Quinoa – A Pseudo Cereal Grain

Quinoa – A Pseudo Cereal Grain

A sunset over some mountains.

A little seed goes a long way!

Whether you are reducing carbs, introducing beneficially healthy foods, eating vegan or vegetarian, avoiding gluten or are celiac, this ancient grain is an executive boss! Originally grown through South America, quinoa was a staple food of the Inca and has since been introduced around the world as the mother seed of grains.

However, quinoa is a little more complex than that! True cereal grains, such as rice, barley, wheat, corn, rye, millet and oats are extracted from  grasses while quinoa, along with its cousins buckwheat and amaranth, are seeds harvested from plants similar to the beet, spinach and chard family. For this reason, quinoa is referred to as a pseudo-cereal grain and not a true grain.

But don’t fret! For simplicity’s sake, quinoa is still most commonly categorized as a whole grain as it is prepared and eaten like it’s true cereal counterparts, with the added bonus of a superior nutritional profile!

What makes quinoa special?

Quinoa has an unusually high protein to carbohydrate ratio, packing 15% of its macronutrient as a protein. Quinoa offers up all 9 essential amino acids that are not produced by the body, therefore, making it one of few plant foods to be considered a whole protein source.

In addition, quinoa is also:

  • High in fiber
  • Gluten free
  • Low on the glycemic index
  • Contains micro nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, B vitamins and manganese
  • Contains small amounts of Omega 3 and 6, along with Vitamin E
  • Rich in phytonutrients
  • Pre-biotic

What are the benefits to including quinoa in your diet?

Given its nutrient dense  profile, you can’t go wrong adding quinoa into a healthy diet. Some advantages may include:

  • Improved gut health due to bulk and prebiotic matter
  • Reduced risk of certain cancers, including colon cancer
  • Reduced chronic inflammation and illness from rich phytonutrients and micronutrients
  • Lowered LDL or bad cholesterol
  • Regulation of blood glucose levels through slower glucose release
  • Reduced risk of pre-diabetic onset
  • Assist with food cravings through feeling more satiated from protein and fiber content
  • A swap out for higher carb or processed grains, especially those looking to decrease carbs in their diet without giving them up entirely
  • A good source of protein for vegan/vegetarian diets
  • A good alternative for gluten intolerant or celiac’s
  • Cleanse friendly

How to use quinoa:

This quick, easy and versatile grain can be used in a variety of recipes. There are over 120 varieties of quinoa seeds but the most commonly found in our grocery stores are white, red and black. I, personally, always get the tri colour blend just for fun! White is most popular boasting the most neutral flavour and cooks up light and fluffy, whereas the other colours are more nutty in taste and hold there shape a little firmer.

Try quinoa in:

  • Salads
  • Veggie burgers
  • Soups, stews and chilli
  • Pilafs
  • Stirfries
  • Bowls
  • Porridge
  • Baked goods

There are more and more products in the grocery store now containing quinoa such as  flour, flakes, puffs, breads, crackers and pasta. I am a huge fan of the quinoa pasta as it cooks up with a nice texture and hits the creature comfort of a saucy bowl of heaven without the gluten and white wheat carbs. I have even served it up to unsuspecting guests who would never guess it is a quinoa pasta! My advice is always label read. Just because you find a product in the store that is gluten free and uses quinoa doesn’t mean it isn’t full of sugar, unhealthy oils, salt, additives and preservatives. Eat as close to the source as possible whenever possible!

How to prepare:

The outer coating can contain, saponins, a natural pesticide quinoa creates to protect itself. It is best to rinse your quinoa to reduce any bitterness these saponins can create. A good rinse under cool water in a tight sieve will do the trick.

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa, stir, reduce heat to low and cover for 15 – 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Uncover, fluff with a fork and let sit for a couple more minutes before serving.

The cooked quantity is 3 times that of the uncooked seed so 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa will yield 1 1/2 cup  cooked. 

Can also cook in a rice cooker as you would rice.


Store dry quinoa in an air tight jar or sealed bag in a cool, dark place like a cupboard. It should last a few years if stored properly. Watch for pests, I once had a jar of quinoa get infested with some little free loading insect that formed this wild web material and spread to other dry foods I had stored near by. It was kind of disturbing!

Cooked quinoa lasts about 5-7 days in the fridge. Cool completely and store in an air tight container. Always do the look, smell and taste test if you aren’t sure of its freshness.

Quinoa freezes well, so you could consider making more than you need and proportioning it as needed into the freezer. You can pull this out to throw into most main dishes or your baked goods. I recommend making it fresh for salads and letting cool in fridge before using.

Want to take quinoa out for a trial run? Try this Mexican Black Bean and Quinoa Salad or my high protein Banana, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten and dairy free). Or just cook up a serving for recipes calling for white rice, no extra effort involved as they rquire the same cooking time

1 thought on “Quinoa – A Pseudo Cereal Grain”

  1. You have inspired me to get out my quinoa and start cooking. I am afraid it has been sitting in the back of my cupboard, ignored

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Inner Vision Health and Wellness Karyn Lawson RMT INHC