Quinoa: the “Mother Seed”

by Maria on April 15, 2011

I’m a big fan of quinoa. It is an extremely versatile grain that can be easily prepared into savory or sweet dishes. Ironically, I learned about it when I moved to Toronto and never heard of it while I lived in my home country, Colombia, where I was so close to its land of origin.

Quinoa has been a staple food in the South American Indians diet for thousands of years. The Incas referred to it as the “mother seed” and the Aztecs recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors.

While commonly referred to as a grain, it is not technically a grain; rather, quinoa is the seed of a plant that is related to leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. The health benefits and delicious, fluffy, creamy texture and somewhat nutty flavour of this quick-cooking grain make it a great choice for a healthy diet[i].

If there is one thing I want you to remember about quinoa is that unlike other grains, this sacred seed is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids (essential means that your body can’t make them so they have to come from the food you eat). Why should you care about eating complete protein? Because protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood[ii].

I hope by now you are convinced of the wonders of the “mother seed”.  Here is a super easy and quick way to prepare a quinoa salad:

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

2 medium tomatoes cut in small pieces

2 medium carrots peeled and shredded

¼ cup chopped onion

1 Small bunch of cilantro chopped

Lemon (white vinegar also works)

Sea salt

Grounded pepper

4 Tbsp of olive oil or a mix of olive oil and flax seed oil

Place well-rinsed quinoa with water in a saucepan, cover and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to low, keep covered, and simmer for 15 minutes.

When cooking is complete, the grains become translucent, and the white germ will partially detach itself.

Since this is a cold salad, let the quinoa stand outside until it cools down. A good idea is to cook the quinoa in advance (e.g. while making breakfast), store it in the fridge and prepare it later for lunch or dinner.

Mix the quinoa with the rest of the ingredients and enjoy!


[i] Mateljan, George. “The World’s Healthiest Foods”. GMF Publishing. Seattle, 2007. P. 672-675

[ii] http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/benefits-protein

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