8 Health Benefits of Quinoa:
An introduction to quinoa
Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’ is a great wheat-free alternative to starchy grains. There are two types: red and creamy white. Both types are slightly bitter when cooked and open up to release little white curls (like a tail) as they soften.
Grown in South America (Peru, Chile and Bolivia) for thousands of years, quinoa formed the staple diet of the Incas and their descendants.
In recent years, foodies in the UK and the US have heralded it as a superior alternative to bulgur wheat, couscous and rice. Though it often occupies a similar role to these grains in dishes, quinoa is actually in the same family as beets, chard and spinach.
There are three main types of quinoa… white, red and black.
This is what they look like:
Here is the nutrient breakdown for 1 cup of cooked quinoa, or 185 grams:
- Protein: 8 grams.
- Fiber: 5 grams.
- Manganese: 58% of the 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.
- Over 10% of the RDA for Vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
- Small amounts of Calcium, B3 (Niacin) and Vitamin E.
1. High quality protein
With the nine essential amino acids, the protein balance is similar to milk. At 16.2 to 20 percent protein, it has is more protein than rice (7.5 percent), millet (9.9 percent) or wheat (14 percent).
2. Great source of riboflavin
Riboflavin has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells.
3. Metabolic Health
Given the high amount of beneficial nutrients, it makes sense that quinoa could lead to improvements in metabolic health.
Although this needs to be studied more thoroughly, I did find two studies (one in humans, the other in rats) that examined the effects of quinoa on metabolic health. The human study found that using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free breads and pastas significantly reduced blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels.
The rat study found that adding quinoa to a diet high in fructose almost completely inhibited the negative effects of fructose.
Two studies, one in humans and the other in rats, show that quinoa can improve metabolic health. This includes lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels.
The saponins from quinoa are used to promote healing of skin injuries in South America. During the processing of Quinoa there are saponins which are removed from it and then reused as an antiseptic, as well as a detergent.
This shows just one more aspect of this superseed. There is some misperception as to what Quinoa is exactly, whether it’s a grain or a seed. The part that is edible is the seed, which makes it great for grain-free diets and diet plans. But the plant that it grows on is grain-like which causes the confusion.
There are many benefits to the plant, and it shows just how versatile it can be, much the same way aloe can be eaten, and used to treat the skin.
5. Not fattening!
Only 172 calories per 1/4 cup dry (24 of the calories from protein and only 12 from sugars, the rest are complex carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fats).
Since it is not not related to wheat, or even a grain, it is gluten-free. When you’ve gone gluten free either for medical reasons or for dietary ones, you’ll quickly find out that while there may be more GF options than there were a decade ago, there is still a lot of room for more products.
In the meantime you can stay gluten-free by using Quinoa. It’s not a grain, it’s a seed, and it doesn’t contain any wheat or gluten in it, so you can feel free to enjoy it in loads of different Quinoa recipes without worrying if it’s going to upset your system.
7. Contains All Amino Acids
One of the most impressive qualities of Quinoa is its protein make-up. It’s not animal source of protein but boasts some pretty good numbers.
The protein alone would be enough to eat it, but it contains all 8 of the amino acids that your body needs to truly function at its best. There are supplements out there that you can buy to get all of those amino acids in one place, or you can start eating Quinoa daily to get them from a natural food source.
8. Smart Carb
It is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar.
The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels.
It is known that eating foods that are high on the glycemic index can stimulate hunger and contribute to obesity. Such foods have also been linked to many of the chronic, Western diseases that are so common today… like diabetes and heart disease.
Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, which is considered low.
However… it’s important to keep in mind that quinoa is still pretty high in carbs, so it is not a good choice for a low-carb diet, at least not in large amounts.
The glycemic index of quinoa is around 53, which is considered low. However, it is still relatively high in carbohydrates.
A 100g serving of quinoa provides:
368 calories | 14g protein | 6g fat | 64g carbohydrate | 7g fibre
5 Recipes Using Quinoa:
Quinoa Roasted Chicken with Olive Gremolata – Click Here
Quinoa Pancakes – Click Here
Energy-Revving Quinoa – Click Here
Quinoa and Chickpea Burgers – Click Here
Toasted Quinoa with Chiles and Corn – Click Here