Health Benefits of Quinoa – The Super Grain
Quinoa is a whole grain with low glycemic index, healthy fats (Omega-3’s and Omega-9’s), and a host of phytonutrients including flavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Quinoa is not only gluten-free but also a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids required by our body. Pretty great, isn’t it? Read on to know more about the health benefits of quinoa!
Quinoa is a pseudo cereal i.e. it is not technically a grain or a traditional cereal. It is because unlike actual grains such as wheat or barley which grow in grasses, quinoa plants grow edible seeds. Quinoa has been grown for thousands of years, mainly for its edible seeds.
In ancient Inca Empire, quinoa was one of the most important crops. It was referred to as the “mother of all grains” and was believed to be sacred. For thousands of years, quinoa has been widely consumed in South America.
Did You Know?
– The year 2013 was actually called “The International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations (UN)
– NASA researchers had declared quinoa as the perfect snack for astronauts
– Quinoa was used in ancient religious ceremonies as well as home kitchens
– The scientific name of quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa
There are approximately 120 varieties of quinoa and the three most commercial types are red, white and black quinoa. People use quinoa like many common grains or grind it into a powder or flour.
Health Benefits of quinoa
Quinoa has a tremendous amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It is rich in magnesium and phosphorous, as well as significant amounts of iron, zinc, copper, and potassium. It also contains calcium, sodium, and selenium in trace amounts.
Quinoa is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B6, and other B complex vitamins. It is also a rich source of phytonutrients and flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin, as well as tryptophan.
The low-fat content of quinoa is the reason behind its booming popularity as a health food. Health benefits of quinoa include weight loss, improved heart health, detoxification of the body, and an improved digestive health. It also reduces the risk of diabetes and gallstone formation.
Let’s have a deeper look at the health benefits of quinoa.
Maintains Heart Health
Quinoa is rich in proteins and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index value, along with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants. All of these nutrients work together to maintain cardiovascular health. The antioxidants remove toxins from the body and the healthy fats improve “good cholesterol” or HDL levels. A healthy level of HDL or high-density lipoproteins in the body can also reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Improves bone health
Studies show that a regular consumption of quinoa can prevent the development of bone conditions such as osteoporosis. The calcium content in quinoa improves bone density and keeps the bones in good health.
Quinoa contains insoluble fiber which helps improve digestion and facilitates healthier bowel movements. Apart from facilitating regular bowel movements, quinoa also treats and prevents other gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, gas, flatulence, and bloating.
Protects Vital Organs
Quinoa has great antioxidant properties that help in protecting the heart, liver, kidney, lungs, and pancreas against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress refers to the imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects. In comparison to other pseudo cereals, such as amaranth, quinoa has a higher antioxidant activity.
Quinoa controls overeating which in turn controls body weight. This is due to the presence of insoluble fiber content which increases the feeling of satiety. Studies show that quinoa helps in better glucose processing, a higher expenditure of energy, and less fat absorption in the blood. Other studies suggest that eating quinoa regularly can prevent the onset of obesity.
How to include quinoa in your diet?
Quinoa is incredibly versatile and can easily become a staple in your home. You can eat it raw after soaking. However, some experts advise that one should always cook quinoa and avoid raw consumption.
There are many uses of quinoa. You can use this grain in just about everything, from breakfast to dinner. Quinoa has a nutty and earthy flavour. It pairs best with savories like stews and curries. After cooking, it becomes quite fluffy and chewy and attains a very pleasant taste. The pearly white quinoa or light yellow quinoa are the fluffiest while the red and black ones are more compact.
But before cooking quinoa, one has to make sure that the saponin layer (outer layer) of the seeds has been removed. This saponin can give a bitter taste to quinoa if you do not rinse quinoa properly before cooking. It can also cause severe stomach pain, flatulence, and laxative diarrhea. Thus, prior to cooking, wash quinoa thoroughly and soak it for 2 hours.
You can cook quinoa the same way as you cook other staple grains like buckwheat, rice, barley, etc. You can use the seeds to prepare porridge, soup, and stew. In addition, you can grind it to flour to prepare bread, alcohol, noodles, flakes, cookies, biscuits, pasta, cakes, buns, and even cold drinks in the Andean regions.
You can mix quinoa flour with wheat, oats, and maize flour to enrich the protein quality of the meal. Additionally, quinoa is perfect for salad preparation as its grassy flavor and texture gel very well with lettuces and other leafy vegetables. You can add it to your baked goods like muffins and pancakes to give them a distinct flavor.
Disclaimer: Since quinoa is rich in fiber, having it in excess can lead to gas, bloating, and diarrhea. This is especially true if you are not used to eating a lot of fiber. Quinoa also contains varying amounts of oxalic acid. While this acid is excreted in urine, it can also bind with calcium and form kidney stones in vulnerable individuals. In case you have a previous history of kidney stones, avoid its use and talk to your doctor first.
100g of Quinoa provides 120 Calories, Carbs – 21g (Dietary Fibre – 2.8g, Sugar – 0.9g), Protein – 4.4g, Fat – 1.9g (saturated fat – 0.2g), Sodium – 7mg
And a percentage daily value of Vitamin A – 0%, Vitamin C – 0%, Iron – 8%, Calcium – 2% (based on a 2000 Calorie diet).