dish made with egg whites, cottage cheese and flavorful vegetables and this superfood.

2. Slow Cooker Carrot Breakfast Bowl >
slow cooker

Counts as: 1 PowerFuel, 1 SmartCarb

Take a break from ordinary oatmeal and start your day with the taste of warm carrot cake.

3. Sweet and Salty Granola Bars >
Sweet & Salty Quinoa Granola Bar Recipe

Counts as: 1 PowerFuel, 1 SmartCarb

You can make your own high-protein snacks with tasty peanut butter and crunchy nuts.

4. Black Bean Pumpkin Soup >

Counts as: 1 PowerFuel, 1 SmartCarb

Warm up your flex lunch (women) or snack (men) with hearty ingredients and zesty spices.

5. Cucumber Salad >
Quinoa salad

Counts as: 1 SmartCarb, 1.5 Vegetables, 2.5 Extras

Juicy cucumbers, sweet onions, and fragrant herbs bring the flavor and the quinoa keeps you full for hours.

6. Beetroot and Superfood Salad >
Beet Salad

Counts as: 1 PowerFuel, 1 SmartCarb, 2 Vegetables, 1 Extra

This colorful side is sweet and nutty, with feta cheese in every bite.

7. Edamame Burgers >
Quinoa-Edamame-Burgers healthy meals

Counts as: 1 PowerFuel, 1 SmartCarb

Top these easy-to-make veggie patties with mustard, salsa or other Free foods, wrap them in a sturdy lettuce leaf and lunch is served.

8. Crusted Chicken >
quinoa chicken

Counts as: 2 PowerFuels, 0.5 SmartCarb

Crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, this entree is sure to become a favorite for the whole family.

9. PB&J Cups >
PB&J Quinoa Crunch Cups healthy snacks

Counts as: 1 PowerFuel, 1 SmartCarb, 1 Extra

Treat yourself to the sweet goodness of real peanut butter and jelly enclosed in an edible cup.

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