Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an ancient superfood that’s loaded with organic nutrition and health benefits.
Though it has gained popularity in the Western world just recently, quinoa has been grown in the mountainous regions of South America (mainly Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile) for thousands of years!
Though it’s often referred to as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed of the Chenopodium or “Goosefoot” plant. It does have a grain-like consistency, but quinoa is not a grain at all and contains ZERO gluten.
I repeat, quinoa is a seed that’s gluten-free!
Quinoa’s recent rise in popularity is due to its nutritional profile – it contains a significant amount of protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and can easily take the place of less nutritious grains like rice, oats, couscous and wheat.
Top 9 Health Benefits of Quinoa
Below are the top 9 reasons quinoa is considered a “superfood” and why I recommend making it a staple part of your diet!
1) Quinoa is a complete protein.
Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that contains all nine of the essential amino acids that the human body cannot create on its own. This makes it a complete protein, similar to animal proteins.
One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 220 calories and 8 grams of protein. This is the protein equivalent to one egg or approximately 1 ounce of chicken, fish or other animal protein.
NOTE: I do not recommend making quinoa your primary source of protein, because it is much higher in calories and carbohydrates than many other protein sources. Definitely enjoy quinoa as a nutritional boost to your diet, but always try to eat many different sources of protein. Diversity is important to balance your diet and get the most benefit out of what you eat.
2) Quinoa is an excellent source of fiber.
One of quinoa’s key health benefits is its fiber content. It contains approximately 5 grams of fiber per cup (cooked).
Most of the fiber found in quinoa is insoluble fiber, which is the type of fiber that’s critical for a healthy digestive system.
3) Quinoa is an outstanding source of vitamins and minerals.
Quinoa is a goldmine of vitamins and minerals that are lacking in our modern diet due to the overconsumption of highly processed foods:
- Manganese: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 58% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Magnesium: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 30% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Phosphorus: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 28% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Folate: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 19% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Copper: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 18% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Iron: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 15% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Zinc: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 13% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Vitamins B1, B2 & B6: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Potassium: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 9% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
Since quinoa is a whole food that is not refined or processed, all its important nutrients remain intact!
NOTE: Quinoa is high in phytic acid, which can bind to the minerals in food and decrease their absorption in your body. To reduce the phytic acid content, simply soak your quinoa seeds in water and a tablespoon of lemon juice for 12-24 hours before cooking them.
4) Quinoa is high in antioxidants.
Quinoa is high in 3 types of antioxidants: flavanoids (including polyphenols), quercetin and kaempferol. These antioxidants help “clean up” your system by eliminating toxic free radicals and reducing inflammation in the body.
5) Quinoa supports heart health.
Quinoa is a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a healthful type of omega-3 fatty acids.
ALA has been shown to decrease the risk of death from heart attacks. It can also help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
BONUS: ALA is beneficial for people who suffer from asthma, because it reduces inflammation in the lungs and improves overall lung function.
6) Quinoa helps with weight loss.
The high fiber and protein content in quinoa can slow the rate at which food exits your stomach, leaving you feeling fuller (more satiated) for longer.
The satiating power of quinoa may help prevent you from overeating and, consequently, help you achive or maintain a healthy body mass in the long-run.
7) Quinoa helps prevent cancer.
Quinoa is rich in a plant-based antioxidant called quercetin that has been shown to reduce the risk of multiple types of cancer.
In fact, quinoa is one of the highest naturally-occurring food sources of quercetin…even higher than cranberries!
8) Quinoa reduces diabetes risk.
The high quercetin content in quinoa has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body due to its antioxidant activity. This helps improve the body’s insulin response and can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
9) Quinoa is a functional food that fights all disease.
A functional food is a natural food with a high nutritional content that can help reduce disease.
Due to its high protein, fiber, antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content, quinoa is recognized as a functional food that can help reduce the risk of many diseases in addition to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Quinoa Preparation & Taste
Quinoa is very easy to make! Simply mix 1 cup of dry quinoa with 2 cups of water in a pot and then:
- Bring it to a boil.
- Once it’s boiling, stir the mixture well, shut the heat off and cover the pot.
- Let the covered pot sit until the water is fully absorbed, stir and enjoy.
NOTE: To make your quinoa extra fluffy, use 3 cups of water instead of 2.
Much like rice and oats, plain quinoa is very bland. It will take on the flavor of what you mix it with very effectively!
At the start of each week, I make a batch of quinoa to have on-hand throughout the week. It comes in very handy when I’m really hungry and short on time!
How to Make Quinoa a Regular Part of Your Diet
In addition to being a nutrition powerhouse, quinoa can take the place of SO many foods…saving you loads of money and space in your pantry!
Think of all the ways you eat rice, oats, pasta, couscous, wheat berries / cereal and other grains…quinoa can take the place of all of them! For example:
- Use quinoa to make fried rice. Just add cooked quinoa to a skillet with scrambled eggs, organic sesame oil and your veggies of choice. For flavor, use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
- Use quinoa to make cereal. Just pour your favorite non-dairy milk over a half cup of quinoa and add mix-ins like fruit and nuts. For flavor, add healthful options like cinnamon, pure vanilla extract or cacao (for a chocolatey flare). For natural sweetener, add a little pure maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar.
- Use quinoa to make a delicious sushi bowl. Just mix a half cup of quinoa, half an avocado (chopped) and nori (roasted seaweed) in a bowl. Then, sprinkle it generously with coconut aminos. It’s so yummy, easy to make and MUCH healthier than actual sushi!
Quinoa also works great in place of croutons as a topping on salads and soups!
You can even turn quinoa into a delicious and healthful milk! Click HERE for the recipe.
FUN FACT: There are over 100 varieties of quinoa. The main types you’ll see in stores are white, red and black:
- White quinoa is the most common type and is very bland and soft once cooked.
- Red quinoa is a bit heartier after it’s cooked, making it more suitable as a topping for salads and soups.
- Black quinoa has an earthier taste with a hint of sweetness.
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Cheers to making the health benefits of quinoa a regular part of your diet!
With love and gratitude,
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