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Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a type of edible seed that comes in various colors including black, red, yellow, and white. Popularly known as the “mother of all grains”, Quinoa has been cultivated for about 5000 years and is indigenous to the Andean region of South America, specifically Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Peru 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 Quinoa is usually harvested by hand due to the differing levels of maturity of the seeds even within one plant. Therefore seed losses may occur if mechanically harvested. . After the seeds are harvested they undergo processing to remove the natural saponins, a bitter-tasting chemical compound coating the exterior that acts as a natural pesticide. 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.
Nutrition Value of Quinoa
Cooked quinoa comprises 71% carbohydrates, 14.6% protein, and 14.2% fat. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa contains 222 calories. The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked quinoa are:
- Calories: 120
- Water: 72%
- Protein: 4.4 grams
- Carbs: 21.3 grams
- Sugar: 0.9 grams
- Fiber: 2.8 grams
- Fat: 1.9 grams
Vitamins and Minerals present in Quinoa
Quinoa is a good source of antioxidants and minerals, providing more magnesium, iron, fiber, and zinc than many common grains.
Here are the main vitamins and minerals in quinoa:
- Manganese: Found in high amounts in whole grains, this trace mineral is essential for metabolism, growth, and development
- Phosphorus: Often found in protein-rich foods, this mineral is essential for bone health and the maintenance of various body tissues.
- Copper: A mineral often lacking in the Western diet, copper is important for heart health.
- Folate: One of the B vitamins, folate is essential for cell function and tissue growth and is considered particularly important for pregnant people.
- Iron: This essential mineral performs many important functions in your body, such as transporting oxygen in red blood cells.
- Magnesium: Important for many processes in your body, magnesium is often lacking in the Western diet.
- Zinc: This mineral is important for overall health and participates in many chemical reactions in your body.
Other Plant Compounds
Quinoa contains many plant compounds that contribute to its flavor and health effects, including:
- Saponin: These plant glycosides protect quinoa seeds against insects and other threats. They’re bitter and usually eliminated by soaking, washing, or roasting before cooking.
- Quercetin: This powerful polyphenol antioxidant may help protect against various illnesses, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain forms of cancer.
- Kaempferol: This polyphenol antioxidant may reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including cancer.
- Squalene: This precursor of steroids also acts as an antioxidant in your body.
- Phytic acid: This antinutrient reduces the absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc. Phytic acid can be reduced by soaking or sprouting quinoa before cooking.
- Oxalates: They may bind with calcium, reduce their uptake, and increase the risk of kidney stone formation in sensitive individuals.
Health Benefits of Quinoa
In the past couple of decades, quinoa’s popularity has grown exponentially as the demand for easy-to-grow, nutritious, gluten-free grain alternatives has soared. Not only is quinoa nutrient-dense, but it may offer health benefits, too.
High Protein Value in Quinoa
Although the actual protein content of quinoa is not high, the value it nevertheless adds is quite high. It contains essential amino acids such as tryptophan, lysine, and methionine. While other grains may offer one or the other of these essential amino acids, it is valuable because it provides all of them.
Quinoa Good For Digestion
Of the 7 grams of fiber available in 100 grams of quinoa, most of it is insoluble. Insoluble fiber is essential to the human body as it stimulates healthy digestion. Not only does it facilitate healthy and regular bowel movements, but it also treats and prevents other gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, gas, flatulence, and bloating pain.
Quinoa Helps in Maintaining Weight
Carbohydrates are one of the biggest components of our regular intake of food. However, studies have shown that cereals like wheat, rice, and even oats induce more hunger. On the other hand, healthy alternatives like amaranths and quinoa do not induce an urge to eat more. As it controls overeating, it automatically controls body weight. It is a great dietary addition for those who are on weight loss diet regimens. Quinoa is good for weight loss, it can be consumed after weight loss exercises as well. Its high insoluble fiber content is what impacts and increases the feeling of satiety. Animal studies have found that consuming quinoa results in better glucose processing, higher expenditure of energy, and less fat absorption in the blood. It is also high in manganese, which impacts digestive hormones and enzymes, which empower the digestive processes of the body. Other studies reveal that eating it regularly can prevent the onset of obesity.
Acts as a Gluten-Free Alternative
People who follow a gluten-free diet can easily consume quinoa. A study of patients with celiac disease, who consumed it, showed that it was nutritionally better than rice as it provided the required intake of protein, calcium, iron, and fiber. Their diet was more balanced than when they consumed rice, thus better meeting the dietary requirements caused by their condition.
Quinoa Treats Diabetes
By reducing the levels of sugar in the blood, quinoa can greatly benefit diabetes patients. It is a known fact that controlling and treating diabetes requires a regular intake of insulin which works to regulate blood sugar levels, especially after meals. A regular intake of this diet food can reduce the amount of insulin required by the body, thus decreasing the mental stress of a diabetic lifestyle in patients.
Quinoa is becoming more popular worldwide due to its amazing health benefits and nutrients present in it. It’s a smart carbohydrate choice because it’s rich in fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and protein. It’s also gluten-free, delicious, versatile, and incredibly easy to prepare. Therefore it is a great carb option to include in your diet.