What is quinoa?

The South American grain offers major nutritional benefits, but the rise in demand has started a debate about its production.

What are the nutritional benefits of quinoa?

Vegetarians and vegans are particularly fond of quinoa because of its status as a rare non-meat “complete” protein—that is, it contains all of the essential amino acids required for human nutrition. Quinoa is also a good source of iron, manganese, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus and is gluten-free. It has a higher protein content than rice or wheat.

Quinoa possesses a mild, slightly nutty taste that adapts easily to many cuisines and preparations. It’s often served as a side dish but can also be mixed into salads, stews, baked goods, and veggie burgers. The basics of cooking quinoa resemble those of preparing rice: boil in water, cover, simmer, fluff, serve.

Quinoa: the debate

Quinoa’s increased popularity has been a subject of some labor ethicists’ concern. Because of its uptick in trendiness, its price has risen, making it less affordable for the Bolivian farmers and other peoples for whom it is a traditional staple food.

The popularity of quinoa has also been a boon to the farmers who cultivate it, allowing them to command higher prices for the crop. Moreover, as demand has grown, so has the number of farmers and countries producing quinoa—including the United States. Finally, the increased availability of fair-trade options should put most consumers’ minds at ease.

Quinoa in its raw form. (Photo: Getty Images)

Quinoa recipes:

Meatless Mondays: Quinoa Burgers

Meatless Mondays: Quinoa Patties

Meatless Mondays: Sweet Potato and Raw Broccoli Quinoa

Meatless Mondays: Quinoa Granola

Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious Recipe: Quinoa Salad With Walnuts and Mint

Meatless Mondays: One-Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

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