Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) seems to be the new hot food this year. In fact the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations decided the year 2013 would be the year of the quinoa! Just what is this food and why is it so popular?

Quinoa might look like a grain but it’s not, you might be surprised to know it’s in the same family as spinach and beets. It comes from South America where people have been eating it for years. It’s a hardy food that can survive the harsh climates of the Andes. In South America the whole plant is eaten, while here we eat only the seeds. Compared to grains it has far more nutritional benefits. It’s a great food for lunch because of its high protein content. It’s also packed with more calcium than whole wheat.

Quinoa is full of great anti-inflammatory compounds. It also has monosaturated fats, the best kind of fat for you.  Not only that, but it has a wide variety of antioxidants. Studies are beginning to show that eating quinoa can help you lower your total cholesterol.

If you’re allergic to grain, quinoa can be a great alternative. It’s in face a great alternative even if you can eat grain!

The cooked seeds turn fluffy but also have a crunch. You can tell when they’re cooked all the way because they expand and little white threads appear on the seeds. There are many different ways to cook quinoa. You can add it to almost any dish for flavor and health benefits. Serve it with nuts and fruits in the morning, as a salad for lunch or as a side dish at dinner! Enjoy!