The Mother of All Grains for a Gluten-Free Rice Alternative

I don’t know about you, but all this news about arsenic in rice is a bummer for this gluten-free green diva! I LOVE rice, and it is the basis of most of the grain alternatives I’ve turned to to avoid gluten – ugh. Now, I realize that not ALL rice is laden with arsenic, but this is all a good lesson in not relying heavily on any one type of grain or food too heavily – moderation and variety are probably always key to balancing out some of the harmful effects of any one food.

In the fall and winter months, our family has become attached to our pot of brown rice pilaf that I make every week. My standard brown rice pilaf is eaten on its own, mixed with other soups or stews and obviously goes as a side dish with many meal menus. So, what’s a green diva (or dude) to do? I’ve turned to the highly-acclaimed, super food known by the Incas as the mother of all grains – quinoa. Check out my quinoa pilaf recipe.

I’m not sure why, but I have resisted quinoa. I think I have an automatic skepticism of any super foods and tend to wait and see what shakes out after the initial media frenzy over any new, super or miracle cure foods. Ok, so this makes me late to the party sometimes, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one still warming up to the many benefits of yummy quinoa . . .

Quinoa 101

  • The Year of Quinoa – the United Nations has declaired 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.
  • Mama Quinoa was not only a staple food for the Incas and other South American Indians in the Andes, but it was a sacred grain referred to as chisaya mama or the mother of all grains.
  • Not a Conquistador Favorite - The Spanish conquistadors who disrupted the indigenous people’s lives in the 16th century, felt that quinoa wasn’t a good christian grain – the sacred aspect of it perhaps threatened the conquistadors.
  • Quinoa is a seed and is a member of the goosefoot orchenopod family. It is also related to beet, spinach and tumbleweed species.
  • Quinoa leaves are edible, if you can find them.
  • Protein powerhouse – Quinoa contains all 8 of the essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein. One cup of quinoa has more protein than an egg, and has more protein than most grains and is a great vegan source of protein.
  • Mental & mood booster - mama quinoa is high in iron and B vitamins, which are great for keeping the mind sharp and the moods boosted
  • Plant-based calcium source – quinoa is an excellent source of calcium and especially good for vegans
  • Out of this world – because of it’s many nutritional qualities, NASA is considering quinoa as a crop forControlled Ecological Life Support Systems, which are designed to help sustain life in space stations.
  • Not for the birds – the smart quinoa plant developed an outer coating on the seed shell that contains nasty tastingsaponins tothe birds from eating them. Most quinoa marketed in North America has already been processed to remove the bitter tasting saponins, but it recommended to rinse your quinoa well to remove any residue, just in case.

Green Diva Meg’s quinoa pilaf recipe


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Kathleen Marie C.
Kathleen Marie C5 years ago

Thank you for the push to finally try quinoa- I am gluten free (Celiac's, candida damage, etc) and also was stuck in the rice rut (believe me I am grateful for rice- but variety IS the spice of life!). After suffering for so long, it is hard to try new things since I have finally found a working solution. Another reason to love Care2!

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez5 years ago

My family love quinoa! It is a bit expensive, but when compared to a pound of meat, quinoa is a great deal--and more versatile. Thanks for the recipe!

Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage s5 years ago


Dana W.
Dana W5 years ago

I like quinoa when I've had it but it is kind of expensive to buy.

Bill Eagle
Bill E5 years ago

Oats are cheaper, more abundant and really good for everyone.

Susan S.
Paul Stephan5 years ago

Love it. Lots of ways to eat it, from breakfast to bedtime snack.

John Ditchman
John Ditchman5 years ago

I like quinoa, but guess what? You could find arsenic in it, too! And in potatoes. And onions. Arsenic is a natural part of the Earth's crust, and any food grown in soil will have traces of it. None of the recent "revelations" about rice are really new. Granted, arsenic is toxic, but none of the new findings have shown dangerous levels of arsenic. Just another example of the media blowing a single story way out of proportion, causing everyone to panic. I'm reminded of a story I read about the scientist Lavoisier - a woman was on trial, accused of poisoning her husband. Lavoisier developed a test to detect arsenic, and found it in the dead man's body. the woman was convicted. Then, Lavoisier tested himself. He found arsenic. He tested the king. And found arsenic. The woman was freed. The moral? The more sensitive the test, the more irrelevant results you will find.

Manuela C.
Manuela C5 years ago

Love quinoa!

Samir Nassir
Past Member 5 years ago

Important information I did not know previously,.Is it true that grain crust is useful more than grain itself ?Thank you very much for this article .