Okay, so we need to talk about quinoa for a hot minute. By now, most of you at least know what it is or have consumed it in some form or another. Mostly in salads. It’s always in a fricken salad. But, eating healthy doesn’t mean only eating salads all of the time. You can still get in your daily intake of nutrients, while actually enjoying the food you’re eating. What a concept, right?!
No, but seriously, quinoa is delicious and a fantastic protein-packed alternative to consuming grains – because it’s a seed. It actually contains all 9 essential amino acids – but not to be replaced with consuming a variety of other proteins in your diet. It’s actually got more fibre than most grains do and is rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, manganese and B2.
Now, I’m not normally one to suggest that you eat something, but then run through all of the negative aspects of it. Although, I do need to address a couple of things about this seed before we go any further. Don’t worry, you’ll still love it – you’ll just be a little more informed!
Years ago, not many people even knew what quinoa was, let alone how to pronounce it. Nowadays, this seed which is originally cultivated in the Andes, has become so mainstream in the Western health world, that the prices have been pushed up to such an extent that the people who rely on it as a food source can no longer afford it. The poorer people in countries like Peru or Bolivia, who once used quinoa as a staple in their diets, can now more easily afford junk food or even typically more expensive items like chicken, over what was once an essential part of their diets and food culture.
But, there is a solution. Not an easy one, but one that allows us to keep consuming this seed without buying into the global impact that it is having on farmers abroad (you vote with your dollars, folks). That’s where companies like Northern Quinoa Production Corporation (NQPC) come in. They’re a specialty grain and food processing company headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada. Yes, you can find quinoa grown in North America by a company that has been growing and harvesting this seed since 1994.
What are those exactly? Well they’re naturally occurring phyto-chemicals which lend a bitter taste to seeds, such as quinoa. Their purpose is to act as a natural pest-repellent while the plant grows. Although the processing methods used in the commercial milling usually remove most of the saponins in the outer coat of the seeds, you’ll want to be sure that you wash your quinoa first. But there’s more to saponins than just a bitter taste, they are actually quite inflammatory and can cause intestinal distress. Ever eat quinoa and then feel super bloaty? Well, ideally you will soak the seeds before cooking in order to help eliminate this compound.
Resistant Starch Intake
Now, there are benefits to consuming resistant starches, as unlike most carbohydrates, they are processed differently within the body. This is because they actually go undigested and then ferment, turning this type of starch into a fibre that feeds the digestive tract and your beneficial bacteria. But, the issue lies with those who are avoiding a diet high in starches for health reasons (such as various forms of inflammatory bowel disorders) and may want to limit their intake as it could actually increase their inflammation. Always follow your certified health care professional’s advice and be sure to do your research as well.
So, with all of that said, you can still consume quinoa in moderation as a great alternative to rice and grains! One of my favourite ways to enjoy it is to shove it into some high vitamin C foods like peppers and then drown it in more healthy veggies. These stuffed peppers are always a hit at dinner parties or even for a solo meal (as they do actually reheat quite well).
Quinoa Crammed Peppers with Smashed Avocados
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup white quinoa
1 small can organic diced tomatoes (14.5 oz can)
1 small carrot, chopped
Handful of green beans, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
sea salt & black pepper to taste
3-4 peppers, halved, stems removed and de-seeded
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (of choice – like sprouted whole grain, brown rice, gluten-free, crushed healthy crackers, etc)
Preheat oven to 350.
In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add quinoa, cover and let simmer until about half of the water is absorbed, about 10 mins. Add the tomatoes, veggies and spices and simmer until most of liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked, about another 10 mins.
Spoon quinoa mixture into peppers, top with breadcrumbs of choice and a bit more sea salt and black pepper. Bake for 35 mins or until a bit brown on top and peppers are cooked. Serve immediately topped with Smashed Avocado!
Serves around 4 people
2-3 ripe avocados
Juice of 1/4 lemon or lime
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Cut avocados in half, remove pits and scoop into a small bowl. Squeeze lemon overtop, add sea salt and black pepper and SQUASH it all with a fork, mixing as you go! Smoosh (yes, that’s a technical term) that avocado mix until desired texture. I like mine still a bit chunky. Spoon on top of the stuffed peppers once they’re ready to serve.
Photos by Catherine Sugrue
Information Sources: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa