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Is Quinoa A Grain?

Posted: November 7, 2014

Most everyone loves quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”)!

With its inviting appearance, taste, and texture, this delicious staple is finding its way into soups, main dishes and desserts – and for good reason. It is easy to prepare, high in protein, free of gluten, and its pleasant taste and texture make it a favorite for many recipes.

But, since some people are avoiding grains these days, the question is, “Is quinoa a grain?”

If by “grain,” you mean the typical members of the grass family, with spindly stalks and leaves and tough hulls around the chewy part we eat as “grains,” such as wheat, oat, barley and rye, the answer is NO!

Quinoa is a green leafy plant – related to spinach and beets! – and what we eat are its seeds!

So, botanically, quinoa is a seed, not a grain. This guarantees it is completely gluten-free.

Note: The quinoa you purchase can be covered with a slightly bitter-tasting substance called saponin. If the quinoa does not say “pre-washed” on the package, this saponin must be rinsed off before preparing. (You would also be wise to first pour the dry quinoa onto a tray or paper towel to look for any fine stones that sometimes find their way into the quinoa. This saves expensive trips to the dentist to repair cracked teeth!)

To rinse off the saponin, you can use a fine strainer under running water – but one easy method is to put about 3/4 cup of quinoa in a quart sprouting jar and screw on a lid with a fine screen, suitable for sprouting alfalfa. Add water, swirl around and drain, repeating this several times. 

Set the jar down forcefully on the counter top (without breaking it), once or twice, to force the wet seeds that are sticking to the lid to fall down into the jar. Unscrew the lid, dump the quinoa into a cooking pot, rinse the jar twice using a cup (250 ml’s) of water each time, pouring the water into the pot. The quinoa – and much of the water to cook it – will then be ready to go!

To your good health and happiness,

Dr. Michael Klaper

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