Some of the health benefits of quinoa include a reduced risk of diabetes, cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as helping to control the appetite, increasing the supply of antioxidants, and improving the digestive system.
Quinoa is an ancient cereal that was cultivated along the Andes for the last 7,000 years. The plant was grown in the high altitudes ranging between 2,000-4,000 meters in the Andes, where every year, the Incan emperor customarily sowed the first seeds. Quinoa was a very important agro plant for the Incas, as it was one of their basic cereals, apart from maize.
Quinoa took a prominent position in the Incan culture because of the fact that the Andes was such a difficult terrain and there were no major food grains to cultivate, apart from quinoa and maize. As a good cold-resistant plant, it was perhaps the only hope and last resort for food for the Incas.
Until the Spanish conquerors arrived, the plant was cultivated without any major issues. However, soon after their arrival and subsequent conquests, the production of quinoa began to decline, since the Spanish conquerors ridiculed quinoa and its eaters. New cereals such as wheat and barley were introduced in the place of quinoa.
Now, it is produced only in South American countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. There is also quinoa production in the United States and the United Kingdom, but not as much as in South American countries.
The scientific name of the quinoa is chenopodium quinoa. It is thought to be originated in the Andean region. Quinoa generally grows to a height between 1m to 3m in length, producing grains every year that can grow in various colors such as white, yellow, pink, orange, red, brown, and black. The grains can be consumed whole as well as in the form of a flour.
In the recent past, the Peruvian government has been giving incentives to farmers to increase the production of quinoa and other similar crops because of their outstanding nutritional qualities.
According to the National Nutrient Database, the nutrients in 100 grams of uncooked quinoa include 13 grams of moisture, 368 kcal of energy, 14 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, 64 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of dietary fiber. Minerals in quinoa include 47 mg of calcium, 4 mg of iron, 197 mg of magnesium, 457 mg of phosphorus, 563 mg of potassium, 5 mg of sodium, and 3 mg of zinc. The vitamins in quinoa include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and vitamin E.
Health Benefits of Quinoa
Quinoa is a nutritive food that is good for health. It provides various health benefits, some of which include:
Antioxidant Properties: Quinoa has antioxidant properties that help in protecting the heart, liver, kidney, lungs, and pancreas against oxidative stress. When compared with other pseudocereals, such as amaranthus, quinoa has higher antioxidant activity. Some of the antioxidants found in quinoa include total phenolics, polyphenols, and anthocyanins. Sprouts of quinoa have also shown significant antioxidant activity.
Supply of Good Proteins: The Quinoa plant has been highly regarded for its high protein value, not because it has very high protein, but rather because it is a source of essential amino acids like lysine, methionine, and tryptophan, all of which cannot be synthesized in the body.
Good for Lipid Profile and Glucose Level: Quinoa seeds can be beneficial in regulating blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol levels. A study on high fructose-fed rats indicated that the consumption of quinoa seeds can help in reducing the adverse effects of fructose on both the glucose level and lipid profile.
High Calcium Content: The amount of calcium found in quinoa is similar to that of dairy products, but it has been pointed out that those who are intolerant of dairy products can eat quinoa. Calcium is very important for the bones, brain, and nervous system.
Cardiovascular Diseases: Quinoa is a pseudocereal that contains high-quality proteins and carbohydrates with low glycemic value, along with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants. It is also considered good for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases in the future. Trials on young and middle-aged people confirmed a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Good for the Digestive System: Quinoa contains insoluble fiber, which helps to improve the digestive process and facilitates healthier bowel movements. This further helps in reducing the risk of flatulence, bloating, pain, constipation, and gas.
Reduces Risk of Gallstones: The fiber found in quinoa also helps in reducing the risk of gallstones. The consumption of quinoa helps in reducing the secretion of bile juice, which aids in the formation of gallstones.
Good Source of Magnesium: Magnesium is one of the trace elements found in quinoa. The dietary intake of magnesium provides benefits, including the control of asthma, increased bone health, a reduced risk of osteoporosis, an increase of heart health, and the regulation of blood sugar levels.
Control of Appetite: A study found that a high intake of wheat, oat, spaghetti, rice, and oat spaghetti induced more eating. On the other hand, alternatives, such as pseudocereals like quinoa and amaranthus, did not induce more eating. This is particularly important for those who want to control their diet and who want to lose weight. Consuming quinoa will reduce the excess intake of food, thereby promoting healthier weight.
Quinoa – Quick Serving Tips
Before cooking quinoa, one has to make sure that the saponin layer on the seeds has been removed. In most cases, quinoa bought in the US is rinsed off and dried, but to be extra careful, you can rinse it off. This saponin can give a bitter taste to quinoa if it is not rinsed off properly.
Boiled Quinoa: Quinoa, after soaking and rinsing, can be boiled in water. 1 cup of quinoa takes about 1½ cups of water to boil. Boil it for about 15 minutes, then add a pinch of salt for it to cook. While pressure cooking, only 5 minutes of high-flame cooking is required.
Quinoa Salad: Quinoa can be added to salads with the choice of your vegetables and seasoning. Quinoa salad tastes good and is also nutritious. It is good for those who don’t want to gain extra weight.
Quinoa with Cheese: You need to cook quinoa in boiling water. Add cheese, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes to quinoa and cook for few minutes. You can find the recipe here.