Quinoa: The Mother Grain

Ah, the joy of raw foods! Nature’s living & edible creations at their purest form. Bursting with flavor, nutrients and beneficial minerals, high in antioxidants and untouched by heat! If you’re looking to take a big leap into a healthier lifestyle, substituting frozen dinners and processed foods with raw foods is a great way to start.

Here at Ellwoods, we’ve recently teamed up with The Wellness Woman to offer you some amazing new raw food dishes on our salad bar. One of those new dishes brings attention to one of our favorite grains of all time, Quinoa.

Technically, quinoa isn’t a grain at all, but the seed of the Goosefoot plant. The ancient Incas called quinoa the “mother grain” and revered it as sacred, and there’s good reason why. Quinoa alone is a complete protein, meaning is contains all nine necessary amino acids for protein construction. Not only is quinoa’s amino acid profile well balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients.

Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this “grain” may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.

If you are prone to migraines, try adding quinoa to your diet. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to be related to a reduced frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers. Quinoa is also a good source of riboflavin, which is necessary for proper energy production within cells. Riboflavin (also called vitamin B2) has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers, most likely by improving the energy metabolism within their brain and muscle cells.

History of Quinoa

While relatively new to the United States, quinoa has been cultivated in the Andean mountain regions of Peru, Chile and Bolivia for over 5,000 years, and it has long been a staple food in the diets of the native Indians. The Incas considered it a sacred food and referred to it as the “mother seed.”

In their attempts to destroy and control the South American Indians and their culture, the Spanish conquerors destroyed the fields in which quinoa was grown. They made it illegal for the Indians to grow quinoa, with punishment including sentencing the offenders to death. With these harsh measures, the cultivation of quinoa was all but extinguished.

Yet, this super food would not be extinguished forever. In the 1980s, two Americans, discovering the concentrated nutrition potential of quinoa, began cultivating it in Colorado. Since then, quinoa has become more and more available as people realize that it is an exceptionally beneficial and delicious food.

Recipes for Quinoa

Raw Sprouted Quinoa Salad with Avocado & Goji Berries


3 cups raw sprouted organic quinoa

1/4 cup organic olive oil

1 tbsp wheat-free tamari

juice of one lemon

juice of 1/2 lime

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups shredded zucchini

handful of fresh mint, rough chopped

10 grape tomatoes, sliced

1/2 onion, diced

1 cucumber, chopped

1/2 C red bell pepper, chopped

handful of goji berries (optional)

1 whole organic avocado

Marinate sprouted quinoa for 20 minutes in olive oil, tamari, citrus juices and garlic. Add mint, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, goji berries and toss. Serve on a bed of red and green leaf lettuce and garnish with the avocado, enjoy!

Curried Sprouted Quinoa Pilaf

Sprouted quinoa

¾ cup organic quinoa
Filtered water to soak

Wash quinoa, strain and place in a pot. Cover with filtered water and soak overnight.

Strain and rinse. Leave quinoa in strainer and place over the pot to drain. Cover with a lid and let sit overnight again. Rinse again in the morning and leave covered until your ready to cook it. The quinoa sprouts will grow through the strainer. Cook or eat it raw.

Curried Sprouted quinoa pilaf

2 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil
1 medium organic red onion, diced
3 cloves organic garlic, roughly chopped
1 inch organic ginger, peeled and minced
Sea salt
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 medium organic carrot, diced
4 inch piece organic leek, diced
½ cup organic sweet corn kernels
½ cup organic peas
¾ cup quinoa, sprouted
1 1/3  cups boiling water
2 cups organic baby spinach leaves
Almonds to garnish

Warm olive oil over medium high heat; add onions and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add garlic, ginger and salt and cook a few minutes more.
Stir in curry powder, carrot and leeks and cook until beginning to soften.
Add corn, peas, sprouted quinoa and boiling water. Stir and lower heat once mixture had come to a boil. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove lid, place spinach on top of pilaf, return lid and let sit 5 minutes.
Gently stir spinach leaves through.
Put a handful of almonds in a small skillet and place over low to medium heat for a minute or 2. Shake pan and leave for another minute.
Remove from pan and chop. Sprinkle over quinoa.

Serves 4 as a side.