Quinoa (Chisaya Mama – ‘The mother of all grains’)

Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen wah’, is a small, round grain which can be light-coloured as well as red, purple and black – the latter being higher in antioxidants. It originates from the Andes, where it is cultivated by the Inca people and has been for many centuries.

In today’s society you may hear it classified as a ‘super food’ due to its high nutrient value and health promoting benefits.

  • Great source of low GI carbohydrates –  to provide you with sustained energy and make you feel satisfied after meals for longer.
  • High in fibre – to help keep bowels happy.
  • Low in fat – containing omega-6 polyunsaturated fat which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol.
  • High in protein – contains complete protein with all of the essential amino acids.
  • Key vitamins and minerals – including magnesium, copper, iron, phosphorus and potassium as well as vitamin E and B group vitamins; keep our bodies healthy and the immune system strong by reducing damage to cells and thus reducing risk of disease (antioxidants)
  • Polyphenols and phytosterols – antioxidants which prevent or reduce damage to cells caused by oxidation by free radicals, reducing the risk of disease.
  • Gluten Free – even those who need to follow a gluten free diet can enjoy this tasty grain and receive all of its nutritional benefits.

But how do you cook quinoa?

Quinoa is quick and easy to prepare, therefore suitable for the time poor athlete through to the busy mum. A serve of this nutty flavoured grain is ½ cup. Cook this with 1 cup of water – bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 12-15 minutes, then let it stand (covered) to allow the remaining water/moisture to be absorbed. Fluff with a fork prior to serving.

Quinoa comes in a number of forms: quinoa grains, flour and flakes and can be mixed with all types of salad items, vegetables, herbs and spices to create tasty low energy side dishes or salads, breads, pancakes as well as other baked goods.

Quinoa can contain a bitter tasting plant defence called saponin, therefore rinse well before cooking.

Asparagus and vegetable quinoa salad

Serves: 4


  • 2 cups quinoa, well rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups water
  • Olive oil or canola oil spray
  • 2 bunches asparagus, with woody ends removed, cut into 3cm lengths
  • ½ red capsicum, seeded and chopped into 2cm chunks
  • ½ lebanese cucumber, diced into 2cm chunks
  • 40g reduced-fat feta
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1cup rocket or baby spinach leaves


1)       In a saucepan, combine quinoa and water and bring to the boil.

2)       Reduce heat to low, cover and leave to simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed.

3)       Take off heat and let it stand until all water is absorbed.

4)       Transfer to a bowl, fluff with a fork and set aside or put in the fridge to cool.

5)       In the meantime, preheat a chargrill on high, lightly spray with oil and cook asparagus until crisp. This may take approximately 2 minutes.

6)       Add asparagus, cucumber, capsicum, shallots and parsley to the quinoa.

7)       Whisk together lemon juice, lime juice, oil and paprika in a bowl until well combined.

8)       Mix dressing and rocket to through the quinoa mixture.

9)       Season with pepper and toss to combine.

10)   Divide rocket/spinach across four separate bowls, evening distribute quinoa salad across bowls and sprinkle crumbled feta on top.

For further information

  1. Whole Grains Council website (www.wholegrainscouncil.org)
  1. Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (www.glnc.org.au)

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