If you could choose one food, it's this - Macleans.ca

If you could choose one food, it’s this

Nothing nutritionally comes close to quinoa, claim these enthusiasts



Not everyone can pronounce quinoa (it’s keen-wah), and even among those who can, many are asking: is it a seed, a grain, a fruit? But that hasn’t stopped it from blasting into mainstream popularity, going far beyond its former status as a hippie food that vegans ate for its high protein count. Last week on Amazon.ca’s list of bestselling cookbooks, Quinoa 365, written by two Prairie-raised sisters, Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, hit No. 3, nudging out Jamie Oliver; in B.C. last week, it was the top-selling book in the province.

Hemming, an avid runner who eats meat, tells Maclean’s that even she is shocked that the word “quinoa” ranked as a top search of the day recently on Yahoo. “It was searched more than the Black-Eyed Peas, the band.” Claiming “it’s not just for vegetarians anymore,” Hemming adds, “People say there are super-foods out there but I have a hard time seeing anything with a nutritional profile like quinoa. It’s got everything from fatty essential acids, protein [as much as milk], complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Nothing comes close to quinoa.”

The sisters claim NASA is considering using quinoa for its in-space program. “Yes,” said Hemming this week from Mississauga, Ont., where she now lives. “Because if someone put a gun to your head and said, ‘You can only eat one food for the rest of your life,’ and you had one second to choose a food that would keep you strong and healthy for the rest of your life, you’d be miles ahead of anybody if you picked quinoa.”

It was Hemming’s sister Patricia Green, in Cochrane, Alta., who first talked her into trying quinoa. “Patricia would tell me, ‘Look, stop eating your oatmeal. Stop eating your yogourt. Just eat quinoa. It will impact your fitness. It’s really easy. It’s as easy to cook as oatmeal.” Hemming tried it and was converted to the nutty flavour. Now she eats quinoa 365 days a year. “If I want it for breakfast, I have it with coconut milk and raisins, or milk and bananas. Yesterday, I threw a bunch on a plate with some salsa, some aged cheddar, sour cream, black beans.”

For the past 15 years in Vancouver, Ayurvedic practitioner Todd Caldecott has been prescribing quinoa to his clients. He’s seen its popularity shoot through the roof, “and the reason is, it doesn’t contain any gluten,” he says. “People are looking for a non-grass species. This particular plant, quinoa, is not a grass.” (Hemming says, “quinoa is the seed from a broadleaf plant, so that makes it a fruit.” You eat the seed.) And yet it acts and looks like a grain. It can be ground to a flour and used in baking.

At the Union Street Grill and Grotto, a family restaurant in Courtenay, B.C., chef and owner Mark Duncan has stopped serving rice and started serving quinoa. The restaurant specializes in steak, burgers, pastas and stir-fries. “We’re mainstream.” But two years ago, Duncan thought the community was ready for a change. “I, myself, have adopted a new eating style. I’ve gotten away from eating a lot of starch like rice and potatoes. I eliminated rice right off the menu and replaced it with quinoa across the board. I still run potatoes because I can’t really lose them.” Servers ask, “Would you like potatoes or quinoa with that?” Customers were “iffy at the start,” says Duncan. “It’s quite popular now, [though] I think if we’d given people more options at the start, they might not have gone for it. If they’d had a choice, they’d have gone for rice.”

For baking, Hemming recommends quinoa flour made by the Northern Quinoa Corp., Canada’s only quinoa grower, in Kamsack, Sask. “Their flour is fantastic. Beautiful and powdery,” she says.

“I don’t know if you like chocolate,” she asks on the phone. “But one of our recipes that’s really having an impact is the Moist Chocolate Cake. We’ve had people in tears who are so happy with that cake.” They even got a funny email about it. A woman from Alberta baked the cake and sent it off with her husband to poker night. Her husband told his buddies, “It’s got utopia beans in it.” “He didn’t know what quinoa was, or how to say it,” says Hemming.

“But the guys loved it and they ate the whole thing.”


If you could choose one food, it’s this

  1. I have been eating Quinoa for about 10 years, even my kids love it, I make my own recipes and they are always popular. But I do not eat it everyday!

    • We can tell. ;-)

      • Thanks Phil, I love my quinoa : )

        • It is good, isn't it.

          • Yes, I should share some of my recipes. I am going to try this new book but I am not sure I want to eat it 365 days.

          • Do you have any quinoa cold salad recipes? How long do you cook it for and how much water? I tried making it according to pkg recipe and it came out too wet and not fluffly. (1 part quinoa to 2 parts water, cook 15 min). Thanks for any help you can give me!

          • You can drain in in a tight colander…like a wire mesh one. I do not worry about the amount of water/broth since I always drain it. Put the quinoa in the pot cover with at least 2 parts water, bring to a boil and cook until tender. Usually takes about 15 minutes.

          • Quinoa and Rocket Salad with Pine Nuts, Parmesan and Lemon Caper Dressing-TASTE BC Liquor Stores Mag Spring 2010
            Serves 4
            1 cup quinoa
            2 cups water
            1/2 tsp salt
            Freshly ground black pepper
            3 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
            1 1/2 tsp sugar
            1 1/2 tsp grainy old-style mustard
            1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
            2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
            Combine lemon juice, sugar and mustard in a bowl. Whisk to blend. Whisk in olive oil until emulsified.
            Set aside
            4 cups baby arugula leaves
            1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
            1/2 cup mixed olives
            1/4 cup Parmisan cheese, shaved
            2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
            Thoroughly rinse and drain quinoa. Bring water, salt and pepper to boil. Add quinoa to boiling water and cook uncovered over medium heat for 15 min or until grains are tender but still crunchy. Stir occasionally, Rinse in cold water. Drain well and set aside. Place quinoa in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with dressing and top with arugula, olives and cherry tomatoes. Gently toss togehter. Serve with shaved Parmisan and toasted pine nuts.

          • My family's favorite is an shrimp Quinoa salad.

            I cup Quinoa
            2 cups water
            salt to taste
            2 tomatoes chopped
            1 bunch cilantro finally chopped
            1 medium purple onion finally chopped
            1 medium cucumber (I prefer english) chopped, I don't peel it.
            1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
            1/4 cup olive oil
            Garlic to taste either powder or finally chopped
            1 jalapeno or green chilie chopped
            1 avocado chopped
            1 bunch green onions chopped
            3 or 4 cups shrimp cooked and peeled

            Cook the quinoa like rice 1 part quinoa 2 parts water and like the commenter below said you can drain it in a tight colander, once cooked and everything is chopped just mix it together, except for the lime, salt and olive oil, first add the lime and mix it all together then add the salt to taste and mixt ip up and drizzle the olive oil to taste, it's delicious and very refreshing!

          • The great thing about quinoa is very flexible you can mix it with anything, just like rice, instead of water use chicken or vegetable broth and soy souce and chopped ginger and garlic once cooked add whatever vegetables you want like green onions, mushrooms, sea weed, carrots celery, anything at all. I will post some other recipes on the weekend when I have a bit more time. Enjoy!

  2. I have given copies of the book as gifts- and plan to continue doing so. The book is great

    • What is the book title and author?

  3. Can anyone please tell me where I can find this in Toronto i.e stores that sells quinoa.


    • Bulk barn

    • I bought some from Costco.

      • Yes, Costco's a great place to get it. Quinoa can be expensive unless you get it at the right place. Bulk Barn would be good too.

    • Most health food stores should carry it in grain, flour or flakes. Look for it puffed as well.

    • Bulk Barn! Much cheaper! But Metro and I've even bought it at Food Basics. I've found it in the cereal section oddly.

    • Fortino's sells it in their Organic section.


    • Bulk barn or loblaw super store in their organic section

    • You can purchase it in any bulk barn store, It comes in regular or whole grain. Good luck!

    • I worked at Bulk Barn as a teen and would NEVER buy from them. Eek.

      Quinoa has become pretty mainstream. You can find it at most Loblaws, in boxes. Same aisle as couscous, or rice.

    • I buy it at Ambrosia health store at Doncaster ave. I find the red quinoa is the testiest.

    • Bulk Barn

  4. Such a coincidence! I just bought some tonight for the first time! Can't wait to try it!!

    • Enjoy it!

  5. You watch…..next it will be GMO'ed. Please don't let that happen.

    • It's inevitable! Once the demand exceeds the supply, it'll happen.

  6. I like to mix my quinoa flour with other flours that I use for baking, I also like the quinoa flakes for breakfast with fruit and to use quinoa as any other grain.

    • I am going to try that for baking, thanks!

  7. sounds socialist

    • Ha Ha!

  8. I am a type 2 diabetic and am always looking for something new to try that is good for my fibre intake along wih a low glycemic index – how does this product fair. I do have some but have not tried it yet – I like the oatmeal recipe above!

    • You should try Chia Seeds as well. http://www.superseeds.ca. They're another miracle food that helps control blood sugar levels!

  9. Quinua came fron Inca's civilization…as well as potatoes and kiwichi. Really quinua contains all those wonders.

  10. I am also type 2 diabetic and I love quinoa. Because of the protein content it is good for lowering the blood sugar levels. Today I brought a quinoa salad for lunch.

  11. For another cold salad – I mix cooked quinoa with cubed cucumber, carrots and red pepper, sometimes cooked chicken as well and add a dressing made from tahini, lemon juice (enough to make it pourable) and a little garlic salt.
    Yum! That is my lunch most days of the week.

    I also use quinoa in place of breadcrumbs in meatloaf or meatballs and my daughter gobbles it up.

  12. Quinoa works well in all sorts of cold salads. I love pasta salads, and found that substituting quinoa in for the pasta in many recipes is easy and tastes great (maybe even better than the original pasta would have).

    I find Quinoa's nutty/buttery taste bounces well off of Mediterranean flavours, so a cold salad with diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and maybe some feta/blue cheese/parmesan with a vinaigrette or lemon juice is awesome. It keeps pretty well, so we make a big batch at once and use it for lunches.

    • I make a cold paella salad and it is so good, I cook the quinoa with Chicken broth instead of water ans saffron and add all the paella stuff when is cold , chicken, peas, shrimp, chorizo, pork, crab, whatever you like in the paella and it's very good!

  13. Bulk Barn sells it in Ottawa.

    • I used to sell it there!!! Bin #1546!!!

  14. Quinoa is available at Bulk Barn in Ontario.

  15. You don't get a nutritious diet by eating a specific thing. You get a healthy diet by eating everything.

    • First sentence: no duh. Second sentence: duh.

      • Not everyone knows it. That's why they spend their time talking about a new super food every month or two.

    • How do I get a healthy diet from eating everything offered to me? I think you meant "by eating a balanced diet", not "everything". If you eat everything, all the time, you're not balanced, but you will tip the scales.

      • I mean lefties are generally the pickiest eaters in the known universe, and they usually are undernourished as a result. There are whole swathes of nutritious food that they won't eat because they never learned to eat everything on their plate as a child.

        People generally get obese because they are over specialized in various unhealthy convenience foods and are inactive, not because they eat too much.

        • As a "lefty" I'm not undernourished, and I typically eat everything on my plate. Your generalization is entirely wrong based on people I know — obesity affects people of all stripes, political inclinations don't correlate with weight.

          "People generally get obese …, not because they eat too much."

          Again, I think you're wrong by definition. The very definition of "too much" is eating more than their activity level can metabolize before it's converted to fat. If they ate less, they'd be able to do less than average, and not get very obese.

          • Not only weight, but malnutrition is a problem. Obesity is just symptom of that.

            The amount we are given to eat that would be metabolized by our basal index is pretty generous. If you have a regular exercise routine and a fairly active lifestyle, then you pretty much don't have to worry about the food you eat at all.

            Also, you must know different people than I do. Probably because you are older than I am. Generally I can feed older people of any particular political stripe with no problems, but getting young hard right wingers to eat vegetables, and getting young left-wingers to eat anything that isn't starch and lettuce is difficult.

          • Do you talk to everyone about politics? Is that how you know someone is of a particular leaning?

  16. You can also find it Costco.

  17. You can buy a large bag @ Costco for a reasonable price. My son is vegan & I'm happy because of the nutritional content esp. the protein.

  18. I Love Quinoa, I love and understan all the benefits of this grain, HOWEVER, its so high in calory and you cant feel full aftrer eating just a little bit – not like you would after eating a nice lean chicken breast or even a large salad…

  19. Is quinoa expensive? I've never heard of it. And where can you buy it?