Diet and Nutrition

Should I Start Eating Quinoa?

Should I Start Eating Quinoa?

What is quinoa?

This is the right time to learn about this nutrient-rich grain, for 2013 has been declared as the International Year of Quinoa by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This pseudograin, related to beets and tumbleweed, has been chosen as the food of the year because of its very high nutritive value and biodiversity. It is expected that this food may play an important role in achieving food security all over the world. This whole grain is the staple food of the people living in high Andes and is fast becoming popular in U.S and other countries.

Whether used as a whole grain or ground into flour, this grain retains its nutrient richness. Unlike many other grains, quinoa has a complete protein composition providing all nine essential amino acids. Thus it is also complete protein source. It is also a very good source of healthy fats, particularly heart-healthy monosaturated fatty acids. To add to the innumerable benefits, this grain is abundant in gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E, folate, copper and phosphorous. It provides a good amount of calcium, the much needed mineral. Phytonutrient properties are also impressive in quinoa and this grain provides a number of antioxidants like vanillic acid, hydroxybenzoic acid and ferulic acid. Thus, when compared to many other grains normally used by us, nourishment obtained from quinoa is much better.

7 Health benefits of Quinoa:

Talking of the health benefits, including quinoa in the daily diet is reported to lower inflammation levels in fat tissues. It is a rich source of fiber, and consumption of quinoa would help in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Studies report that quinoa has the ability to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol while maintaining the levels of good, HDL cholesterol. Diets rich in this grain is expected to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Moreover, this grain can be the ideal substitute for wheat in gluten allergy. This grain has a low allergy potential and high digestibility. 

This grain should ideally be cooked before eating as the raw grain might give a weird taste. It can be cooked directly or dry roasted before cooking in water. Quinoa flour can be mixed with others while preparing bread, muffins and other products, and add to the nutritive value. Cooked quinoa with nuts and fruits can make a good breakfast. Use noodles made of quinoa or add it to your favorite vegetable soup. Sprouted form of the grain is equally delicious and nutritious. Ready to try this ‘superfood’?

Let’s have a look at the benefits in detail which would make a understand on why quinoa is a good option to be included in the daily diet:

Quinoa contains plant compounds such as kaempferol and quercetin

We all are very much familiar with the health effects of the real foods and it is way beyond just vitamins and minerals. These real food items contain thousands of traces of nutrients, all of these are extremely healthy. These essential nutrients would include molecules such as flavonoids which are basically plant oxidants which have shown various sorts of health benefits.

Two of the flavonoids which have been mostly well studied are known as quercetin and kaempferol. These two flavonoids are mostly found in quinoa in larger amounts. The content of quercetin in quinoa is even more higher than the typical form of high quercetin foods such as cranberries. These important flavonoid molecules have mostly shown anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer anti-depressant and anti-viral properties when studies in animal. By inclusion of quinoa in the daily diet it would significantly help in increasing the total intake of important nutrients.

Quinoa is gluten free

As per one of the survey there are about a third of the population in the United States which are currently trying to minimize or avoid gluten completely. It has been said that a diet which is free from gluten is said to be healthy as long as it is based on the foods which are naturally free from gluten. However, the issue arises when the individual starts to eat gluten free food but which are made with the refined starches instead. These types of starchy foods are in no way better than the gluten containing food and the reason for the same is because food which is gluten free is still considered as junk food.

As per studies it has been seen that most of the researchers have been looking at quinoa as one of the suitable ingredients as part of the gluten free diet especially for those individuals who do not want to give up basic staples food such as pasta or bread. Various studies have shown that by the use of quinoa instead of the typical gluten free ingredients such as the refined form of tapioca, rice flour, corn and potato it can lead to a dramatic increase in the antioxidant value as well as nutrient of the diet.

Quinoa is rich in fiber

One of the important benefit concerning quinoa is that it is very much rich in fiber which is very much higher than the other grains. In one of the study which looked at four different types of quinoa and they were found in the range of between 10 to 16 grams of fiber per every 100 grams of fiber. This is said to equal around 17 to 27 grams per cup which is way higher or more than twice as high as most of the other grains. However, when we consume the boiled quinoa then the quantity of fiber reduces gram by gram and the reason for the same is because it tends to absorb so much amount of water in it.

Unfortunately, most of the fiber which is present in the quinoa is insoluble fiber which is known to not contain the same kind of health related benefits as the soluble fiber. With that being said, the soluble the content of soluble fiber is about 2.5 grams per cup which is still pretty much ok. There have been various studies which have shown that soluble fiber helps in reducing the levels of blood sugar, lowering the level of cholesterol in the body and thereby increasing the fullness which ultimately helps in reducing the weight.

Quinoa is high in certain important minerals which are magnesium and iron

The modern diet lacks a lot of important nutrient which are only found in real food items. This can be mostly true in certain minerals such zinc, potassium, magnesium and iron in case of women. When we talk about quinoa then it is considered to be very much high in all of the four minerals and mostly known to be high in magnesium. However, one of the problem is that it also contains another substance such as phytic acid which is said to bind these minerals and hence reduces the absorption.

But by soaking or sprouting this quinoa before trying to cook it, it would lead to reduction in the content of phytic acid thereby making these minerals very much bioavailable. Quinoa is said to be a rich content of oxalates which lead to reduction in the absorption of calcium thereby causing problems to few individuals with recurring cases of kidney stones in them.

Quinoa is said to be high in protein along with all of the essential amino acids

As we all know that protein is made out of amino acids and few of these are termed as essential. The reason for the same is because our body cannot produce these and hence there is a need to get them from the diet. If any of the food which contains all of these essential amino acids, then it is termed as complete protein. The problem lies that most of the plant foods are said to be deficient in certain essential amino acids one of which is lysine. But quinoa is an exception and the reason is because it is said to contain all of the essential amino acids hence for this important reason it is considered as one of the excellent source of protein. Quinoa is known to contain both more and better form of proteins than the other grains.

High in antioxidants

Apart from so many of the other benefits, quinoa is said to rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are those substances that neutralizes free radical damage and are also believed to help in fighting off signs of aging and most of the other diseases. When we allow the seeds to sprout then it would seem to increase the antioxidant content even further.

One of the easy option to incorporate in diet

This becomes very much important and it is the fact that quinoa is very much easy to be incorporated in the daily diet. Quinoa is also very much tasty and goes well with most of the other food items. Based on the type of quinoa, it is important to first rinse it well with water so as to get rid of the saponins which can be mostly found in the outer layer and also have a bitter flavor.

Key Takeaways

  • Quinoa can be used as a whole grain or ground into flour.
  • Quinoa is a rich source of fiber.