Quinoa is a cereal crop grown mainly for its edible seeds. This plant is a subspecies (Chenopodium Quinoa), which originated in the area around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia. Pre-Columbian civilizations cultivated and used quinoa as a staple food in their diet at that time and eventually quinoa was replaced by other grains after the arrival of the Spaniards.
Quinoa is a broad-leaved plant that does not belong to the same family of herbs that are grown for grains such as wheat, barley, and oats, yet it is considered a grain. It differs from traditional grains in that it blooms with beautiful purple or red flowers and uses the seeds like other typical grains to make flour, cereals, soups, etc.
Types of quinoa
There are approximately 120 known varieties of quinoa. The most commercially available species is white, black and red quinoa.
White quinoa is the most common variety available in stores and some also call it ivory quinoa.
There is red quinoa and it is mentioned that the form of red quinoa after cooking is slightly better than white quinoa, making it more suitable for cold salad recipes where the distinct grains are especially desirable. As for black quinoa, it retains its color when cooked.
As with barley or oat flakes, quinoa flakes are made ready-to-eat and need less time to cook than whole grains, and they are really quick-cooking cereals and these chips make for a great instant breakfast.
Interesting facts about quinoa
- Quinoa is not a grain at all, but we cook and eat quinoa like many other grains but vegetatively it is close to spinach, chard and beets. The part we eat is the cooked seeds like rice which is why quinoa is gluten-free and its leaves are also edible.
- Quinoa is a complete protein. In 1955, a study from the author of “Nutritional Values of Crops and Nutrient Content” and the quality of the proteins of quinoa proved in large quantities.
- You should wash quinoa because the dried seeds have a very bitter taste due to the coating to which they are covered. In the modern era, quinoa has been processed and rinsed with water and is ready to use.
The health benefits of quinoa
Quinoa is very nutritious
Quinoa is one of the most popular healthy foods in the world and is one of the few plant foods that contain all of the essential amino acids.
Quinoa is also rich in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin E, and various beneficial antioxidants.
Shown below are a number of science-backed health benefits from quinoa, also known as “mother’s grain,” according to the Field Crops article from the University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota. Here’s the nutrient content in one cup (185 grams), which also applies to cooked quinoa and according to the daily allowance recommended by nutritionists:
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Manganese: 58%
- Magnesium: 30%
- Phosphorous: 28%
- Folate: 19%
- Copper: 18%
- Iron: 15%
- Zinc: 13%
- Potassium: 9%
- More than 10% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins B1, B2, and B6.
- Small amounts of calcium, vitamin E, and B3 (niacin).
- All of this comes with a total of 222 calories, with 39 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fat.
- Quinoa also contains a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
According to an article published in the year 2009 in the Journal of Food and Agricultural Sciences, which asserted that quinoa has an “extraordinary composition and an exceptional balance” of protein, fats and oils as well as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids, it is extremely nutritious.
NASA scientists are evaluating quinoa as a suitable crop to grow in outer space, mainly due to its high nutritional content, ease of use, and ease of growing.
The year 2013 has been called the “International Year of Quinoa” because of the high nutritional value of quinoa and the potential of its crops to contribute to food security around the world.
Flavonoids are plant antioxidants that have been shown to have many health benefits and two flavonoids that deserve to be well studied are quercetin and campferol, which are found in large quantities in quinoa.
Studies of these flavonoids “quercetin and campferol” say that they have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-viral, and depressant effects.
Quinoa and other whole grains may help reduce the risk of inflammation. They help boost healthy gut microbes, which are necessary to prevent inflammation, obesity, and metabolic diseases.
A 2014 study conducted at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing showed that the saponins in quinoa can be used as functional food ingredients to prevent and treat inflammation.
It stands to reason that quinoa could improve metabolic health due to its high amount of beneficial nutrients.
Researchers from the Department of Food Sciences and Microbiology at the University of Milan found that quinoa significantly reduces blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels.
Heart-healthy quinoa can provide monounsaturated fats through its oleic acid content as well as alpha-linolenic acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
On the other hand, another study conducted by the Department of Food Chemistry and Nutrition in Krakow, Poland and included mice found that quinoa has many beneficial biochemical effects, including completely inhibiting the negative effects of fructose.
Rich in fiber
Like many grains, quinoa is very rich in fiber and in one study conducted at the University of Valencia in Spain, 4 varieties of quinoa were used to determine the amount of fiber in them.
This resulted in a range of between 10 and 16 grams of fiber per 100 grams which equates to 17-27 grams per cup, a very high number more than twice as high as in most grains.
Unfortunately, most of the fiber in quinoa is insoluble and not as good for your health as the soluble fiber.
However the soluble fiber content is around 1.5 grams per 100 grams (or 2.5 grams per cup) and it’s still a decent amount.
It is known that some foods can boost this process either by boosting the metabolism or reducing appetite.
