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Health Benefits of Quinoa

Updated on March 20, 2013
Quinoa is a nutrition packed, healthy food.
Quinoa is a nutrition packed, healthy food. | Source

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa, pronounced "KEEN-wah," is often assumed to be a grain, but this healthy superfood is actually a seed. The quinoa plant is considered a non-grass pseudo-cereal, more closely related to beets and spinach than to true cereals such as rice and wheat. First cultured by the Incas, Andean cultures have considered quinoa a staple for thousands of years. Only fairly recently have other areas of the world where the plant is not indigenous started appreciating quinoa seeds for their nutritional value. With rising popularity in the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries, quinoa is becoming a worldwide favorite.

Quinoa Benefits:

One of the most well-praised benefits of quinoa is its relatively high protein content. While not quite as protein rich as legumes and beans, quinoa has one asset legumes and beans do not: it is a complete protein. Containing the right mix of all nine essential amino acids, quinoa does not need to be combined with other foods in order to provide your body with the protein it needs to properly function. This makes quinoa a favorite of vegans and vegetarians attempting to incorporate an adequate amount of protein into their diet.

Quinoa also contains a good amount of dietary fiber, which can help normalize digestion, regulate blood sugar and lower bad cholesterol. Phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and iron are some important minerals quinoa provides. Many of the B vitamins, which help the body convert food into energy, are found in quinoa, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, folate and vitamin E.

Quinoa is an ideal food choice for people who are attempting to lose or maintain weight because of its high nutritional content and its ability to make you feel full longer. Ranking low on the glycemic index, quinoa makes a good rice substitute for diabetics. Because quinoa is gluten-free, it is also an excellent option for people with gluten intolerance or wheat allergies.

Cooked Quinoa Nutritional Facts

Serving Size
1 cup (185 grams)
Calories Per Serving
222
Calories From Fat
32
Total Fat
4g
Cholesterol
0mg
Sodium
13mg
Total Carbohydrate
39g
Sugar
0g
Dietary Fiber
5g
Protein
8g
Iron
15% Daily Value
Calcium
3% Daily Value

How to Eat Quinoa:

Quinoa is extremely versatile with the ability to be eaten sweet or savory. It can be easily prepared the same way that you cook rice - boiling and simmering until all water has absorbed. While it makes a wonderful rice substitute, do not expect it to taste like rice. Quinoa has a flavor of its own.

Quinoa makes a delicious breakfast "cereal" when combined with milk, nuts, berries, cinnamon, honey and other sweet mixtures. Try almond or coconut milk for variation. For lunch and dinner quinoa meals, quinoa can be added to stir fries, soups, casseroles or salads. A simple mix of vegetables and spices with cooked quinoa makes a tasty side. Quinoa burgers, quinoa and black bean chili, and quinoa pilaf are a favorite of vegetarians and vegans.

Quinoa can also be used as a flour-like substitute in baking recipes. Search online for cake and cookie quinoa recipes to add protein to your desserts or to keep your meals gluten-free.

Sweet breakfast cereal options for quinoa pair nicely with fresh fruit.
Sweet breakfast cereal options for quinoa pair nicely with fresh fruit. | Source

Comments

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    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 

      5 years ago from California, United States of America

      I just discovered this delicious food recently and was surprised at how filling it is; I ate it with chicken one time, fish the other, and I got really full, realizing I didn't even need the fish or chicken. It is very nutritious, tasty and, as I said, filling. Thanks for sharing!

    • Faith A Mullen profile imageAUTHOR

      Faith A Mullen 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, vespawoolf! A milk/fruit/quinoa blend sounds interesting. I would be curious to try! Thanks for the vote and share.

    • Faith A Mullen profile imageAUTHOR

      Faith A Mullen 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for the tip and vote, LongTimeMother!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 

      5 years ago from Peru, South America

      We love quinoa! It's easy to come by here in Peru, and I like that it's a complete protein as you mention. In Peru, it's often cooked and then blended with milk and fruit to make a delicious warm breakfast drink. This is a very informative Hub. Thanks! Voted up and shared.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 

      5 years ago from Australia

      Here's a tip for barbergirl28 and anyone else who is new to quinoa. Some packs will be 'pre-washed' but some won't. You'll need to rinse it in the same way you rinse rice before cooking it. Put it in a container, add water, stir it and pour off the discolored water. Repeat until the water stays clear. Start with fresh water for cooking.

      That should improve the taste immensely. lol. Good topic, Faith.

      Voted up. :)

    • Faith A Mullen profile imageAUTHOR

      Faith A Mullen 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for voting and sharing, L.L. Woodard! Glad you were able to learn something. It's always nice to find a new whole protein.

    • Faith A Mullen profile imageAUTHOR

      Faith A Mullen 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for stopping in to read and comment, barbergirl28! I like it mixed with brown rice with some good seasoning. If your family isn't a big fan of straight quinoa, you could try combining it with other things!

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Good information here. I knew quinoa was a healthy food, but did not know it is a complete protein source.

      Voted up and Shared.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      My sister introduced me to this stuff. At first I teased her about it, but then I knew it had great health benefits so I snuck to the store and bought some for myself. I will admit, my kids, even my husband aren't really fans. However, I tried the box stuff and that was ok. The stuff I made from the bulk supply... well, I guess I need to figure out some better recipes! Great information.

    • Faith A Mullen profile imageAUTHOR

      Faith A Mullen 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, Careermommy! I have only recently started experimenting with quinoa, and I am liking it!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Faith, great hub. I love Quinoa. Your article just reminded me to include more of it into my diet as opposed to rice. I'm looking for healthier alternatives for my family. Thank you for sharing this.

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