10 Incredible Benefits of Quinoa

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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Quinoa is a highly valuable nutrient-rich food that is gluten-free and a rich source of protein. Its benefits include weight loss, improved heart health, detoxification of the body, and improved digestive health. It also helps in regulating diabetes and reducing gallstones.

It can be used like many common grains or ground into a powder or flour. It has a very low content of fat and can be added to diets around the world as a healthy alternative to many other similar foods.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is an interesting form of pseudocereal that is not technically a grain or a traditional cereal. It is a crop that has been grown for thousands of years and is grown mainly for its edible seeds. Related to spinach and beetroots, it is becoming a major food in America, Europe, China, and Canada, despite the fact that it has to be imported in these parts.

It is an ancient cereal that was cultivated in the Andes for the last 7,000 years. The scientific name is Chenopodium quinoa, and it is a species of goosefoot. It 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 flour. It is primarily grown in South America, in the Andean region, including countries like Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia.

quinoa

The plant was grown in the high altitudes ranging from 2,000-4,000 meters in the Andes, where every year, the Incan emperor customarily sowed the first seeds. It was a very important agro plant for the Incas, as it was one of their basic cereals, apart from maize. In the recent past, the Peruvian government has been giving incentives to farmers to increase the production of this pseudocereal and other similar crops because of their outstanding nutritional qualities.

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.

Types of Quinoa

Although there are approximately 120 varieties of quinoa, the three most commercialized types are white, red, and black.

  • White Quinoa: This variety, commonly known as ivory quinoa, is the most widely available in stores. The best part about this is that it takes the least time to cook.
  • Red Quinoa: This variety is most preferred by chefs for dishes like cold salads. Compared to the white variety, red quinoa tends to retain its original shape and structure after cooking.
  • Black Quinoa: This variety retains its original color even after cooking. Although it takes the longest to cook. This one has a unique earthy and sweet flavor.
Nutrition Facts

Quinoa, cooked
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]71.61
Energy [kcal]120
Protein [g]4.4
Total lipid (fat) [g]1.92
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]21.3
Fiber, total dietary [g]2.8
Sugars, total [g]0.87
Calcium, Ca [mg]17
Iron, Fe [mg]1.49
Magnesium, Mg [mg]64
Phosphorus, P [mg]152
Potassium, K [mg]172
Sodium, Na [mg]7
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.09
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0
Thiamin [mg]0.11
Riboflavin [mg]0.11
Niacin [mg]0.41
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.12
Folate, DFE [µg]42
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]5
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.63
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.23
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.53
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.08
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Quinoa Nutrition

Quinoa is considered an essential “wonder food” because it has a tremendous amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

It is rich in magnesium and phosphorous, as well as a significant amount of iron, zinc, copper, and potassium. It even has trace amounts of calcium, sodium, and selenium. It is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B6, and other b complex vitamins. This makes quinoa the perfect food to help regulate the internal functions and the metabolism of the body.

It is also a rich source of phytonutrients and flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin, as well as tryptophan, which has its own special health benefits that add to the demand for quinoa.

Finally, there are a huge amount of protein components and vital amino acids found within it that the body needs for proper functioning.

Quinoa Calories

100 grams of cooked quinoa only contains 120 calories. For a grain-like substance, that is far less fat than most foods of that type. For people concerned about their weight, replacing other grain foods with this is a wonderful way to slim down.

Quinoa Carbs

Quinoa is a high-carb food. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 100 g of uncooked quinoa contains approximately 64 g of carbs and 100 g of cooked form contains about 22 g of carbs.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is a nutritive food that is good for health. It provides various health benefits, some of which include:

Good Source of Proteins

The quinoa plant has been highly regarded as a rich source of protein and amino acids. It is a source of essential amino acids like lysine, methionine, and tryptophan. In fact, it is a single source for all of the nine essential amino acids, which is not usually the case with other grains.

Weight Loss

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 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 it will reduce the excess intake of food, thereby promoting a healthier weight.

Gluten-free

Quinoa is also gluten-free and therefore can be consumed by people who have a gluten intolerance. It can be used in bread, pasta, and other food items that usually contain gluten. It can also be used in place of other gluten-free food items like tapioca, potato, corn because of its high nutrition value.

Improves Heart Health

Quinoa 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 and improving overall heart health. Trials on young and middle-aged people confirmed a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Antioxidant Activity

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, it has higher antioxidant activity. Some of the antioxidants found in it include phenolics, polyphenols, and anthocyanins. Sprouts of quinoa have also shown significant antioxidant activity.

Improves Digestive Process

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.

Improves Bone Health

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 it. Calcium is very important for the bones, brain, and nervous system.

Regulates Diabetes

Quinoa seeds can be beneficial in regulating diabetes and blood cholesterol levels. A study on high fructose-fed rats indicated that the consumption of its seeds can help in reducing the adverse effects of fructose on both the glucose level and lipid profile.

Reduces Risk of Gallstones

The fiber found in it 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, reduced risk of osteoporosis, an increase in heart health, and the regulation of blood sugar levels.

How to Store

When storing any left-over quinoa, it is important to note that moisture can affect the freshness of the grain. Therefore, make sure to store it in an airtight container, in a cool and dry place.

Quinoa – Quick Serving Tips

Let us take a look at some of the simple serving tips for quinoa.

  • Boiled: After soaking and rinsing, it 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.
  • Salad: Quinoa can be added to salads with the choice of your vegetables and seasoning. The salad tastes good and is also nutritious. It is good for those who don’t want to gain extra weight.
  • Cheese Quinoa: After cooking quinoa in boiling water, drain the water and add cheese, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes to it. Cook for a few minutes and you can serve it hot.

Before cooking it, one has to make sure that the saponin layer of the seeds has been removed. Rinse it well before use as the saponin may give a bitter taste.

So don’t wait, grab a plate!

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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