You must have heard about the benefits of quinoa already. With an extremely impressive nutritional profile, it’s been hailed as a top superfood, and rightfully so! If you are plant-based, quinoa could really be your best friend. Although quinoa looks like grains and has popularly been known as a grain, it is actually a seed, similar to beets, swiss chard and spinach, which is why it is gluten-free.
Quinoa is native to the Andean region of South America, and evidence suggests that it was grown as early as 5,000 years ago. Although Peru and Bolivia produce most of the world’s quinoa, it is also grown in more than 50 other countries. Quinoa was introduced in the North American region during the early 2000s, and by sometime in 2013, the market price had tripled. For the most part, quinoa’s growing popularity and demand has benefited the majority of the producers and improved the health of consumers. Here is a quick look at quinoa’s nutritional profile, before we get into a few of the numerous benefits of quinoa.
1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa contains.
- Protein: 8 grams.
- Fiber: 5 grams.
- Manganese: 58% of the recommended daily allowance (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.
While there are over 120 known types of quinoa, white, black and red are the most popular, individually and as a blend, known as tricolour quinoa. If your diet doesn’t already include quinoa, read on to know why it really must!
- It’s a Complete Protein.
Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich plant-based foods on Earth and is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the 9 essential amino acids – histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine – that your body requires to function properly. Your body is not able to produce essential amino acids and therefore, needs to get them from the food you consume. Quinoa contains nearly 25% more protein than refined grains.
- Aids in Weight Loss.
Quinoa is packed with fibre – most of it is insoluble but has a good amount of soluble fibre as well. One of the biggest advantages of fibre-rich diet is that it keeps your weight under check. This is because fibre keeps you satiated for longer, so you’re highly likely to eat less. Also, high-fibre foods have lesser energy, meaning fewer calories for the same amount of food.
- It Has Anti-inflammatory Benefits.
There are many diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer in which chronic inflammation plays a significant role. Studies have shown that quinoa and other whole grains help reduce the risk of such dangerous inflammation. They promote healthy gut bacteria which prevents inflammation. Quinoa contains anti-inflammatory nutrients such as phenolic acids, cell wall polysaccharides and gamma-tocopherol, which is the major form of Vitamin E.
- It is Gluten-free.
Since quinoa is not actually a grain but a seed, it is naturally gluten-free. Gluten-free diets are recommended for people who are severely gluten intolerant, a disease which is known as Celiac disease. But it is noteworthy that people who do not suffer from this disease are also increasingly switching to a gluten-free diet, although the benefits of this are still widely being debated by scientists. According to Mayo Clinic, gluten-free diets are usually low on micronutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. Quinoa is packed with these micronutrients, making it a perfect choice for people following a gluten-free diet.
- Improves Heart Health.
We already know that quinoa is rich in fibre. A fibre-rich diet helps in lowering your cholesterol levels, leading to a healthier heart health. It is noted that the quinoa has flavanols shown to decrease mortality rate from heart disease. Quinoa contains heart-healthy fats which help boost the LDL (good cholesterol), reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Also, a diet high in antioxidants is known to improve heart health and quinoa is high in antioxidants.
- Aids in Digestion.
Quinoa’s rich fibre content helps a great deal in improving gut health and digesting your food. The insoluble fibre in quinoa adds bulk to stool, makes it softer and easier to pass, thereby reducing constipation. Quinoa is more easily digestible than many other grains and you tend to feel fuller. Quinoa is also a good source of soluble fibre, which turns water into gel in the stomach, slowing down the digestive process.
- It Has Low Glycemic Index.
Glycemic index basically means how quickly or slowly your sugar levels spike after consuming certain foods. Quinoa has a low glycemic index which keeps your blood sugar levels in check. It also keeps your appetite under control by increasing satiety, leading to lesser consumption of food and helping in weight loss and maintenance. This is the opposite of what foods such as white rice do, which being high in glycemic index, raise your sugar levels, cause frequent hunger and lead to obesity.
- Is High in Antioxidants.
With such an impressive nutritional profile and benefits, it is hardly surprising that quinoa is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that are known to help fight aging and many diseases, including heart diseases and certain cancers. Antioxidants flush out free radicals from our body cells.
While there is no debate that quinoa is indeed a superfood and you must definitely include it in your diet, it is important to note that it is also fairly high in carbohydrates. So, be mindful of this. if you are following a low-carb diet like keto.
But if you are following a balanced diet, plant-based diet or are a health and fitness enthusiast who is looking to improve your diet, the benefits of quinoa knows no bounds. With its versatility and the ease with which it can be prepared, quinoa truly lives up to its name as a superfood.
If you are looking to get your hands on organic, non-GMO quinoa, visit Miski Organics® for the most widely used types of quinoas – white, red, black and tricolour.
Additionally, visit our recipe page to find recipes using quinoa.