Diet and Nutrition

What Is Quinoa? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Quinoa

What Is Quinoa? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Quinoa

Key Takeaways

  • Quinoa has quite a unique nutritional value since it possesses high amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to other grains.
  • This super grain has captured the attention of the United Nations, saying that it may help eliminate malnutrition and hunger all over the world since quinoa is very nutritious and economical to cultivate.
  • Given its numerous health benefits, many dietitians recommend consuming quinoa above all other food grains.

Quinoa is a grain crop that belongs to the flowering plant family of Amaranthaceae and is considered to be one of the superfoods since it is one of the few nutrient-dense food items that is easily available.

In fact, quinoa was often considered to be the "food of the gods" by the ancient Incas, given the fact that this particular crop packed more energy per serving. Apart from this, quinoa managed to boost a person’s endurance, which is why the Mayans valued it a lot.

Quinoa: "Food of the Gods"

Humans first started cultivating quinoa about 3,000-5,000 years ago and became a staple food of the Central Americas as well as the southern regions. The ancient Incas appreciated this food above all else because its consumption increased a person’s endurance level. For this reason, the Spanish conquistadors set about eradicating this crop as a way to subjugate the natives. However, quinoa continues to thrive on.

This ancient grain has quite a unique nutritional value since it possesses high amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to other grains. This super grain has captured the attention of the United Nations, saying that it may help eliminate malnutrition and hunger all over the world since quinoa is very nutritious and economical to cultivate.

The following are the nutritional benefits of quinoa:

1) Nutrient-dense food

This particular grain is extremely nutrient dense and contains plenty of nutrients per serving. It is more of a cereal than a grain, which is cooked and consumed in its seed form. There are three varieties of quinoa: red, black, and white.

Each serving of quinoa can provide you with 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of dietary fiber, as well as manganese, magnesium, folate, potassium, zinc, along with copper, iron, and phosphorous. A single cup of quinoa packs more nutrients per serving than any other food. As a result, you will probably get more energized after eating quinoa than you would get on consuming any other food item.

It also contains 222 calories per serving along with 32 grams of fat. Quinoa also contains omega-3 fats, which are essential for your body as well. Consuming this superfood on a regular basis should help boost your immune system and give you more energy, thereby increasing your endurance levels.

Given its numerous health benefits, many dietitians recommend consuming quinoa above all other food grains.

2) Contains plant compounds

Quinoa comes loaded with the plant compounds quercetin and kaempferol. These particular compounds are widely known for their cancer-fighting properties, which is yet another reason why this particular food item is often recommended by doctors.

Plant compounds are known to boost a person's overall metabolic health as well as fight cancer, and Quinoa is certainly packed with more of these compounds than any other food alternatives. Aside from being anti-cancer, these compounds are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

These plant compounds are also known to improve overall cardiovascular health. It is no wonder that doctors often recommend a steady diet of quinoa to enable their patients to have a faster recovery.

In fact, quinoa is known to contain more plant compounds per serving than any other food item such as the plant compound-rich cranberries. Plant compounds are essential since they provide you with various health benefits. Apart from the positive effect that they have on cardiovascular health and their anti-inflammatory properties, these compounds also have antiviral properties and act as anti-depressants.

3) High in dietary fiber

Quinoa contains as much as 16 grams of dietary fiber per 100 grams serving. Consuming food items rich in dietary fiber is essential for people who have diabetes because dietary fiber is known to help regulate the blood sugar levels in the body.

It can help purify the blood and ensures that the blood sugar levels are at an optimal level and neither too high nor too low. Moreover, it flushes the toxins out of your body while ensuring that your body is able to absorb nutrients more effectively than before. For this reason, it is essential that you consume food sources rich in dietary fiber, and quinoa happens to be exactly that.

