Quinoa: pronounce it wrong in Whole Foods and you can expect an immediate ambush of phonetic corrections from offended health food fanatics. “Um, that’s pronounces KEEN-WAH!” Based on its appearance, it’s easy to assume this couscous-esque seed (commonly mistook for a grain) is nothing special. But quinoa has a bit of a superiority complex, boasting benefits vastly superior to those provided by traditional grains.

Quinoa farmWith appearances on Dr. Oz and the backing of nutritionists and medical professionals, the popularity of the superfood is skyrocketing. So, what’s the big deal? Though a relative newcomer to supermarket shelves here in the United States, quinoa has rocked the culinary world for thousands of years as a staple food for the Incas in South America. It’s about time we caught on.

Despite ever-changing advice about what we should eat and how much of each nutrient our body needs, one thing stays consistent- we need a certain amount of protein every day. Generally obtained through the consumption of animal products, this has always proved a struggle for vegetarians and even more so for vegans (vegetarians can at least get protein from eggs and other animal sources). Here is where quinoa comes in. While it is true that there are animal-free sources of protein such as beans and vegetables, most of these are what are known as “incomplete proteins.” This means that they lack certain amino acids necessary for the proper absorption of the protein by your body. When paired with other foods, these incomplete proteins become complete, yet with quinoa, you can skip the second step- the power food is a complete protein on its own.

Tasty by itself or as a complement to another main dish, one thing is for sure- the Incas knew what they were talking about when they praised this superfood by labeling quinoa “the mother grain.” So do yourself a favor and grab a box at your local grocery store!

How to Cook Quinoa

1. Rinse the grains well under running water in a fine-meshed sieve to remove any traces of their bitter-tasting coating.Quinoa seeds are covered in saponin, a substance that naturally protects it from insects and pests and makes it easier to grow organically. Most quinoa sold today is pre-rinsed, but additional rinsing is recommended.

Quinoa42. Cook quinoa on the stovetop much as you would rice, using 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid, either water, stock or broth of your choice. Add less liquid if you want a drier result.

3. Some people prefer to toast the grains in a dry frying pan for a few minutes before adding the liquid, which increases the grain’s natural nuttiness.

4. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 30 minutes, or until water is absorbed or quinoa is tender. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with fork. Quinoa triples in volume once cooked.

5. Or use a rice cooker and tweak cooking time as necessary. Quinoa also can be cooked in the microwave in a covered bowl on high power for about 10 minutes; stir and scrape down sides of bowl and continue to cook at 60 percent power for 12 minutes.