Quinoa: The Bolivian superfood

Quinoa or quinua (say it: keen-wah) is called a “superfood” because it is full of nutrients, a good source of protein, fiber and rich in many minerals. It contains all nine essential amino acids – including lysine and isoleucine acids, which most other grains lack. It also contributes useful levels of several B vitamins, vitamin E and dietary fibre. Quinoa is a slowly digested carbohydrate, a naturally gluten-free grain and it is among the least allergenic of all the ‘grains’. It has a low glycemic index – so good stuff for diabetics too.

The list of benefits is pretty long! Extra credit? The seeds brim with antioxidants!

Quinoa was forged in South America more than 4000 years ago and called “the mother grain” by the Inca’s and it is still a prominent food source for their indigenous descendants, the Quechua and Aymara people.

There are more than 120 types of quinoa. The most commercialized types of quinoa are White, Red and Black Quinoa.

Interesting facts:

  • The UN named 2013 ‘International Year of the Quinoa’ in recognition of the crop’s high nutrient content.
  • NASA has proposed quinua as an ideal food for astronauts on long-duration space flights.
  • Botanically speaking, quinua is not a grain but actually a relative of spinach and beets.
  • Bolivia is one of the 2 biggest producers and exporters of quinua. In the highlands (the Altiplano of the Andean region) of Bolivia, quinua is one of the main foods, there you can enjoy delicious quinoa soups, porridges and stews!
Breakfast with quinoa

Quinoa uses are many, you can use this grain in just about everything, from breakfast to dinner.

Have you ever eaten quinua? It tastes great in just about anything: salads, omelettes and even cakes. There are many delicious quinoa recipes, you can simply sprinkle it on saladas or try it in place of couscous or rice. It’s versatile for breakfast (as a cereal), lunch (as a salad) or dinner (as a side).

Quinua plants grow on the slopes of the Tunupa Volcano near Salar de Uyuni. The quinua is an aesthetically unique and pretty plant. The crop fields are beautiful and full of color!

Quinoa salad