Quinoa & Flaxseed

Quinoa and flaxseeds can be found near the grains in most grocery stores.

Quinoa and flaxseeds can be found near the grains in most grocery stores.

Quinoa and flaxseeds are gluten-free foods packed with nutrients. While technically neither of them are grains, they are often substituted for grains in cooking. They both have omega-3 fatty acids, which make them fattier than most grains but also provide health benefits. Tina Sapra, senior clinical nutritionist and coordinator with Fortis Memorial Research Institute, and Vandana Mathur, consulting nutritionist at Metropolis Healthcare, cite quinoa and flaxseeds as some of the top foods you can eat to help prevent breast cancer.


Pronounced "keen-wah," this South American import is known for being high in fiber. Quinoa is technically a seed that, when dried, is small, flat and oval. When cooked, it turns into a circular shape and is soft, plump, tender and similar to the consistency of rice or couscous. The grain is described as having an earthy or nutty flavor.

The Many Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is a complete protein and a complex carbohydrate. This “superfood” also contains B vitamins, iron, fiber, omega-3 fatty acid, potassium and zinc. Vitamin B2 gives you energy to help your body fight fatigue. The fiber aids digestive health, lowers cholesterol, helps you keep a healthy weight and prevents heart disease by reducing blood pressure. Quinoa contains iron that increases brain function and promotes energy. The magnesium in quinoa may also help relieve migraines by relaxing blood vessels, according to Dr. Susan Lark, a physician and nutritionist in Los Altos, California.

Preparing and Eating Quinoa

Quinoa comes in a variety of forms, including whole grain, quinoa flakes and quinoa flour. Before cooking, be sure to rinse it well to remove a natural coating on the seed that gives it a bitter taste. Quinoa is easy to cook; just boil 2 cups of water and add 1 cup of quinoa, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Add quinoa to salads, use it as a base for a pilaf, add it to soups, use it as a substitute for rice or serve it as a hot breakfast option. Quinoa can be served either hot or cold.


The seeds come from the flax plant that is found primarily in Canada, China and the U.S and are about the size of sesame seeds. Flaxseeds can come in a variety of forms – whole, ground or oil. Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky says that experts recommend ground flaxseed over whole flaxseed for easier digestion and absorption. You can get either version at most grocery stores and they can be stored in the pantry or refrigerator for several months. Flaxseed oil doesn’t contain fiber; only the whole or ground seeds are fiber-rich.

The Many Benefits of Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds have a component that helps reduce inflammation that may trigger asthma, migraines and arthritis. Dr. Lark notes they may also slow the release of prostaglandin, which can naturally help relieve monthly menstrual cramps. The seeds pack in nutrients including protein, iron, phosphorous, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin E. Flaxseeds contain fiber, a natural laxative that promotes digestive health. They have also been linked to reducing unhealthy LDL cholesterol and, thus, reducing the risk of heart disease.

Preparing and Eating Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds in whole form can add a nice crunch to foods, without any cooking. Just sprinkle on your hot or cold cereal, add to mayo or mustard, sprinkle over salads or mix into a yogurt or smoothie. Ground flaxseed can be used for baking cookies, muffins and breads.

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About the Author

Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.

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