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Quinoa: One of Nature's Healthiest Protein-Rich Foods

If you're looking for a truly healthy, protein-rich food to anchor your diet, I highly recommend that you consider quinoa (pronounced keen wah). Called the "mother of grains" by the Incan empire, quinoa is native to South America, and is naturally rich in all nine essential amino acids - these are amino acids that we humans can't make from other nutrients, so must obtain from our diet. Quinoa is one of a few grains that are gluten-free, and for most people, it's easy to digest and utilize.


Quinoa is particularly rich in lysine, an amino acid that is needed for growth and repair of our tissues. In some individuals, lysine is helpful in preventing cold sores, especially when combined with intake of natural vitamin C and avoidance of foods that are rich in arginine.

When cooked, quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor that goes well with its fluffy texture. Beyond being abundant in healthy protein, it's a good source of a number of micronutrients, most notably iron, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. - Ben Kim

Enjoy the many health benefits of eating quinoa with the following recipe:

Zucchini and Basil Quinoa Pilaf

quinoa - final

Makes about 4-6 servings


2 cups quinoa
1 large or 2 small zucchini, chopped into small, bite-size pieces
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste


Quinoa - cooking onions

1. In a medium size pot, cook onions and garlic in about 1/4 cup of broth for a few minutes, or until onions are soft.

Quinoa - add to pot

2. Add quinoa, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, and the remaining broth.

Quinoa - add to pot

Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, then cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes.


3. Remove lid, add zucchini, lemon juice, and about 3/4 cup of chopped basil. Cover again with lid and let pot sit for about 2 minutes with the heat off.

Quinoa - final

4. Add remaining basil, season with sea salt and pepper, and serve while it's hot.

Enjoy this nourishing and deeply satisfying zucchini and basil quinoa pilaf.

Note: This recipe was adapted from a similar version found in Dr. Dean Ornish's The Spectrum.

If you can't find quinoa in your local grocery store, try a health or bulk food store.

For the recipe without photos, click here:

Zucchini and Basil Quinoa Pilaf Recipe


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I have heard that quinoa is bitter and must be rinsed a couple of times first, then drained, but your recipe makes no mention of this step.
I will definitely try the Zucchini and Basil Quinoa Pilaf Recipe.

To get the ultimate health benefits from QUINOA, sprout it instead of cooking. Cooking nearly always destroys some of the nutrients in food. You can find info on sprouting by googling. You can make things like Tabouli, add to salads for texture, etc. It doesn't have to be cooked to enjoy it.

Quinoa is a seed, not a grain. It is a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is commonly misunderstood to be a grain.

Thank you for this Dr. Kim! I just finished reading a book called Nourished Baby which cites the Weston A. Price Foundation and the book, Nourishing Traditions for a lot of the feeding recommendations for a baby. I haven't offered my 9 month old meat yet (and don't really want to) and was just about to start with lentils, black beans and quinoa for her. However, the Nourished Baby book says to avoid feeding babies complex carbs / grains as babies lack fully functional pancreatic amylase to properly digest carbohydrates and this could lead to allergies and unhealthy gut flora. I am so confused by all the conflicting information I come across and our pediatrician is very traditional and says to feed my baby almost everything I eat. I respect your opinion and would like to know, what are your thoughts on legumes and grains for babies and toddlers? Is there a book or source that you would recommend for information on a healthy diet for babies? Thanks in advance for any advice.

-Bree Gathers

Great recipe - I always click your recipe links even just to see the photos! I would add though, that it's important for good digestion to soak the quinoa first. You can tell if quinoa has been soaked first if the grains have little sprout tails on them. I have a video that shows how easy soaking grains is:

I have been eating quinoa for years and I prefer the red quinoa better, and I use my rice cooker that holds just one cup. I seldom eat brown rice and you can replace rice for quinoa instead.

I was instructed to always rinse quinoa before cooking to eradicate a substance, saponins that causes a bitter taste.