Quin-Wha? What is This Little Grainy Thing?

In an age of green smoothies and gluten free pizza it can be difficult to keep track of every hip food trend.

June 30, 2015
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In 2014’s “Gone Girl” Ben Affleck’s character jokes that he thought quinoa was a type of fish. In a movie that was very dark, it was a welcome moment of comedic relief.

The joke worked so well because it’s not a stretch to imagine many Americans thinking the same. In an age of green smoothies, gluten free pizza, acai berries and kale, it can be difficult to keep track of every hip food trend.

In short, quinoa is grain with edible seeds. But we’re sure you have other questions about this trendy superfood and HealthWay is here to help!

How do I pronounce it?

Some people have trouble with the pronunciation because it looks like a Scrabble hand gone wrong. You might be tempted to say “QUIN-oa” but it’s actually pronounced “KEEN-wah.” Don’t embarrass yourself in front of your foodie friends.

Where does it come from?

Quinoa traditionally comes from the mountainous Andean regions of South America including countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It’s a staple crop of cultures in the region, and evidence suggested it was domesticated for cultivation 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Paleo diet indeed.

Whoa, that’s a long time. Why has it been around so long?

Well, quinoa is very hearty. It’s able to survive and thrive in harsh conditions. It does well in arid climates with little rainfall. It’s known to grow in regions that experience severe drought. Additionally, as a crop that originated in the Andes, it does well in high altitudes.

Why is it good for me?

It’s packed with protein! The protein per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet. It also contains nine essential amino acids and has minimal amounts of gluten. It’s perfect for anyone who’s going gluten free or for vegetarians looking for a source of protein!

So what do I eat it with?

Almost anything! Okay, we admit that wasn’t very helpful. It is versatile, though! In the morning, a bowl of quinoa with fresh fruit and nuts is a great way to start your day. It’s also a great in salads for added protein and texture. For a more substantial meal, try quinoa tabbouleh. The classic Middle Eastern dish is typically made with bulgur or couscous and tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion, olive oil and lemon juice. Just substitute the bulgur or couscous.

But why the sudden demand for it?

It’s hard to say exactly, but in recent years affluent Westerners have become more health conscious. Quinoa is gluten free, high protein, low fat and low calorie, so it’s easy to see why it would championed by healthy eaters. However, the recent demand has taken its toll on the land farms in South America. Many quinoa producers are pushing for factory farming practices that might damage the land. The demand has also inflated the price to the point where many poor South Americans can no longer afford the food that was a staple of their diets previously.

Now you have all the information you need to impress your hipster, foodie friends at brunch!

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