Quinoa, chia are proven healthy additions to any diet

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Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a small, grain-like seed native to the Andes Mountains of South America. It was grown by the Incan people thousands of years ago and is often called the “mother grain.” 

It is not a true cereal grain, but actually the seed of a plant related to beets, Swiss chard and spinach.

We call it a grain because it can be prepared and used in the same way as traditional grains. 

Much of our quinoa comes from South America, but farmers in high-altitude areas near the Rocky Mountains are also beginning to grow it.

Quinoa is very high in protein, a good source of fiber and provides many nutrients.

It’s one of the few plant foods that supply a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own, thus a good choice for vegetarians. 

It is considered a whole grain food and does not contain gluten.

Quinoa comes in a range of colors including tan, red and black and has a mild, slightly nutty flavor. 

You may find it as an ingredient in breakfast cereals, crackers and pasta, especially those marketed as gluten-free.  In your kitchen, it is great for side dishes, salads and vegetarian entrees and can be used in baking. It can be cooked like rice and served plain or sweetened as a hot breakfast cereal.

The seeds should be rinsed in a fine mesh strainer before cooking to remove their bitter, natural pest-fighting coating.  When cooked, the grains will look translucent and the white germ will have partly detached, looking like a tiny curl.

To make an easy quinoa-based salad for lunch, combine cooked, cooled quinoa with sliced almonds, dried cherries or cranberries, chopped broccoli and a little homemade vinaigrette dressing or quinoa with chopped raw vegetables, cooked or canned kidney or black beans, a little vinaigrette or Italian salad dressing.

For dinner, try quinoa-stuffed tomatoes from the National Institutes of Health at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecaneatright.htm.

Try quinoa soon — at breakfast, lunch or dinner — it will make a healthy, tasty addition to your family’s diet!

Chia: another good grain

Chia seeds are native to Central America and believed to be a staple food of the ancient Aztec diet.

“Chia” means oily, which is appropriate as nearly 30 percent of the seed mass can be extracted as oil.

Chia seeds have a black, brown, green and white appearance and are tiny in size, only about one millimeter in diameter.

Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also an excellent source of fiber, providing up to 10 grams per ounce serving (about 2 tbsp.) and contain protein and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of an overall healthy diet may help improve heart health by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. There is still much work to be done on this topic in order to achieve conclusive evidence.

Chia seeds are shelf stable and do not need to be refrigerated. They can be eaten raw, added or prepared in a number of ways and different types of dishes. They are commonly eaten sprinkled on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables.

Chia seeds absorb liquid very easily which makes them easy to mix into cooked oatmeal or similar dishes.

Janet Mullins, extension specialist for food and nutrition, University Of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, provided this informative information. From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “What Are Chia Seeds?” http://.www.eatright.org. October 2013.

Program on bones, joints

On Thursday, March 13, Kate Thompson, Campbell County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, will present a program, “These Bones,” at 1:30 p.m. here at the Carroll County Extension office. All interested residents are invited to attend.

Participants will learn about nutrients to keep our bones healthy, important stretches that enhance joint health, as well as eating and fitness choices to impact bone and joint health in a positive way. This is the Extension Homemakers March “Learn with Us” session. 


Grace Angotti is Carroll Co. Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to gangotti@uky.edu.