Quinoa: Superfood for Mesothelioma Patients

Bowl of quinoa salad

If you are a mesothelioma patient looking for high-quality, nutrient-rich foods, quinoa might have popped up on your radar.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has been around for more than 5,000 years. The tiny, edible seeds come from a plant botanically related to beets, spinach and chard.

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the International Year of Quinoa. FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said quinoa “can play an important role in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty.”

For patients with mesothelioma, especially those whose appetite is impacted by chemotherapy or other cancer treatments, quinoa is easy to eat and digest.

Nutritional Value of Quinoa for Mesothelioma Patients

The pseudocereal is native to Peru, Bolivia and Chile, and it is considered a superfood because of its impressive nutrient profile.

When compared to grains, such as wheat and corn, quinoa is higher in calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium — minerals essential to our diet.

Quinoa’s protein quality is unique because it contains all the essential amino acids we need. It’s a good protein alternative for mesothelioma patients who may have difficulty chewing and swallowing animal proteins such as chicken and beef.

In addition, quinoa is gluten free making it a nutritious alternative for those with gluten sensitivities.

Quinoa is prepared similarly to rice and could substitute that grain in any dish. Because quinoa is higher in fiber than white or brown rice, it raises your blood glucose levels at a slower pace than when digesting those grains.

Cooking Quinoa

Quinoa comes in more than 120 varieties, but white, yellow/gold, red and black are the most common types. If you are new to quinoa, you’ll likely find the white variety at your local grocer.

But I suggest trying all types because each has a slightly different flavor, and some types, especially red, hold up better in salads. Also, the different types will make any meal colorful.

Here’s how to cook quinoa:

  • Rinse 1 cup of quinoa well using a fine mesh strainer. Rinsing the seeds removes a slightly bitter natural coating called saponin.
  • Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of water. You can also use vegetable or chicken broth and add a little salt for flavor.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from heat. Do not remove the lid. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  • Fluff the quinoa with a fork, and it is ready to eat.

For more flavor and color, wait for the quinoa to cool and add grape tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, sweet corn, feta cheese and any herbs such as cilantro or parsley.

Use any vegetable and herbs you like. Sprinkle a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice to add a kick to the quinoa.

  1. Oelke, E.A., Putnam, D.H., Teynor, T.M. & Oplinger, E.S. (2017, March 21). Alternative Field Crops Manual. Quinoa. Retrieved from https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/quinoa.html
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2013, February 20) UN celebrates Andean “super food.” Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/press-room/news/detail/en/

Tejal Parekh is a registered and licensed dietitian in Florida with a master’s in nutrition and dietetics from Georgia State University. She realized her passion more than 10 years ago when she started working with cancer patients. Tejal also is one of the first dietitians in Florida to be board-certified as a specialist in oncology nutrition.

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