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Cooking Paella with Quinoa? A Healthier and Nutrient Packed Paella!

If you have ever had paella, then you know it is one of the most delicious recipes around. The traditional Spanish dish has enjoyed success around the world for its simplistic cooking process, using a single large pan and variety. You can make paella with essentially any type of meat and vegetable. However, one thing you find that does not differ between most recipes is the rice. Paella rice is an essential part of the dish. In fact, some would even argue that you cannot have paella with the rice! However, rice is not the only grain that can make the dish. As foods have become more global, so have different food that normally would not be available in certain parts. At Machika, we are all for making a recipe uniquely yours by customizing ingredients to your wants and dietary needs.

For example, quinoa has become hugely popular around the world for its health benefits, ease of cooking, and ability to substitute rice in both meat and dessert dishes. The nutty flavor is mild, giving it an overall neutral taste that adjusts to the spices and seasoning of the dish. Like short grained bomba rice, it can also absorb a lot of water quickly. Amongst rice, you typically want to use short grain rice like bomba rice because it can absorb the fats and liquid at the bottom of the pan within half an hour. Without this, your rice would end up mushy and overcooked with plenty of liquid still in the pan.

Benefits of Quinoa

But why would anyone want to use quinoa over rice? Well, maybe you want something lower on the glycemic index because of health concerns? After all, quinoa has a relatively low glycemic index of around 50 compared to short grain white rice with an index around 75. You may also prefer the flavor and texture of quinoa over rice. The result of cooking with quinoa is like rice, but not exactly the same. Quinoa will most likely have a softer texture and not become as hard or crispy towards the end of the recipe. The grains of quinoa are also smaller than short grain rice, giving it a slightly different texture. However, the cooking of the paella itself does not differ much. You do not have to change your recipe radically, simply replace the rice with paella. To summarize, some benefits of cooking quinoa with paella are:

  • Full of plant-based proteins
  • More antioxidants than regular rice
  • Fast cooking
  • Healthy gluten-free
  • More nutrients

Full of Plant-Based Proteins

Rice, while a great carbohydrate, is not the best for protein. Unlike rice, quinoa has a significant amount of plant-base protein in it, making it a significant source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. If you are looking to make a vegetable paella, then quinoa is the best choice for you. One thing vegetable and vegan dishes often lack is adequate protein since animal protein is off the menu. Excellent sources of plant-based protein are the best alternative for those wanting to avoid meat while also maintaining adequate protein intake. Adding a little extra protein to your paella recipe can be as easy as just using quinoa instead of white rice.

You do not need to make your paella veggies only if you use quinoa. After all, you could make a remarkably high protein paella by using garbanzo beans, quinoa, and chicken breast in your paella.

More Antioxidants

While Rice does not contain much in the way of antioxidants, quinoa is a whole different type of grain. Not only is it full of plant-based proteins, but it is also full of beneficial antioxidants. In fact, beyond brown rice, there are not any notable antioxidants in regular rice like white rice. Quinoa contains many antioxidants, including flavonoids. You can find flavonoids in many fruits. Flavonoids are considered powerful antioxidants. Flavonoids, like other antioxidants, help the body fight off cellular damage because of oxidation and free radicals. Antioxidants may reduce your chance of developing cancer because of its protective properties.

Fast Cooking

If you are looking for a fast snack, look no further than quinoa. Unlike rice like brown rice that can take over half an hour just to cook, quinoa cooks quickly. This makes it perfect not only for paella, which is cooked fast over an open pan, but for breakfast and lunch dishes. You can quickly make quinoa in as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

Low Glycemic Index and Gluten Free

Most modern diets end up with excess sugar because of added sugars in beverages and bread. Managing your sugar intake is important to ensuring your gut and body functions properly. If you are dealing with conditions like diabetes, then it is even more important that you manage your diet. Quinoa is great for a healthy diet and lowering your sugar intake because the grain has a low glycemic index. While you might not expect rice to be bad for blood sugar since it only has around 0.1 grams of sugar per cup, it ranks high on the glycemic index.

That is because the starch in white rice is breaks down in the stomach into glucose. The conversion into glucose in the stomach can cause spikes in blood sugar. Quinoa also contains plenty of starch, but it is not digested as fast as white rice. Low release of glucose means a lower rise in blood sugar levels, making it a great grain for those with diabetes or blood sugar problems. Just like rice, quinoa is also gluten free, so it is easier on the stomach for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease!

More Nutrients

While rice is delicious, it is not nutritious. In fact, most white rice has to be enriched because they lack vitamins and minerals like folate. While a cup of unenriched white rice may have 1% of your daily recommended value of folate, a cup of quinoa can have nearly 20% of your daily recommended value of folate. Quinoa is essentially a superfood because it contains significant amounts of healthy nutrients like magnesium while also containing lots of plant proteins. White rice lacks many nutrients, which is why most nutritional experts will recommend brown rice or another grain if you require a more nutritional diet. Even compared to other types of white rice like basmati, regular long grain white rice lacks the nutritional benefits.

Why You Should Make Quinoa Paella Today

Paella is a dish steeped in tradition, but that does not mean you have to stick to the rules. One of the best parts of cooking is making a recipe of your own! Customizing ingredients and cooking methods to make a dish better for you is key to enjoying your time in the kitchen and making new traditions or recipes! At Machika, everybody in invited and so are your favorite foods and ingredients. Read more blog posts, articles, and recipes at the Machika.com blog today!


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