What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa is among the most popular foods in the world. In fact, many people term it as a superfood due to the immense nutritional benefits it packs. Typically, quinoa has more nutrients than most grains, though its taste may vary from sweet to bitter depending on the variety.(1)
Physically, the grain appears pale yellow/pink/black, flat, and oval. When it comes to taste, it is crunchy and has a nutty taste. The fantastic thing is that these nuts can be eaten in various ways, including boiling and adding to other foods like salads.
Still, you can use it to thicken soups or porridge. Some people find the sprouted version to be best while others can pop it like popcorn.
People of all categories can eat this grain without much trouble. Besides numerous nutrients, it is gluten-free.
Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of quinoa
What Are The Health Benefits Of Quinoa?
- Highly nutritious
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Boosts metabolic health
- May aid in losing weight
- Packs a high amount of antioxidants
- Has large amounts of flavonoids
- Packs a high amount of fiber
- Quinoa is high in minerals
- Quinoa has all essential amino acids
Quinoa: Nutrition, health benefits, and dietary tips
1. Highly nutritious
Quinoa seed packs an incredible amount of nutrients. Though many people call it a grain, it is essentially a pseudo-cereal. You can either buy it as quinoa seeds or quinoa products. Health food stores, restaurants, groceries, and supermarkets sell these products.
The nutritional content per cup (185 grams) are as follows:(2)
- Protein: 8 grams.
- Fibre: 5 grams
- Manganese: 58% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA
- Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA
- Folate: 19% of the RDA
- Copper: 18% of the RDA
- Iron: 15% of the RDA
- Zinc: 13% of the RDA
- Potassium 9% of the RDA
- 222 calories
- >10% supply of RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6
- Small amounts of calcium, and vitamins B3 (niacin) & E
- 39 grams of carbs
- 4 grams of fat
- A small number of omega-3 fatty acids
2. Lower blood sugar levels
Refined carbohydrates are notable compounds that may cause or escalate type 2 diabetes. People who have this type of diabetes cannot effectively use insulin, which results in high levels of blood sugar alongside other complications.(3)
Whole grains, e.g., quinoa, on the other hand, are associated with decreased risks of diabetes and heart conditions. Virtually, when you eat quinoa as part of your diet, you’ll experience a decrease in levels of bad cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides. These components are linked to type 2 diabetes.
Note: – quinoa has a low Glycemic Index (53). The glycemic index is the measure of how quick a particular food raises your blood sugar level. Food with a higher index is good at stimulating hunger; this makes you eat a lot of food, hence might lead to obesity. Also, the foods have a stronger link with chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.(4), (5)
A glycaemic index of 53 makes quinoa one of the best food for managing blood sugar.
Gluten-free foods are currently the talk of the town. Apart from causing allergic reactions in people, gluten is associated with numerous health issues. Most people would prefer to eat diets free of gluten.
Yes. The market offers a generous amount of these products, but they are refined. Gluten-free processed foods are also not a healthy option because processed foods come with other health risks.(4)
Quinoa is a natural pseudo-cereal without gluten. Since it is not refined, it packs other natural benefits, including antioxidants that add much value to your diet. So, you can use quinoa and its products as a healthy alternative to wheat and its products.(5)
4. Boosts metabolic health
Human metabolism determines the general health of a person.
According to published studies, quinoa is efficient in managing the metabolism of sugar and triglycerides. That means the body will have only the right amount of these compounds.
5. May aid in losing weight
Considering its vast nutritional benefits, quinoa can help in losing weight.
It has the highest fiber amount than any other grain. This high amount of fiber is closely associated with weight loss.(8) Fibre gives you the feeling of fullness for a longer time, reducing the tendency to eat all the time. This, in turn, reduces the intake of calories. Another importance of fiber is that it improves the health of the gut. Note that quinoa has the.(9)
Similarly, quinoa packs an incredible amount of proteins. Proteins boost metabolisms and give a feeling of fullness. This reduces the amount of food eaten and may prevent obesity.
6. Packs a high amount of antioxidants
Antioxidants are essential substances in neutralizing free radicals. Also, they are believed to fight numerous diseases, including cancer, and reduce the rate of aging. So including quinoa seeds in your diet is the best way to get these antioxidants into your system.
Interestingly, studies have shown that if you sprout the quinoa seeds, their level of antioxidants significantly increases, which makes it a better option.(10)
7. Has large amounts of flavonoids – Quercetin and Kaempferol
Plant chemicals are essential in ensuring a properly functioning body. Quinoa has been proven to have a wide range of essential minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Such elements make the grain to be extremely healthy. More in-depth research has shown that this small seed packs an amazing type of flavonoids called Quercetin and Kaempferol.
The two flavonoids have been associated with a wide range of benefits in humans in including anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-depressant, and anti-viral properties. This wide range of proven benefits, make quinoa grains one of the most potent grains you must include in your diet.(11)
Research shows that the amount of Quercetin in quinoa, is in fact, higher than the amount found in plants that are known to produce Quercetin, such as cranberries.(12)
8. Packs a high amount of fiber
Quinoa has the highest amount of fiber than any other grain on earth. A single cup of raw quinoa grains has between 17 and 27 grams of fiber, depending on the variety. This value is twice as much the amount found in most grains. However, when you boil the seeds, the amount of fiber decreases because the seeds absorb a lot of water.(13)
Quinoa has both insoluble and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is 2.5 grams per cup (which is still decent), while the rest is insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce the amount of blood sugar, increase fullness, lower cholesterol, and aid in weight loss.(14)
On the other hand, insoluble fiber usually adds bulk to the stool, which in turn helps food to pass quickly through the digestive system.
9. Quinoa is high in minerals
Modern diets come with insufficiency of some minerals, specifically zinc, potassium, magnesium, and iron. This can lead to health defects.
However, quinoa has almost all minerals that a human body requires to grow correctly. Precisely, quinoa has 30 percent of the RDA of magnesium.
10. Quinoa has all essential amino acids
Your body cannot make some amino acids – essential amino acids. As such, they must be provided in the diet. A complete protein contains all types of amino acids. Sadly, most plants cannot provide all the 9 essential amino acids, especially lysine.
Fortunately, quinoa is rich in all nine essential amino acids, alongside other types of amino acids. 8 grams per cup makes this grain an excellent source of plant-based proteins.
How to Cook Perfect Quinoa?
Easy to prepare
This point isn’t a health benefit; however, by the fact that it doesn’t give you a headache to prepare, it makes it an important point.
Quinoa can be eaten alongside other foods. But, you can rinse them in water first to remove the bitter taste caused by saponins in some varieties. You can prepare your quinoa within 20 minutes, just by boiling a cup of quinoa in two cups of water.
Adverse Effects of Quinoa
No side effects have been reported with the consumption of quinoa. However, it vital to note that quinoa contains some substances that affect how it functions. They include:
Phytates are common in most grains. They bind to minerals such as iron and zinc, reducing their absorption. However, you can eliminate this effect by soaking/sprouting the quinoa seeds before cooking.
The amounts of Oxalates in quinoa are very high. These compounds may contribute to the formation of kidney stones in some individuals. Still, oxalates reduce the absorption of calcium. Again, soaking the quinoa minimizes this effect.(15)