One of the latest superfoods to be touted by celebrity trainers and the like is quinoa.

What makes "keen-wah" so nutritious? We’ve got the scoop on quinoa nutrition facts.

Most people who have heard of quinoa think it’s a grain, and judging by how it’s pronounced, some assume it’s from the Orient.

But technically, quinoa is a seed, not a grain and it’s grown high in the Andes Mountains of South America.

Quinoa plants have been cultivated at altitudes of well over 10,000 feet and have been considered a superfood for at least a few millennia — in fact, the Incas cherished it as a superfood of their own.

Here in the U.S., quinoa has been discovered as a nutritious asset and enjoyed culinary popularity within only the last few years. Here’s why…

Eat one cup of quinoa (a single serving size), and you’ll consume:

  • 220 calories (70 percent carbs, 15 percent fat, 15 percent protein)
  • 40 grams of carbohydrates (13 percent daily value)
  • 8 grams of protein (16 percent of daily value)
  • 3.5 grams of fat (5 percent daily value with no saturated fat)
  • A glycemic load (blood sugar spike) of only 18 out of 250
  • 5 grams of fiber (20 percent of daily value)
  • 20 percent of daily value of folate (various forms of Vitamin B)
  • 30 percent of magnesium daily value (beneficial for people with migraine headaches); 28 percent daily value of phosphorous; iron (15 percent); copper (18 percent); and manganese (almost 60 percent)
Quinoa is stocked with life-sustaining nutrients all across the board, including all eight essential amino acids. There are other highly beneficial compounds, vitamins and minerals in this food that the Incas reverently called "chisaya mama" (mother of all grains).

Vegetarians would do well to incorporate quinoa into their diet often. It’s difficult for vegetarians to get all eight essential amino acids and an adequate source of protein from one food source. Usually, vegetarians and vegans need to combine foods like beans and rice to acquire all the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

Those with gluten sensitivities or wheat allergies can rejoice in eating quinoa as it contains no gluten or wheat. (Spanish conquistadors during the South American conquest suppressed quinoa production, as it was associated with what the Spaniards perceived as non-Christian, indigenous, ceremonial backwardness. Thus, wheat was cultivated in the Andes region.)

Quinoa cooks very easily, in about 15 minutes. Like cooking rice in a stove top pot, you’ll want almost 2 cups of water per one part quinoa but be careful not to pour too much water in the pot, otherwise it will take even longer.

Cook quinoa at a high setting until it starts boiling and then cover and simmer for about 12-15 minutes. When you see the ring-shaped sprouts popping out, you’ll know the quinoa is almost ready. Stir the quinoa so all the water gets absorbed.

Quinoa by itself tastes rather bland. Add some coconut or olive oil or ghee butter (clarified butter) to add flavor and consistency. Add any spices or herbs you like and perhaps some crushed almonds or walnuts. In the last two minutes before it's ready to serve, toss a handful of spinach and stir until the spinach withers a little bit but not too much.

Enjoy this food that the Incas valued as much as gold. Here are some recipes for quinoa: Breakfastlunch and dinner

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and health and lifestyle coach in Encinitas, Calif., who likes to think he has perfected the art of cooking quinoa. He can be reached at coachjudd@gmail.com.

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