Quinoa Health Benefits
Latin Name : Chenopodium quinoa
It is also called the goosefoot plant.
Quinoa is a seed but also a grain like pseudo cereal that is eaten. Since it does not belong to the grass family to which cereals belong it is a pseudo cereal. It is related to beets, spinach, swiss chard and tumbleweeds.
A native to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Equador and Columbia. its cultivation goes back 3000 to 4000 years in time. However it has been growing in the wild for as long back as 5000 to 7000 years as per archeological evidences.
Peru and Bolivia produce almost 99% of the world's quinoa production between them.
Quinoa PlantsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The plant is about 1-2 metres in height. It can grow in a variety of climatic conditions. The flowers are small and form a cluster. The leaves contain betacyanin pigments and for this reason they are seen in various colors like bright red, orange, pink, purple, tan and black. The leaves taste much like other members of the chenopod family, beet, spinach and chard.
The cooked seeds are creamy and fluffy in texture and crunchy. Also the seeds become translucent when cooked. They have a slight nutty flavor.
The entire plant is edible right from the leaves to the stem and seeds. The outer coating of the seeds contain the chemical saponin which is bitter and protects the seeds from wild birds eating them.
When the seeds are to be consumed they are washed well in water to remove the saponin which forms soap like suds. Commercially processed quinoa has been washed usually.
Quinoa can be cooked just like rice. It can also be used as a breakfast cereal, mixed with an assortment of berries, nuts and some honey. It can be also be used like cornflakes.
The seeds can be made into a flour and used much like wheat flour with the added advantage of it being free from gluten and can thus replace wheat flour.
The seeds can also be germinated and eaten or they can be cooked with a variety of other vegetables and consumed.
The leaves and stems can be cooked and eaten just like spinach and beets.
QuinoaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Quinoa Nutritional Benefits
Quinoa has a lot of nutritional benefits as it is a food with a high nutritive value. The antioxidant phytonutrients quercetin and kaempferol are found in very concentrated amounts in quinoa.
The protein content in quinoa is almost the same as wheat; however quinoa scores in its protein profile, in that, it has all 9 essential amino acids, thus being termed as a source of complete protein.
Quinoa contains excellent amounts of dietary fiber and phosphorus. It has very good amounts of magnesium, folate, copper and iron. It is also a good source of calcium having almost twice as much of it than in wheat. Thus making it ideal for those who are lactose intolerant but need calcium.
It is also easy to digest and is gluten free. Because of the bitter saponin in the seeds' outer coat they are processed to remove this before packing.
The leaves contain the pigment betanin.
Colored Quinoa Grains
Nutritional Value Of Quinoa
per 100g (3.5oz)
Thiamine (vit. B1)
0.36 mg (31%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2)
0.32 mg (27%)
0.5 mg (38%)
184 ?g (46%)
4.6 mg (35%)
197 mg (55%)
457 mg (65%)
563 mg (12%)
3.1 mg (33%)
Quinoa Health Benefits
Quinoa has various health benefits due to the following nutrients :
- Different types of tocoferols, like, alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocoferols. These are absent in other grains
- Anti inflammatory phytonutrients, the polysaccharides like arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans, the hydroxycinnamic acid and hydroxybenzoic acid.
- Flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol.
- Some omega 3 fatty acids and alpha linoleic acid (ALA).
- Oleic acid, a mono unsaturated fat. The fat content is very high compared to most grains. Oleic acid makes up almost 25% of the total fatty acids while ALA makes up about 8%.
- A complete protein source with very good amounts of lysine and isoleucine, the 2 amino acids normally deficient in most grains.
- Inspite of it being high in fat content than cereals like wheat, it is not easily oxidized due to the wide and diverse types of anti oxidants.
- Boiling, steaming and simmering does not affect the nutritional quality much.
Quinoa Health Benefits In Specific Diseases And Health Conditions
Quinoa For Diabetes
Quinoa is a good source of dietary fiber and fiber is known to regulate blood sugar.
The excellent protein profile also regulates blood sugar.
The anti inflammatory nutrients also reduce diabetes risk.
Quinoa And Cardiovascular Disease
Quinoa lowers total cholesterol and keeps the HDL levels high.
The anti inflammatory factors protect the blood vessels from damage due to inflammation.
Anti inflammatory benefits are supposed to extend to preventing atherosclerosis too.
The magnesium reduces blood pressure and regulates heartbeat.
Quinoa Weight Loss
Quinoa has a low Glycemic Index thereby regulating blood sugar or keeping the blood sugar from spiking and crashing. This makes for keeping one fuller.
The seeds take time to digest fully and prevent hunger.
The protein and dietary fiber also keep one fuller longer preventing hunger.
Also, the dietary fiber binds to fat and cholesterol reducing absorption of these by the body.
Quinoa And Migraine
Quinoa is high in magnesium and riboflavin.
Magnesium prevents contraction of the blood vessels and consequently relieves migraine.
Riboflavin benefits the brain and muscle cells' metabolism and helps in reducing migraine attacks.
Quinoa contains almost 12% fiber of which about 36% is soluble and 64% is insoluble.
The soluble fiber forms a gel that binds the fat and cholesterol.
The insoluble fiber isn't absorbed and helps in making the bowel movements easier and regular thus keeping it clear of digested food.
As quinoa is gluten free, it can become a healthy option for wheat as a grain. Moreover it is highly digestible and can therefore be included in the diets of toddlers and children.
Quinoa reduces the risk of allergy in those who are sensitive to certain grains.
Allergy To Quinoa
Though Quinoa is not a high allergy causing food, some people may be allergic to it. Some of the symptoms associated with this allergy may be :
- Skin allergies like itching, swelling, hives, rashes etc or a general inflammation of skin.
- Abdominal complaints like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps etc.
- Respiratory symptoms like sneezing, coughing, breathing difficulty, tightness of the chest etc.
- Congestion and sinus headches, sinus pressure etc.
Avoid consumption of Quinoa immediately, if you experience allergic symptoms and get medical treatment.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
Recipes With Quinoa
- Quinoa Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing
Crunchy vegetables, queso fresco, and quinoa are combined with a tart lime juice and fresh cilantro dressing to form a salad that is delightful both as a side dish as well as on its own.
- Quinoa Chicken Salad with Vegetables: A Quick Meal for Every Season
Quinoa Chicken Vegetable Salad is easy to prepare, nutritious, and refreshing as a summer main dish when it's hot outside and something light is called for. If you're out of chicken or my suggested vegetables, most protein substitutions will work jus
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© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly