Sr. Maria Jesús Pinedo Aguilar, DW Shares the Joy of Cooking Quinoa for Healthy Living
Sr. Maria Jesús Pinedo Aguilar, DW has been sharing the joy of cooking quinoa, and the amazing nutritional benefits of this ancient superfood, with the immigrant Christian community of St. Hugh of Lincoln parish, in Huntington Station, New York. A rich source of protein, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients, quinoa has been gaining popularity for its many health benefits.
Thanks to generous support, Sr. Maria Jesús is assisting these families with a beneficial nutritional project entitled, “Quinoa is Super Food.” Sr. Maria Jesús first conceived the project while ministering to the immigrant Christian Community of the parish. They told her about their struggles to provide their families healthy meals after coming home tired from laboring long hours at their jobs.
“In my dialogues with immigrants I got to know their hopes, their worries and sufferings,”
She writes in her project description. “One concern is, ‘Sister Maria, I come home tired after working hours, I just want to rest, sleep, but I am also hungry…after taking a shower I go out to buy cheap food, but I worry because it’s not nutritious enough.’”
Sr. Maria Jesús thought and prayed about how she could help solve the nutrition problem. She spoke with the Pastor of the parish, Rev. Robert Smith, who was very supportive of her idea for the quinoa nutrition project, and assured her that with prayer, there would be a way to make this project a reality. She asked the Leadership Team at the Daughters of Wisdom if they could help fund the purchase of quinoa and the printing of recipe booklets for distribution to the families.
Her Sisters responded with generous support and affirmation of the project, and offered to cover the entire cost of the project. With the help of their staff, the Sisters sent out an appeal letter requesting donations to fund the total cost of this project – $4,500. Sister Maria Jesús found a distributor who agreed to provide the bags of quinoa at a discounted cost. Thanks to the Daughters of Wisdom and generous benefactors, through Divine Providence, the project was able to come to fruition.
Beginning in May, 2021, Sr. Maria Jesus invited members of the immigrant community for a presentation of the health benefits of quinoa, along with sharing some dishes prepared with quinoa and a refreshing healthy fruit drink. The program has continued with great success, with presentations to groups of women and men, and to the youth group of the parish. Prayer is an important component of the presentations, and Sr. Maria Jesús emphasizes that “Life is a gift that God offers us with love.” She also quotes Hippocrates, the father of medicine, saying, “Let your food be your medicine.”
As a child growing up in Peru, Sr. Maria Jesús watched as her mother prepared the superfood quinoa in soups, salads, and desserts for her family, friends, and neighbors in need. “My mother was born and raised in the Andes region, where Quinoa is grown…She knew it was a superfood,” recalled Sr. Maria Jesús. “In prayer, I remembered my Mother and how she prepared food every day with joy and sacrifice; she knew how to combine them according to their nutritional value, and they were delicious,” she added, “My mother worked very hard, and she helped many poor people.” Quinoa was first cultivated by the Incas at least 7,000 years ago, and it forms the staple diet and of the Inca Peruvian people.
During her most recent quinoa nutrition presentation, on July 14, 2022, Sr. Maria Jesús shared with the youth group at the parish some delicious quiche and caramel flan that she had made with quinoa, as well as her refreshing fruit drink. “Our body is a perfect machine,” Sr. Maria Jesus told the group of young adults, as she presented PowerPoint slides written in Spanish, on the importance of eating foods that keep our bodies healthy.
.She displayed foods rich in potassium, magnesium, protein, beneficial fats, fiber, foods rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, a diet for the health of the heart, including a colorful variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains, and of course quinoa. “Quinoa is a marvelous super food,” she added, explaining that quinoa has many nutrients essential for good health, including protein, beneficial fats, carbohydrates, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc, and many vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin, Vitamin B12, folate, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A.
She explained that after rinsing the quinoa, it cooks quickly in water, and can be used to make many delicious dishes for dinner, by adding vegetables, as well as some meat and cheese.
Julio Vasquez, Youth Group Leader said Sr. Maria’s educational program about quinoa is making a great difference in helping the Hispanic immigrant families at the parish lead healthier lives, by making better food choices. “This is helping our families to be healthy,” he said. “It helps our families to make better choices about what to eat,” he said.
“I’m really grateful for Sr. Maria and how she teaches us about nutrition, and the food was awesome,” said Patricia Alcantara, who participated in the presentation. “I learned so many things today that I never knew before about how food can be medicine.”
Daughters of Wisdom, US Province