Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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All this talk about whole grains made me think about my new favorite whole grain, quinoa. I have been saying for years that it is the up-and-coming whole grain, but so far I don't see it as much as I would like to. I think more people are familiar with it, but it has not become as mainstream as I thought it would be by now. Maybe after reading this blog, you will all start eating it and it will boom!

Quinoa is actually a seed with a coating containing a substance called saponin, which has a bitter taste. The quinoa sold in the US has been cleaned of its saponin, so you don't need to worry about it. If you grow it yourself, simply rinse the quinoa under running water until it runs clear. Quinoa is really cool because as it cooks, the germ part of the grain spirals out, giving it a very unique shape.

Fast facts:
  • Pronounced "KEEN-wah" (I know...nothing like it looks)
  • Stable grain of Inca, Mayan and native Americans
  • Quinoa means "Mother Grain"
  • Ancient Incas thought it was sacred
  • Incan armies were sustained for days on "war balls" which were a mixture of quinoa and fat
  • Grown in the US only since 1980 (in Colorado)
  • Widely grown in Bolivia, Chile, Peru
  • Quick cooking whole grain (cooks in 12-15 minutes)
  • It is available in white and red varieties (white is more common in the US)
  • The shape is small and oval, and it looks like a cross between a sesame seed and millet

Nutritional benefits:
  • Whole grain
  • Gluten Free
  • Complete protein (contains all essential amino acids)
  • Twice the fiber of pasta or brown rice
  • Higher in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and zinc than other whole grains
  • Quinoa has a nutty flavor


This is a really nice recipe for Grilled Asaparagus and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese and Black Olive Vinaigrette. Yummy!

Other sources for recipes:

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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