Quinoa - Nutrition, Health Benefits and Recipe
Quinoa is known around the world as a superfood due to its immense health benefits. It is gluten free and a complete protein.
Although the awareness around this seed has grown massively in the past few years, its origin can be traced to around four to five thousand years back when Incas believed that it increased the stamina and endurance of their warriors. It was initially cultivated in South America but now it is also grown in India due to its increasing popularity and demand.
Quinoa is called the ‘Mother of grains’ but it is actually a seed of a leafy plant similar to spinach. It is available in different varieties and colors. The most popular amongst them are white, red and black quinoa. Based on cooking characteristics, white quinoa gets cooked the fastest and is also softer than the other varieties. From the nutrition point of view, all three have similar values for all the nutrients except for level of antioxidants which is highest in black quinoa.
The nutrient content in 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa:
As per the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
16% of the RDA
21% of the RDA.
5% of the RDA.
30% of the RDA.
15% of the RDA.
58% of the RDA.
28% of the RDA.
19% of the RDA.
13% of the RDA.
Health benefits of Quinoa
- Excellent source of plant based protein:
Quinoa is called a complete protein because it contains sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids which our body cannot produce on its own and depends on the diet for the same.
Quinoa is one of the best non-animal sources of protein and an ideal dietary choice for individuals following a vegan/vegetarian diet.
It is better that most of the other whole-grains in terms of quantity as well as composition of proteins. Proteins are essential for maintaining proper nutrition as well as to support muscle development, immune function and much more.
- High in fiber :
Quinoa is a good source of dietary fiber and includes substantial amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber content of cooked quinoa is 5.18 grams per 1 cup (185g).
Soluble fiber is essential for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, blood sugar and for weight management. Insoluble fibers add bulk to stools and aid in easy elimination.
- Helps in weight loss :
Quinoa is known to be effective for healthy weight management. The highly viscous soluble fiber in it, has a tendency to absorb water and forms a gel like substance. This in turn, slows down digestion and results in prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite. When the calories intake is lesser than the calories burnt, it effectively leads to weight loss.
- Aids in blood sugar control :
Quinoa has a low glycemic index which means they prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. The fiber content in quinoa slows down the digestion process allowing the blood sugar level to be more stable, thus making it ideal for diabetics.
- Supports healthy heart function :
Quinoa has good amounts of flavanoids and Magnesium, both of which help in supporting healthy cardiovascular function in the body. They help in reducing LDL or bad cholesterol, maintain blood pressure and also aid in relaxing the blood vessels. These help in reducing the risk of coronary heart diseases.
Quinoa also contains oleic acid which is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acid and omega-3 fatty acid.
- Promotes healthy skin :
The vitamins and antioxidants in Quinoa help in promoting healthy skin. The antioxidants fight the free radicals that are responsible for ageing.
Vitamin A and B help in reducing dark spots and pigmentation by reducing the deposits of dark melanin in the skin thereby supporting healthy skin complexion.
Vitamin B3 in quinoa, also called niacinamide, helps treat acne. It soothes the red and inflamed areas often associated with acne breakouts.
- Naturally Gluten free :
Quinoa is naturally gluten free and thus an ideal option for individuals who have gluten allergies or suffer from celiac disease.
A simple recipe: Quinoa Salad
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup chopped red capsicum
- 1/4 cup chopped yellow capsicum
- 2 tsp mixed herbs
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- black pepper as required
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped basil
- 1 1/2 tablespoon virgin olive oil
- salt as required
- 1 zucchini chopped
- 2 Tbsp Feta cheese (optional)
- Wash the quinoa under running tap water 2 or 3 times.
- In a saucepan, add 1 cup of water for 1/2 cup of quinoa (2:1 ratio of water and quinoa). When water starts boiling, reduce the flame to low.
- Cover and cook simmered for 15 minutes or until the entire liquid are absorbed.
- Let it sit for 10 minutes and then fluff it with a fork. Fluffy, light and tasty Quinoa is now ready. Let it cool down to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, mix all the vegetables with quinoa and herbs.
- Drizzle it with some olive oil and lemon juice. Toss it with some crumbled Feta cheese (optional)
- Season with salt and pepper and serve cold.
Quinoa is a powerhouse of several essential vitamin and minerals. So do include this gluten-free and protein rich superfood in your diet and reap its numerous benefits.