Popularly known as the “mother of all grains”, Quinoa was cultivated five thousand years ago in South America and has since been a staple in the region because of its nutritional and easy to prepare properties. As a result, it has slowly globalized and is now considered to be one of the best superfoods to consume by the health conscious.
Table of Contents:
- What is Quinoa?
- Is Quinoa Healthy For You?
- Quinoa and Weight Loss
- Nutrition Value of Quinoa
- Quinoa vs Millets
What is quinoa?
Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal that rich in protein, fiber, and various minerals and vitamins. Although, quinoa acts as a whole grain, it is actually a seed from a plant called goosefoot. When cooked, quinoa is soft and fluffy, with a slightly nutty taste. It can also be made into flakes, flour, and foods like bread and pasta.
Quinoa seeds come in many varieties and different colors. However, the white, red, and black seeds are the most commonly harvested for consumption. The most common ‘white’ quinoa takes the shortest amount to cook and has the mildest flavor and crunchy texture, while the ‘red’ quinoa is known to be rich in flavor and crunch. The ‘black’ quinoa, on the other hand, is the most flavorful and crunchiest, requiring the longest cooking time. Apart from these colors, quinoa is also available in yellow, grey, orange, purple, pink, green or yellow, giving the consumer a wide variety to choose from.
Is Quinoa Healthy For you?
Quinoa is a good source of protein, fiber, iron, thiamine, copper, and vitamin B6. It is also considered to be an excellent source of phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, and folate. Therefore, the unusual composition and exceptional balance of protein and fat along with minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids make it a highly wholesome food.
5 Health benefits of quinoa
1. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free
If one falls under the spectrum of gluten-sensitivity, celiac disease or gluten intolerance, quinoa is the best alternative to a gluten-free diet as it can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of your diet. It can be used in place of other gluten-free food items like potato, tapioca, and corn. It is also nutritionally better than rice as it provides the required intake of protein, calcium, iron, and fiber making the diet more balanced, thereby meeting the dietary requirements of the condition.
2. A rich source of protein
Quinoa is known to be one of the only few plant foods that is a complete protein food, which contains all nine essential amino acids, which the body cannot make on its own. It is a source of essential amino acids like lysine, methionine, and tryptophan. It has more protein than rice, corn, barley, and oats. Moreover, having protein on your plate is key to proper nutrition and maintaining blood, skin, muscle, bone, and health.
3. Loaded with minerals
Many people do not get enough essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Quinoa is very high in all four minerals, particularly magnesium and iron. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and helps in reducing type 2 diabetes, while promoting healthy blood sugar levels, and keeping the body healthy, free of headaches, muscle cramps, and insomnia.
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Iron is one other nutrient that is necessary for a range of processes in the human body. The mineral is mainly required for the proper functioning of our red blood cells, higher and healthier muscle metabolism; and high brain functionality. Quinoa is full of iron and is the perfect food for those that suffer from iron deficiencies.
4. High in plant compounds
Quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids. Flavonoids are a particular kind of antioxidants that fight to prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Two flavonoids that have been found in large amounts are Quercetin and Kaempferol. These flavonoids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-depressant properties which helps keep oneself healthy and balanced.
5. Improves skin health
Quinoa contains lysine, which is a key ingredient that is a building block in synthesizing collagen and elastin. It helps repair damaged skin and counterbalances the oxidant effect of free radicals from sun and pollution exposure. It also helps reducing brown spots as the vitamin B found in quinoa reduces the dark melanin deposits that leads to age spots and other pigment related conditions.
Quinoa and Weight Loss
With quinoa being an insoluble fiber, it helps increase the feeling of fullness, keeping you fuller for longer and aiding in weight loss. As it is also rich in dietary fiber and protein, it increases metabolism and reduces food cravings, thereby decreasing calorie intake. Substituting traditional grains like rice or wheat with quinoa could be a small change that will provide more protein and fiber and help reach weight loss goals. Quinoa is particularly helpful for vegetarians trying to lose weight who have trouble finding foods that will fill them up. Quinoa is also low on the glycemic index (GI) and it means that quinoa is safe for diabetes and helps keep blood sugar under control. Therefore, quinoa is an excellent choice for weight-conscious people, for it helps curb appetite and also adds a nice texture to food.
