Quinoa: the ideal carb.

Quinoa is a highly nutritious carbohydrate and the perfect go-to food for runners. Whether you are carbo loading for a race or just being mindful of your diet, quinoa is the perfect choice. It will help keep you lean and maximize your energy levels. Its nutritional profile is impressive and will make you re-think pasta and potatoes.

What I love about quinoa is it's easy; easy to remember the recipe and then easy to make. You need one measuring cup, the 1/2 cup size. I scoop 1/2 cup of the off-white quinoa and 1/2 cup of red quinoa and rinse both in a fine sieve. Bring 1-1/2 cups of water, the drained quinoa and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil. Cover and reduce to low for 15 minutes until water is absorbed and quinoa tender. You can keep cooked quinoa in the fridge easily for a week. I love all of the quinoa recipes (below) as make-ahead, week-long lunches ready to go.

Quinoa is a gluten free seed about the size of a sesame seed and is pronounced "KEEN wah".  You will find it most commonly in an off-white or red color either in bulk or on the grain aisle of your grocery store.  A cup of quinoa will give you 254 calories, 2 g of fat, 23.4 g of carbohydrates, and 4.5 grams of protein. Quinoa is also a complete protein which means it delivers all the essential amino acids for our nutritional needs. It is a healthy protein choice and especially good for vegans and vegetarians because complete proteins are hard to find in the plant world. It is high in iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper, and fiber.

The high magnesium content in quinoa is good for cardiovascular health. The manganese and copper promote a healthy immune system and help keep red blood cells in tip top shape. The fiber content keeps the digestive system running smoothly.

So try quinoa next time you have a craving for carbs. It is great eaten like rice, as an oatmeal alternative, or added into soups and salads. To cook quinoa, rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine strainer. Bring 1-1/2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of salt to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes until quinoa is tender and the water has cooked out completely.

Four of our favorite quinoa recipes include:

Butternut Squash Quinoa Stuffing

Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Pesto Quinoa Salad 

Greek Quinoa Salad