What is Quinoa & Why Should You Be Eating it Regularly?

by Mary Whitman

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Our bodies are the temples of our souls. They take us through life. Sadly, more often than not, we forget to take care of these sacred, but fragile shells. Truth be told, we tend to ‘wear them out’ far too quickly. Instead, we should all protect our health while we still have it. And we should never take it for granted. 

A great way to start taking good care of your body and mind is by eating healthy foods on a regular basis. If nothing else, it’s without a doubt the tastiest way.

Lucky for us, quinoa is one of the most popular superfoods of today. A “super grain of the future” if you will, and should certainly be part of everyone’s diet. It has plenty of health benefits, cooks fast, and with its subtle nutty, a bit of crunchy taste, and interesting fluffy texture, it can be delicious!

 

But first, what exactly is quinoa?

Quinoa (keen-wah) originates in the Andes of northwestern South America and has been cultivated for domestic purposes for the last 7,000 years. Although it’s known as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed which comes in three main colors – white, red and black, – and can either be eaten as a whole or ground in the form of flour. All parts of the plant are actually edible, including the leaves and stems.

The native Incas’ survival heavily depended on this seed, the “mother of grains” as they called it, especially during the expansion of their empire from Ecuador to Chile in the 15th century. Their warriors only relied on “war balls”, – a mixture of quinoa and animal fat, – which helped improve their stamina and kept their energy up during the long marches.

NASA researchers have also approved quinoa as one of astronauts’ “bonus foods” on long space missions. This is because t is packed with nutrients, versatile enough to combine with other foods, simple and fast to cook, and last but not least, easy to grow in controlled environments.

Now that we’ve covered on what quinoa actually is, the team at Assignmentgeek.com.au & I would like to share with you an overview of some of the most important health benefits of quinoa:

 

1. Quinoa has a high nutritional value

 

quinoa as a dish

 

It’s a very nutritious whole grain food, highly rich with proteins, vitamins, minerals and other healthy nutrients our body needs to properly regulate its metabolism and internal functions. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of cooked quinoa contains:

  • Energy: 120kcal
  • Protein: 4.4 g
  • Fiber: 2.8 g
  • Carbs: 21.3 g
  • Fat: 1.92 g
  • Saturated fats: 0.231 g
  • Monounsaturated fats: 0.528 g
  • Polyunsaturated fats: 1.078 g
  • Sugars: 0.87 g

Quinoa has a significant amount of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium, zinc and phosphorus. It’s also a good source of vitamins A, E, D, K, B-6, and B-12, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Quinoa is perfect for everyone trying to improve their diet and bring more health into their lives.

 

2. Quinoa is a complete protein

 

Proteins are the building blocks of human tissues and an important energy source. They’re made of amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential, as they can’t be produced inside our body, but have to be provided from outside sources.

Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are considered complete proteins, and quinoa is one of the richest, containing more and better proteins than any other grain. In fact, you can combine quinoa with other grains like rice, millet, wheat or soy, and boost their protein value. Make sure to have quinoa after a workout, as it is high in lysine, an essential amino acid necessary for muscles growth and repair.

As it is plant-based, quinoa is perfect for vegetarians and vegans whose protein intake is often very restricted, as meat and eggs are not part of their diet.

 

3. Quinoa has almost twice the amount of fiber compared to most other grains

Fiber helps improve digestion, relieve constipation, and reduce cholesterol and glucose levels protecting us from cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and regulating diabetes. Foods high in fiber take longer to chew and digest, making you feel fuller and preventing you from snacking on other foods soon after your meals. This makes quinoa an important part of any serious weight loss plan.

 

4. Quinoa is naturally low-fat and cholesterol-free

 

quinoa sandwhich

 

The seed has low levels of healthy, mostly unsaturated fats which foster the good (HDL) cholesterol levels in your bloodstream and help clean the unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol. Quinoa is also full of oleic and alpha-linolenic acid, which are beneficial for fighting inflammation and hardening of the arteries and help improve the overall health of your heart.

 

5. Quinoa is rich in iron

Iron deficiency anemia is an increasing problem, especially amongst women. Without enough iron, the body can’t produce enough hemoglobin in the red blood cells, which helps transport oxygen throughout the body, from our lungs to our muscles, brain, and other tissues. Iron also aids enzyme activity, improves energy metabolism, and helps regulate body temperature.

Quinoa contains a reasonable amount of this important mineral, as well as magnesium, potassium, and zinc. However, it also has phytic acid which reduces their absorption by binding these minerals.  One way to get rid of this phytic acid is to soak or sprout the quinoa seeds before you cook them.

 

6. Quinoa is rich in magnesium

chipotle quinoa chili

Image credit: Tripadvisor.uk

 

As mentioned above, magnesium is another important mineral found in quinoa. The dietary intake of magnesium supports bone and teeth health, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, helps energy production, controls asthma, and regulates blood sugar levels protecting from diabetes and heart problems.

 

7. Quinoa is a great source of riboflavin (B2)

Riboflavin is involved in many body processes and is necessary for normal cell growth and overall good health. It has a key role in energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells, as it helps break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and improves absorption of iron and zinc, making them more bioavailable.

According to the University of Michigan, vitamin B2 is also important for eyes health. It protects glutathione, an important antioxidant in the eye, and in combination with niacin, which is also present in quinoa, it helps prevent cataracts.

 

8. Quinoa is very high in antioxidants & anti-inflammatory phytonutrients

Quinoa has the highest antioxidant content compared to other cereals and legumes and allowing the seeds to sprout further increases its antioxidant activity. Two of these plant-based antioxidants – quercetin and kaempferol, – are extremely healthy, and quinoa’s content of quercetin especially is even higher than in high-flavonoid berries such as cranberries.

Antioxidants help protect blood and other body cells from damage caused by free radicals. They guard the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and pancreas against oxidative stress, and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant properties.

 

9. Quinoa is gluten-free & perfect for people with gluten intolerance

 

gluten-free quinoa dish

 

Quinoa does not contain gluten, and therefore it’s a perfect alternative for people who are sensitive or allergic to gluten. It can either be used as an ingredient in bread, pasta, and other staples that usually contain gluten, or it can be used instead of other typical gluten-free foods like tapioca, potato, corn or rice flour.

Quinoa is one of the most popular healthy foods in the world. You can blend the seeds in your smoothies, sprinkle them on salads, whip them in deserts, or simply add them to your soups. There are tons of ways to include this “super grain” in your diet and reap its amazing benefits. So get started already.

 


Interested in learning more about how you can prepare delicious meals using quinoa? Why not sign up for an organic culinary vacation where you not only learn to cook quinoa but how to grow it too!

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