A complete-protein and gluten-free alternative for wheat, the popularity of Quinoa has grown exponentially in recent years.
It has been deemed as the “super crop” by United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization only recently, but it has been considered as a sacred food by the Incans for ages. Pronounced as keen-wah, the ancient grain is the native of South America and packed with nutrients and minerals.
The low-fat and quick-cooking food is often confused to be a grain when it really is a seed or a pseudo-cereal. Read more about whether Quinoa is a seed or grain here.
When cooked it becomes slightly fluffy yet crunchy with a mild nutty flavor. It has been named as the Supergrain of the future for its amazing health benefits.
1. Incredibly Nutritious
Take a look at the nutrition facts of 100gms or approx half cup of cooked quinoa:
Protein: 4 grams.
Fiber: 3 grams.
Manganese: 32% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance)
Magnesium: 17% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 15% of the RDA.
Folate: 10% of the RDA.
Copper: 10% of the RDA.
Iron: 8% of the RDA.
Zinc: 7% of the RDA.
Potassium: 5% of the RDA.
Around 5% of the RDA for Vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
Small percentage of Calcium, B3 (Niacin) and Vitamin E.
This is along with a total of 120 calories, with 21 gms of carbs and 2 gms of fat. It also contains Omega-3 fatty acids in small percentage.
Most American diets lack in these minerals especially Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc and Iron, causing various deficiencies and adversely affecting growth, development and nourishment.
It is non-GMO, gluten-free, low-fat and high in fiber, and UN has named 2013 as the “The International Year of Quinoa” for all the right reasons.
2. Rich in flavonoids
Quinoa provides more anti-oxidants that most other commonly used whole grains. It is rich in flavonoids mainly Quercetin and Kaempferol. These are powerful anti-oxidants are helpful in removing free radicals and reducing the signs of aging.
These flavonoids are also helpful in preventing diseases like cardiovascular disease, arthritis and inflammatory conditions. Quinoa is proven to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effect on the body and consumption can greatly reduce risk of diseases.
3. Rich in Fiber
One cup of uncooked quinoa contains nearly one fourth of the recommended daily intake of fiber, which is nearly twice as much as grains like wheat and rice
Fiber is most well known to be good for your gut. It’s also helpful in preventing cardio vascular diseases by lowering high blood pressure. Fiber reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and also helps you to lose weight by making you feel fuller longer.
4. Gluten-free and ideal for people with gluten intolerance
People suffering from Celiac disease, extreme gluten intolerance, are suggested gluten-free diets by nutritionists.
Buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa are often recommended as a substitute for wheat. While we wait for more detailed scientific research, quinoa has become a popular choice as it is more nutrient dense compared to other alternatives.
5. Offers Complete Protein with all the essential amino acids
Quinoa owes its popularity to its protein content. However it is not the amount of protein, rather the type of protein that makes its profile impressive. Quinoa is the only plant based food that offers complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids requires.
Our body cannot produce amino acids on its own and needs to be supplemented through our diet. Most plant based source of proteins lack in one or more amino acids. This makes quinoa an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans who have limited choice for source of amino acids.
A cup of cooked quinoa contains nearly 8 gms of protein which is a great way to increase your intake of protein without adding on fat or calories.
6. Aids in weight loss
Quinoa can be a healthy choice for people looking to shed some weight. There are a number of factors that support the cause. It is proven to boost metabolism and can also help in reducing appetite. The effect is due to high protein and fiber content in quinoa.
Quinoa also has a low glycemic index of around 53, which is a measure of how fast it raised the blood sugar levels. Low glycemic index foods reduce hunger prangs which is also helpful in weight reduction.
Though these factors along with low fat content contribute to overall weight loss but it’s important to keep in mind that quinoa is still high in carbs, so carefully control your portion.
7. Easy to cook and store
Quinoa is versatile, tasty and easy to prepare, which makes it important when looking to include it in your diet.
Give it a good rinse and prepare it like rice with two parts water. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes or until soft and translucent. To check if it well cooked, the white germ will become tail like partially detaching itself from the grain.
You could prepare in advance and store it in refrigerate to use later in a range of dishes over the week. It can be used for breakfast as a cereal or porridge, for lunch as a soup or a salad, for mid-meal snack as a muffin baked from milled quinoa and for dinner as a pilaf or in your wrap instead of rice.
Word of Caution
Quinoa contains phytic acid, a substance that reduces our absorption of essential minerals. A good way to reduce the acid is to soak or sprout quinoa before cooking. So make sure you use it the correct way.
Quinoa is also high in oxalates, which reduces the absorption of calcium and can cause problems for certain individuals with recurring kidney stones. So ask your doctor if you are suffering from condition and wish to include quinoa in your diet.
It has a natural coating, called saponin, which makes the cooked quinoa taste a little bitter. So be sure to give it a good rinse before using it to get rid of saponin.
Hope we have inspired you to jump on the healthy quinoa bandwagon, if you haven’t already!
Namrata Kothari is software engineer by education and a food and fitness blogger by passion. She is a lover of yoga and satire and has always been fascinated about nutrition and healthy living, but the real journey of research started after giving birth to two kids. She wanted to pass on good eating habits and balanced diet for their holistic growth, and started writing as a resource for others interested in the same. If you’re interested in working with her either in person or remotely, please email her at [email protected] Namrata currently lives in Bangalore. She is also a contributing health writer for superfoodliving.com. Read more of her articles here http://www.superfoodliving.com/author/namrata-kothari