Quinoa is rich in protein, which can increase the metabolism process and reduce the appetite significantly. It is also rich in fiber that helps you increase the feeling of satiety, making you eat fewer calories overall.
Several studies have shown that soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar levels, increase fullness, and aid with weight loss.
Fiber stimulates digestion which requires bile acids and the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to produce more bile acids, which reduces the amount of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).
Gluten-free diets are recommended for people with celiac disease and severe gluten intolerance.
Although the benefits of gluten-free diets for people without celiac disease are still being discussed and according to the Mayo Clinic, gluten-free diets lack the following nutrients: iron, calcium, fiber, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and folate.
Several researchers, including Tobs, a renowned biologist from the School of Biology and Medicine at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland claim that quinoa is a suitable ingredient in gluten-free diets, especially for people who don’t want to give up staples, such as bread and pasta.
Products made with quinoa can significantly increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of the diet compared to both wheat and gluten-free products.
Rich in essential amino acids
Protein is made of amino acids and some of them are called “essential” because our body cannot produce them on its own, and we need to obtain it from the diet.
If a food contains all of the essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein.
The problem is lysine, an essential amino acid not found in many plant foods and according to the Ohio Research and Development Center, quinoa is a good source of lysine.
Quinoa contains the nine essential amino acids, and one cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of high-quality protein, making it an excellent source of plant-based protein for vegetarians.
Reduces blood sugar
The glycemic index is used to measure how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels.
Foods that are high on the glycemic index are known to fluctuate blood sugar levels, stimulate hunger, and contribute to obesity.
These foods have also been linked to many common Western chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, which is below 55 required to be considered a food that helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
This is why if you are trying to avoid diabetes, you can combine quinoa with any other food that is also low on the glycemic index scale.
This will help you nourish yourself without worrying about high blood sugar levels.
Rich in magnesium
Often people lack many of the necessary nutrients due to their eating habits. This is especially true for some minerals, especially magnesium. Fortunately quinoa is packed with this important mineral that the body needs as it helps prevent diseases like osteoporosis and heart disease while helping to balance blood pressure.
Rich in iron
Quinoa helps people who have difficulty maintaining their iron needs. Iron is essential for brain and muscle function and supports muscle metabolism as well as preventing anemia.
Since quinoa also contains a substance called phytic acid, a problem arises when this substance binds with minerals and reduces their absorption.
Fortunately, you can reduce the phytic acid content by soaking quinoa before cooking it.
Quinoa is also very rich in oxalates which reduces calcium absorption which can lead to problems for some individuals with frequent kidney stones.
Rich in zinc and antioxidants
Zinc is an essential element because very small amounts of zinc are essential for human health. Quinoa is one of the best sources of zinc and zinc is used to treat and prevent zinc deficiency that affects the skin and liver disease.
Antioxidants are of particular importance in maintaining healthy skin and the antioxidant benefits of vitamins C and E are well known.
The International Journal of Dermatology found that zinc has an antioxidant role and supports in protection against free oxidation induced by radicals.
Zinc protects against UV rays and promotes wound healing. In addition, it contributes to immune, nervous and psychological functions and reduces the relative risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Another health benefit supported by quinoa is related to liver function. Zinc is essential because it provides normal cell growth, development, and differentiation. Zinc deficiency has been observed in patients with liver disease, including alcoholic liver disease and viral liver disease, according to the official publication of the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
It has also been observed that patients who take the recommended dose of zinc to treat liver disease are making significant progress toward treating the disease.
Rich in potassium
Until recently, humans consumed a high-potassium diet, but with the widespread consumption of processed and potassium-deficient foodstuffs, along with a decrease in the consumption of fruits and vegetables this resulted in a significant decrease in the amount of potassium.
In most developed countries, many people suffer from potassium deficiency. With the increasing popularity of quinoa, quinoa has become once again rich in potassium, a staple of the Western diet. Epidemiological and clinical studies show that a high-potassium diet lowers blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure.
Increasing potassium intake is important for managing hypercalciuria and kidney stones and is likely to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
It has antiseptic properties
The Incas knew about the antiseptic properties of quinoa and healers used quinoa to treat injuries.
During the processing and preparation of quinoa, the saponins are removed and reused afterwards, and in South America the saponin extracted from quinoa has many uses, including as a cleanser and as a cleanser for skin wounds, it is anti-microbial and saponins are used to help treat an irritated or sensitive scalp.
- Eating quinoa may have many health risks, as coated quinoa seeds contain saponins.For some people, saponins do more than just leave a bad taste in the mouth, it can lead to stomach irritation and may damage the small intestine. in stomach.
- You should not consume quinoa during the pregnancy or breastfeeding stages because there is no scientific evidence to suggest doing so.
- You should consult your physician before taking quinoa with other medications due to its antioxidant properties.
- Quinoa can lower triglyceride levels and for this reason, it is advised not to consume quinoa if you are taking triglyceride-lowering drugs.