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Have You Tried Kaniwa? Three Reasons Why You Should


Whole grains or foods made from them contain an abundance of nutrients that may help lower the risk of many chronic diseases. The recommendation is to eat at least three servings of whole grains daily – but even one a day is more beneficial than none.

The main benefits of getting more whole grains in the diet include:
• stroke risk reduced 30-36%
• type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
• heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
• better weight maintenance
• reduced risk of asthma
• healthier carotid arteries
• reduction of inflammatory disease risk
• lower risk of colorectal cancer
• healthier blood pressure levels
• less gum disease and tooth loss

The term “whole grain” encompasses more than just brown rice and bran. Take a stroll through the grocery store aisles and you will see many strange looking names, including amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, and the latest to hit the US, kaniwa (pronounced “ka-nyi-wa”).

Kaniwa is an ancient grain that grows in Peru and Bolivia. Botanically speaking, kaniwa is actually a seed, but it is cooked like a grain. Ancient grains are called such because they have been around for thousands of years without changing. Wheat, corn, and rice, on the other hand, have been bred selectively to look and taste much different than their ancestor grains.

Kaniwa, as with other ancient grains, are packed with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. It is also gluten-free. Though similar to quinoa, it is smaller and reddish-brown in color.

Here are three reasons to try kaniwa:

1. Protein and iron. Kaniwa’s nutritional profile is similar to quinoas it’s a great vegetarian source of complete protein - about 7 grams in a 160-calorie serving. But it’s got significantly more iron than quinoa—about 60 percent of your RDA compared to quinoa’s 15.

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2. A time saving grain. No need to rinse kaniwa before cooking! Unlike quinoa, kaniwa does not contain saponins, the possibly irritating coating that gives it a soapy flavor if you don’t rinse it thoroughly. Kaniwa also has a quick cooking time, unlike some other whole grains.

3. Taste and uses. Kaniwa has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and a heartier texture. However, you cook it just like quinoa and it can be used in many of the same ways. Try adding it to salads, stir-fries, soups and stews. You could also ground it into a flour to be used in breads or pastries. For the best flavor, toast the grain prior to cooking.

Here are a couple of easy recipes so you can try Kaniwa today!

Basic Kaniwa Porridge: Simply cook one cup of kaniwa with two cups of water for a serving of about two cups of cooked kaniwa. Cook a kaniwa porridge as you would any grain: a slow simmer on the stove top stirring occasionally so that it does not burn. Just like quinoa, it will sprout little tails in the cooking process and give the slight look of a sprout. Serve the kaniwa with butter and a sweetener such as maple syrup.

Kañiwa with Lemon, Basil and Tomatoes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup kañiwa, rinsed
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup chopped roma (plum) tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rinsed kañiwa and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all of the broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 2 minutes; fluff with a fork.
2. Transfer kañiwa to a large serving bowl. Add lemon juice, tomatoes, basil, green onions and feta, if desired. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Repo-Carrasco-Valencia R. et al. Chemical and functional characterization of Kañiwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule) grain, extrudate and bran. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2009 Jun;64(2):94-101. doi: 10.1007/s11130-009-0109-0.
LA Times: Ancient Grains, The best thing since sliced bread? (February 2011)
Whole Grains Council: The Health Benefits of Whole Grains

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