Fertility Foods: How to Cook Quinoa
March is National Nutrition Month. If you're trying to conceive, you may have questions about fertile friendly foods. To begin with, aside from what we likely know about eating, can food make a real difference with infertility?
Foods to Avoid to Increase Fertility
What we know to avoid to have a healthy pregnancy and baby:
- Eating highly processed foods
- Foods that have a high sugar content
- Artificial sweeteners
- Foods that are loaded with sodium
- Foods that have too much fat
- Eliminating all good fats
- Eating too few calories or too many
- Empty carbohydrates
What you eat, what you do, what choices you make, will all affect your pregnancy and the baby you are hoping to have. We want to help you make the best choices possible.
Learning to eat in a more fertility nutrition friendly way is simple with fertility nutritionist Carolyn Gundell, MS from Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) to guide us. To start us off right, here's information that can guide you in how to cook a grain that may be unfamiliar to you. Keep in mind, if you've tried quinoa before and haven't liked it, trying it prepared in a different way may make all the difference. It's heart and fertility healthy enough to deserve a second chance! Quinoa is even gluten free, high in protein and folate and low on the glycemic index. - Lisa Rosenthal
Fertility Secrets of Whole Grains: A Quinoa Primer
Are you bored with your selection of whole grains?
Are you eating the same whole wheat toast, whole wheat pasta and brown rice day after day? Have you tried quinoa or other whole grains such as bulgur, buckwheat, millet, farro, barley, or steel cut oats? Have you purchased quinoa and now you are staring at it in your cabinet with no idea how to cook it?
Maybe learning how to pronounce quinoa is more intimidating than learning how to cook it or, if you are like me and had a not-so-successful first time experience cooking quinoa, it may be hard to go back and try again. Yes, even a Nutritionist can be a bit stymied with the “how to cook” it stage. So, I thought I would share a few tips with you.
If we are going to purchase and cook quinoa, first learn how to pronounce this powerhouse of a whole grain. Quinoa is a two syllable word and is pronounced “Keen-wah.” If you want to hear an audio version, then Google the Merriam-Webster dictionary audio link, “How to pronounce quinoa.” You will surely impress everyone with your verbal skills.
Learn a little trivia about “Keen-wah” to add to your dinner conversation
While relatively new to the United States, quinoa has been a staple food in Peru, Chile and Bolivia for over 5,000 years. The Inca Indians consider it a sacred food, refer to it as the "mother seed" or “mother of all grains,” and believe that quinoa's nutrients improve the quality of breast milk. Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse. It is a complete protein and is high in magnesium, folate (folic acid), Vitamin E (antioxidant), iron and phosphorous. Quinoa is gluten free. This whole grain fits nicely into the fertility nutrition meal plan because it digests slowly with a low-glycemic index. This means that it does not spike blood sugar levels, satisfies hunger longer, and great for PCOS, insulin resistance, diabetes, and fertility.
Tips for Selecting/Preparing Quinoa
Enter the “if you can read, you can cook” stage: Quinoa is generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. If purchasing from a bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the quinoa are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure its freshness. Store quinoa in an airtight container and it will keep for three to six months in the refrigerator. While the processing methods remove much of the soapy saponins that coat quinoa seeds, it is still a good idea to thoroughly wash the seeds to eliminate any remaining saponin residue. Run cold water over the quinoa that has been placed in a fine meshed strainer, gently rubbing the seeds together with your hands. If the seeds still have a bitter taste, continue the rinsing process.
How to Cook and Prepare Tips
To prepare, just add one part quinoa to two parts water and stir for about 12-15 minutes. Substitute rice and pasta with quinoa or even use it as hot breakfast cereal with milk, bananas, walnuts and dried cranberries. Many recipes suggest mixing quinoa with corn or brown/wild rice, low-fat cheese, Italian spices, marinara sauce, or vegetables. How about adding ground turkey and stuffing it into baked green peppers? Try combining cooked chilled quinoa with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander.
To add excitement to your favorite pasta recipe, use noodles made from quinoa. Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts. Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups. Ground quinoa flour can be added to cookie or muffin recipes. Quinoa is also great to use in tabouli as a (wheat-free) substitute for the bulgar wheat with which this Middle Eastern dish is usually made. Quinoa freezes well too. Many recipes can be found on the Internet and in cookbooks. A YouTube cooking video and narrative can also be found at www.healthcastle.com.
I welcome your quinoa experience comments.
About Carolyn Gundell, M.S.
Carolyn Gundell, M.S. is a nutritionist, specializing in PCOS and fertility. With over 20 years of nutrition experience, Carolyn has a special interest in helping women with conditions that affect fertility, including insulin resistance, diabetes Type1/Type 2, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), lipid disorders, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, underweight and overweight concerns. Carolyn earned her M.S. in Nutrition from Columbia University and completed her undergraduate studies in Biology/Nutrition at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven. She is trained as a Research Associate in Clinical Skills Training, and is certified in HIPAA, CPR, First Aid and Food Safety & Sanitation. Previously, Carolyn worked at Pediatric Endocrine & Diabetes Specialists, The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, both in Norwalk and at Yale University Medical Center’s Obesity, Diabetes, PCOS Clinic and The Yale Fertility Center.