Nutrition Value of Quinoa
The nutritional value of a cup of cooked quinoa is:
- Total calories: 222 Cal
- Protein: 8 gm
- Fiber: 5 gm
- Carbs: 39 gm
- Fat: 4 gm
- Copper: 18% of the RDA
- Iron: 15% of the RDA
- Zinc: 13% of the RDA.
- Potassium: 9% of the RDA
- Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA
- Folate: 19% of the RDA
- Manganese: 58% of the RDA
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA
- Over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6
- Small amounts of calcium, B3 (niacin), vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids
Quinoa vs Millets
A rarity among grains, quinoa is a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It offers approximately 6 grams of protein per serving (1/2 cup). Millets, on the other hand, lack the essential amino acids and has a low overall protein constitute. However, apart from the difference in protein, millets and quinoa are both excellent choices for they are both rich sources of fiber and antioxidants which fight disease causing free radicals.
In terms of cooking, quinoa preparation is very similar to rice and takes about 15 minutes to cook. Millets, however, is more demanding to cook as it quadruples in size. With lots of water, millets are fluffy grains that gives a texture between pasta and mashed potatoes. When serving, both grains have mild flavors, however, millets has a strong nutty taste and texture to it when compared.
The uses of quinoa are diverse. Quinoa can be cooked for breakfast, as lunch serving or for dinner. White rice can be replaced by quinoa and food preparation will be significantly healthier. Below we share a recipe with quinoa, that can easily replace white rice in your diet.
Quinoa vegetable pulao
Serving size: 4-5 people
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
• Quinoa – 1 cup
• Onion chopped – 1 cup
• Corn – 1/4 cup
• Chopped mixed vegetables (carrots, beans, cauliflower) – 1 cup
• Green peas – 1/4 cup
• Peanuts – 1 tbsp
• Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp
• Ghee – 1 tbsp
• Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
• Cloves – 2-3
• Cinnamon -1-inch piece
• Black peppercorns – 4
• Bay leaf -1
• Salt to taste
• Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
• Chili powder – 1 tsp
• Garam masala – 1 tsp
• Water – 2 cups
• Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
• Coriander leaves – 1 tbsp chopped
1. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Add peanuts and sauté. Add cumin seeds and whole spices and bay leaf. Let seeds splutter. Add ginger-garlic and sauté for a few seconds. Now add the onions and sauté it for a minute.
2. Add mixed vegetables, corn and peas and sauté for a minute. Now add turmeric powder, chili powder, and garam masala. Let it cook for a minute. Wash the quinoa properly and add it into the sautéed veggie mixture. Cook for a minute and add water and salt to taste.
3. Cover with a lid and cook on low flame for 10 -15 minutes. Let the pulao sit for 5 minutes. Open the lid, fluff up with a fork and serve garnished with lemon juice and coriander leaves.
Quinoa is a gluten-free, pseudo-cereal that is rich in carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. It contains all 9 essential amino acids making it a great choice for vegans, vegetarians, and people trying to cut down on meat. Quinoa is also high in B-vitamins that contribute to the metabolic reactions in the body, converting food into fuel for energy. Eating quinoa also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, quinoa is considered to be the best alternative to rice due to its nutrient dense characteristics and can thus be inculcated into a diet that meets all fitness and health goals.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
A. Yes, quinoa can surely help in weight loss. Quinoa is rich in insoluble fiber which keeps one full for longer time and curb appetite. The high protein and good fat in quinoa boost metabolism and keeps one energetic as well. Quinoa is low in glycemic index as well thereby keeping sugar levels stable and further aiding in controlling hunger and simultaneous weight loss.
A. It is always good to incorporate different types of grains in your diet to get benefits from different spectrum of nutrients from different foods. However, quinoa can surely be used to replace the daily grains like rice and roti as well as other pulses due to it being a complete protein as well as the vast array of nutrients quinoa contains.
A. Quinoa is rich in protein, good fats, fibre as well as a lot of vitamins and minerals thereby making it a great choice of food to be used in any diet.
A. Quinoa has a bitter covering called saponin to prevent it from becoming rancid due to its high fat content. So, it needs to be washed properly in running water to get rid of the saponin. The best way to cook quinoa is to cook it in double the amount of water, uncovered for about 10-15 minutes. Then cover and take off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork and use it for salads or smoothies or any other dish.