It also aids in proper digestion, which is one of the reasons why most doctors recommend a healthy diet of quinoa for patients who are suffering from digestion-related disorders. Moreover, eating foods that are rich in dietary fiber can help boost your cardiovascular health by eliminating bad cholesterol. It can also provide you with a feeling of “fullness” so that you are able to control your appetite better.

4) Gluten-free

Quinoa happens to be gluten-free, which should come as a blessing for many who have a marked sensitivity to all products containing gluten. While there are many products available that are advertised as "gluten-free", the fact remains that most of these are junk foods and have very little nutritional value to provide. Since quinoa is gluten-free, it can be consumed safely by all. 

There was once a study conducted in 2009, where it reviewed the cases of patients who had celiac disease and had followed a gluten-free diet. It was found that the patients were consuming rice as their main source of grains. For this reason, their diets were nutritionally deficient. If their main source of grains was replaced with quinoa, they would be able to meet other nutritional needs of their bodies such as iron, calcium, protein, and fiber. Therefore, consuming quinoa instead of other types of grains may guarantee a healthier and more balanced diet.

5) High in protein

Of the various food items, quinoa happens to be one of the very few that contains all the essential amino acids. In fact, it can be considered as a complete protein source. This is one of the reasons why eating quinoa can help boost both your immune system and endurance to the next level. 

With over 8 grams of protein per cup, quinoa has an enhanced protein profile that can help boost your overall health while enhancing your brain function. With a complete protein profile, quinoa enables you to feel full, thereby curbing your appetite.

6) Low in glycemic index

Quinoa has an extremely low glycemic index and eating it will not result in an increased blood sugar levels. Quinoa ranks about 53 on the glycemic scale, which is actually quite low, thereby marking it as one of the preferred food items for people with diabetes. 

Moreover, consuming grains with high fiber content may be linked to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, a study has found that an increased intake of whole grains by two servings a day decreased the risk of having type 2 DM by 21 percent.

It is believed that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of quinoa and other whole grains may help improve insulin response as well as decrease the risk of type 2 DM later in life.

7) High in mineral content

Quinoa happens to be quite high in minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals are essential for your body. Moreover, minerals such as magnesium can help prevent strokes.

This is why it makes more sense for you to opt for a regular diet of quinoa given its nutrient and protein profile and the fact that it is rich in all the essential vitamins and minerals.

However, it is a good idea to presoak quinoa for a while before cooking it since it contains phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of minerals in your body. Thus, to lessen the effects of phytic acid and to enable your body to easily absorb such minerals, presoak a cup of quinoa before cooking it or adding it to other food items.

8) Boosts overall metabolic health

A regular diet of quinoa can boost your metabolism. If you are diabetic or suffer from cardiovascular diseases, then it is important that you start consuming quinoa regularly since it can help reduce and regulate your blood sugar levels as well as normalize triglycerides in your blood. This should lead to an overall improvement in your metabolic health.

9) Rich in antioxidants

Quinoa contains extremely high levels of antioxidants, which help increase your overall health as well as boost your immune system. Antioxidants help eliminate the free radicals in your body and also repair skin damage.

This is why you need to opt for a regular diet of quinoa since it can help boost your overall health, enable your body to fight off infections, give your skin a healthy and nourishing glow, and enable you to look younger.

More importantly, when preparing quinoa, you may want to let it sprout since it seems to increase the level of antioxidants. Quinoa is one of the important superfoods of this century. So the next time you want to opt for a healthy food or go on a health-related diet, you may want to try out quinoa first.

10) Fights anemia

One of the best sources of iron is quinoa. People who are low in iron suffer from a condition called as anemia, which is a deficiency of red blood cells (RBCs) or hemoglobin in the blood. It usually results in paleness of the skin and body weakness.

Iron deficiency anemia is considered as the most common nutritional deficiency in the world according the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). Iron deficiency in adults may lead to a wide range of negative consequences, which include impaired working capacity, gastrointestinal disorders, immune system problems, abnormal body temperature, and neurocognitive reduction.