Friday, July 27, 2012

Superfood Salad: Quinoa and Chia Seed

While Alycia and I have been downright horrible about blogging, I haven't forgotten about Feel Good Foodies completely. I still take pictures of my food and write down recipes with the intent of posting! "A" for effort? 

Anyway, this summer salad is one that I could not just file away, it's too good not to share (and good FOR you, might I add?). I call it my superfood salad, because it has quinoa and chia seeds. I'll tell you all about their health benefits later. 

For the vegetables, I go with the "what's in my refrigerator?" method. Zucchini and red bell peppers were the answer this time, but this recipe would also taste great with corn for the summer, or any other seasonable, roast-able veggie. Here is the recipe:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa (red or white, I used white)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 shallot (green onions might be better)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • dash of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts and pumpkin seeds (substitute with any nuts/seeds you would like)
  • Goat cheese to taste (optional)

Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 35 mins Serves: 4-6


Cook the quinoa according to package instructions, or use this method: Put it into a small sieve and immerse in a bowl of water; soak for 15 minutes. Drain and put into a pot with the 1/2 t salt and 1 1/4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Dice the zucchini and red bell pepper. 

Toss together in a large bowl with the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, chili powder,  and coriander to coat.

Spread onto a baking sheet along with the whole shallot and broil for 5-10 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Stir half-way through.

After this photo, I forgot to take more pictures until the end. Sorry!

Remove vegetables from the oven. Slice the shallot and add to a bowl with the other vegetables.

Once the quinoa is cooked and all the water absorbed, combine with the vegetables.

Add the lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and pepper to the hot mixture and stir gently to combine.

Serve warm or cold.

Add toasted pine nuts/ pumpkin seeds and goat cheese just before serving.

I like to make a big batch of this type of salad at the beginning of the week, so that I have a few days' worth of healthy lunches. 

As promised, here are some health benefits of quinoa and chia seeds:

1. Protein Powerhouse
Proteins are essential to the building and repair of the body’s tissues and to basic functions like growth, digestion and excretion. Quinoa has a higher protein content than wheat, barley or other major grains. One cup of quinoa has 9 grams, which trumps the protein-rich egg (6 grams). Quinoa, which contains all 8 of the essential amino acids, is a complete protein. It has become a favorite dish among vegans and vegetarians, but the pleasures and benefits of it are available to anyone seeking an alternative to meat, eggs and dairy products as a protein source. 

2. Dieter’s Dream
Quinoa is a satisfying, low-cholesterol source of complex carbohydrates. Rich in fiber, it’s digested slowly and has a low glycemic index, helping you steer clear of the blood-sugar roller coaster. With its chewy texture, quinoa can be eaten at a leisurely pace. Its heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats will leave you feeling full while providing more nutritional content than breads or cereals made of refined grains. Quinoa can be eaten as a breakfast food to provide long-lasting energy and help you breeze through your morning workout. A meal of vegetables and quinoa, or quinoa and beans, is a dieter’s dream: high in vitamins, minerals and protein, while low in fat and calories.

3. Internal Cleanser/Detoxifier
As a complex carbohydrate, quinoa acts an internal cleanser, easing the progress of food through the digestive tract. Used regularly in your diet, quinoa can help keep you free of constipation and bloating. Unlike more common grains such as wheat, quinoa is gluten-free and can be enjoyed by people with digestive disorders, like celiac disease. This versatile seed can be used in breads, soups or other foods where grains are a primary ingredient, offering a steady source of colon-cleansing fiber. The vitamin B and folate in quinoa also help the liver in its role of eliminating wastes from the body, adding to quinoa’s detoxifying properties.

4. Bone Builder
For vegans, people with lactose intolerance or those who are simply looking for non-dairy sources of this vital mineral, quinoa is a flavorful source of plant-derived calcium. Calcium builds and maintains bones and teeth, helps regulate the contraction of the heart, and facilitates nerve and muscle function. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 30 milligrams of calcium. Quinoa also contains impressive quantities of potassium, magnesium and zinc, minerals that are crucial for heart, nerve and muscle function.

5. Brain Food
A cup of cooked quinoa offers 15 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of iron, which helps to deliver oxygen to the blood, boosting energy and brain power. Quinoa’s vitamin B content can help keep the mind sharp, maintain brain volume and stabilize mood.


Chia Seeds:
1. Supports Heart Health
Chia seeds can help reduce blood pressure. The seeds contain one of the highest known plant sources of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). EFAs cannot be synthesized by our bodies however, it is very important that we get enough to support our immune, cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems. EFA deficiency is quite common in North America.

2. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Chia seeds slow down the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and then assimilated into the body. The soluble fiber helps to stabilize blood glucose levels resulting in steady, sustained energy. In one study on diabetic patients, Dr. Vladamir Vuksan of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, found that blood was thinner and less prone to clotting and blood pressure of participants dropped significantly, after three months of taking Chia seeds daily.

3. Energizing
The word “Chia” comes from the Mayan language and means strength. Chia seeds are a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber. It is said that 1 tablespoon of Chia can sustain a person for 24 hours. Athletes have reported that Chia seeds help them perform at optimal levels for much longer periods of time.

4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
A number of arthritis sufferers have reported reduced pain and inflammation after a few weeks of taking Chia seeds. The high concentration of omega-3 helps to lubricate joints and keep them supple. Additionally, Omega-3s are converted into prostaglandins which are known to have both pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.

5. Weight Loss
The essential fatty acids contained in Chia seeds helps to boost metabolism and promote lean muscle mass. The seeds are sometimes added to food to provide bulk and nutrients while adding very few calories. For these reasons, many people have found Chia quite useful in weight loss and weight maintenance.

6. Detoxification and Elimination
Similar to psyllium, the swelling action of Chia in the body helps to cleanse and soothe the colon, and absorb toxins while lubricating and strengthening peristaltic action.

7. High Quality Protein
Chia seeds contain about 20% protein, a higher percentage than found in many other grains such as wheat and rice. Chia seeds contain strontium which helps to assimilate protein and produce high energy.

8. Antioxidants
Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants containing even more antioxidants than fresh blueberries. The high amounts of antioxidants in Chia seeds also keeps the oils from going rancid - contributing to a long shelf life.

9. Provides Fiber and Other Nutrients
Besides EFAs, Chia seeds also provide fiber, iron, calcium, niacin, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

2 tablespoons of Chia = 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, 5 grams omega-3

10. Brain Power
EFAs are known to make cell membranes more flexible and efficient making nutrients more readily available and nerve transmission more efficient. This helps to improve brain function (including memory and concentration).


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