Weekly Fitness Food: Quinoa

A Bolivian farmer in her quinoa field. Photo by Bioversity International/S. Padulosi via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A Bolivian farmer in her quinoa field.  Photograph: Bioversity International/S. Padulosi via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By:  Vivien Veil

Pronounced keen-waa, quinoa is one of the best sources of protein in the plant kingdom.  The health benefits of quinoa rank it as a lavish treasure chest of nutrients, especially when compared to wheat and other grains.  However, this South American staple is not a grain, but a glorious seed given to us by God.

Gram-for-gram, quinoa is one of the earth’s most nutritious foods.

Once a sacred crop for the Andean civilisation (indigenous cultures in the Andean region of western South America), it has become a superior health food in Europe and the United States.  The quinoa craze is also gradually reaching China and Japan.  Soon the whole world will be dishing up quinoa – hopefully my recipe of course. 🙂

The burgeoning demand means less people are eating quinoa in Bolivia and Peru.  The Bolivian and Peruvian natives rather sell their entire crop than eat it – triggering fears of malnutrition.  Yet some rebuke those starvation claims.  “Ten years ago they had only an Andean diet in front of them.  They had no choice.  But now they do and they want rice, noodles, candies, coke, they want everything,” says Paola Mejia, general manager of Bolivia’s Chamber of Quinoa Real and Organic Products Exporters.  If you ask me, I prefer their healthy quinoa over toxic coke and candies.  Coke is one of the US’s worst exports in terms of health.

Quinoa was once called the “gold of the Incas” – who recognised its potency in increasing stamina of their warriors.

Presently grown mainly in Peru and Bolivia, this gluten-free seed is low in fat, loaded with ten essential amino acids, and exceptionally rich in protein.  So if you exercise regularly and care about your health, make sure to add this superfood onto your grocery list.  Protein assists your body’s recovery after training hard and helps muscle growth and stamina.

Now for my delicious quinoa recipe made with love from me to you.  Use it as a substitute for rice, wheat, bulgur, and couscous.  You can even eat it for breakfast – oatmeal style – just add honey (or maple syrup), some rice milk (or raw milk) and voila!

Quinoa vivien v

 Quinoa with Tomato, Basil, Sunflower Seeds, and Raisins

Total Time: 25 minutes    Serves:  3-4 (as side dishes)


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1-3/4 cups water, salted with sea salt
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup desiccated (shredded) coconut
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Optional: carrots, grated
  • Optional: red onions, chopped


  1. Place the rinsed quinoa in a saucepan over medium heat until it’s toasted – about 3 minutes.  Make sure you evenly toast all of the quinoa.
  2. Add the salted water to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cover.  Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Remove from heat and put aside, covered, for an extra couple of minutes.
  3. While the quinoa rests, it’s time for the next stage.  Toast the sunflower seeds in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until golden – about 3 minutes.  Then put them on a plate.
  4. Fluff up the quinoa with a fork.  Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and add the toasted sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, coriander, raisins, basil, coconut, and tomatoes.  Add the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss so that it’s all distributed evenly.
  5. Serve with avocado slices and hummus.  You can also serve it over a bed of raw spinach leaves and some beautiful sweet potatoes on the side.

Did you know quinoa is related to spinach and chard?  The quinoa plant’s leaves taste just like spinach!


Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, E, folic acid; calcium, copper, 
iron,magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc