By Denis Faye

This hippie grocer staple, pronounced keen-wah, or kee-noh-uh, may look like a grain and may be prepared like a grain but . . . Surprise, quinoa is not a grain! Grains come from grasses, while these little edible seeds actually come from a plant more closely related to spinach. Despite this, the Incas called it chisaya mama—the mother of all grains—and considered it sacred. Of course, the Spanish conquistadores were quick to kibosh that, forcing the Incas to grow corn instead.

The nutrition facts

Half a cup of quinoa is 111 calories, 2 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbs, 4 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. That 4 grams of protein is a complete protein, meaning it provides all 9 essential amino acids, which is rare outside the animal product world.

The biggest vitamin hit you'll get is folate with 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)*. You'll get lesser amounts of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6. Minerals are much more substantial with 29 percent of the RDA for manganese; 15 percent for magnesium; 14 percent for phosphorus; and smaller amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and selenium.

How do you eat this stuff?

Quinoa works in place of rice or couscous. Bring one part quinoa with two parts water to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff and eat heartily!

1 cup of quinoa, cooked (185 g)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
222 8 g 5 g 39 g 4 g