QUINOA ( keen-wah) has been a talk of the town for quite some time now. Perhaps you are familiar with this “superfood” and even wondered if you’ve pronounced it just right. (It’s keen-wah, not keen-no-wah).
Health forums had been discussing the health benefits of quinoa. It even received great media attention because of its popularity.
It was that way for a while but then things started to float in the background up until now. I guess it’s just right that we get to rediscover the health benefits of quinoa.
QUINOA, “Mother of all grains”
Quinoa is a type of crop mostly grown for its seeds. Its grain has become very popular in the last few years because of the great health benefits of quinoa.
Many health conscious people find this seed interesting and worthy to try because it is loaded with many important nutrients.
Quinoa has also gained a lot of good health reviews and praises through the years. One of it is from the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
It praised quinoa for its very unique and healthy composition. According to them, it has a unique balance amount of protein, fat, and oil as well as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids.
According to a researcher named Philip White, quinoa comes as close as any other plant or animal that can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients.
The article entitled “Edible Seed Products of the Andes Mountains” further discussed White’s sentiments about the quinoa seeds.
And aside from the fact that it is very nutritious, it is also very easy to grow. It is drought resistant and can easily grow in soils without proper irrigation.
This is very helpful during times of drought when other crops fail to produce.
We can actually turn to quinoa and expect a good amount of production as it thrives on even on very little rainfall.
Because of this, the United Nations (UN) has recognized its potential to provide food security in the worldwide market in 2013.
The UN even considered this year as the “International Year of Quinoa”. In addition to that, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was convinced that quinoa is ideal for long-duration space flights.
Quinoa originated in the high mountains of the Andes. And according to existing historical evidence, this plant had also been cultivated in the Pre-Columbian civilization.
Quinoa is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa). Its botanical name means “goose foot” because the leaves of this plant seem to resemble the webbed foot of a goose.
It is believed that the Incas in the early times used quinoa as a staple food in their diet. Some Inca warriors prefer to eat quinoa to keep them energized through long marches and battles during the time.
The Incas are said to be the first ones to call quinoa as the “Mother of all grains”. Over the time, it has grown to be popular in some parts of the world and even reached Europe.
VARIETIES OF QUINOA
Quinoa is a grain with a lot of varieties. It has roughly around 120 recorded kinds of quinoa worldwide.
But for this article, we will only be talking about the three most commercialized kinds – red, white and black quinoa.
Its color mainly depends on the chemical compound present in it. It might be interesting to differentiate all the three types of quinoa. So let’s start.
- WHITE QUINOA
White quinoa is the most common type available in stores, people simply call it “quinoa”. But some prefer to call it “ivory quinoa”.It has a sweet and subtle flavor like that of rice grain and can easily be combined with any vegetable or meat. Ivory quinoa is a great source of protein and is also great for vegetarians.
- RED QUINOA
Red quinoa has the highest protein content of all quinoa grains. It has a delicate flavor and is rich in essential minerals and vitamins.Like the white quinoa, you can also incorporate red quinoa in other food servings such as salads, soups, and another dish.
- BLACK QUINOA
Black Quinoa is another organic variety of quinoa. It is free from any chemicals and basically has the same health benefits of other quinoa varieties.It tastes a bit sweeter and earthier than white quinoa because of its darker hue and crunchier texture.
NUTRITIONAL CONTENTSOF QUINOA
Quinoa is popularly known as the protein-food. A study entitled “Nutritive Values of Crops, Nutrient Content and Protein Quality of Quinoa” validated the said nutritional value.
It states that all varieties of quinoa contain complete essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes in the body. With the high protein content of quinoa, it’s not surprising that it supports good health.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of cooked quinoa has 8.14 grams of protein.
This amount is great to support the growth and the repair of tissues & organs in the body. It is actually a better source for daily recommended protein intake which is around 46-56 grams.
This “super grain” is also high in fiber that promotes a variety of health benefits. A study conducted at the University of Valencia in Spain revealed that there are about 10 and 16 grams of fiber per every 100 grams of quinoa.
This is comparable twice as much as the fiber content of some other grains. Moreover, the recommended daily fiber intake is between 25-38 grams.
On the other side, it has both the soluble (the beneficial fiber) and insoluble fiber. The helpful fiber is shown to help in reducing amounts of cholesterol and is considered food for the cardiovascular system.
Aside from that, it helps to control blood sugar levels and insulin concentrations in the body.
Researchers from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland claims that quinoa is a good suitable ingredient in gluten-free diets.
Adding quinoa to meals and snacks can greatly improve the nutritional profile of gluten-free diets according to the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
People who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are recommended to take gluten-free diets. Gluten content often irritates the lining of the small intestine of people with celiac disease.
If this happens, the villi in the intestines cannot function to absorb the nutrients in the body, thus causes malnutrition.
Lack of nutrients makes the body susceptible to diseases. But incorporating quinoa in the diet can significantly increase their polyphenol content which helps protect cells and body chemicals against diseases caused by free radicals.
RICH IN FOLATE
Another essential vitamin present in quinoa is the water-soluble B Vitamin – Folate. According to Institute of Medicine, adults need 400 micrograms of folate daily.
If you consume quinoa, you can have the 78 micrograms of it. The importance of adequate folate intake is for important cellular functions.
The process of copying and synthesizing DNA to produce new cells needs folate.
Quinoa provides up to 2.76 milligrams of iron out of the recommended daily intake of 8-18 milligrams. This is way better than taking iron supplements, as far as the taste is a concern.
The production of new red blood cells needs great iron contents for certain enzymes to give energy.
Iron is essential for brain function and your muscles. It also prevents anemia.
Basically, these are the top nutritional contents of quinoa that aids for its various health benefits. We will briefly discuss the different health benefits of quinoa in the succeeding paragraphs.
Now, let us get to know more about the health benefits of quinoa one by one.
With the high fiber content of quinoa, it definitely helps to aid in decreasing one’s cholesterol levels. One major role of fiber is assisting in a smooth digestion process.
As a result, the high fiber in quinoa helps in reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) through continuous bile acid production.
Studies show that quinoa contains a specific compound called saponins. Saponin is an anti-inflammatory nutrient.
In addition, a study in Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences suggests that saponins are used as functional food components to promote healthy gut microbes.
The study suggests that it prevents inflammation, obesity, and metabolic diseases.
Studies show the potential impact of high fiber content on one’s eating behavior. It somewhat makes us feel full for longer periods and decreases the possibility of consuming too many calories.
Aside from that, it also lowers cholesterol that is a great factor in losing weight. Though there is no exact study to prove that it can really decrease body weight, it is quite a sense that quinoa can be a great part of a healthy weight loss diet.
Quinoa is a rich source of iron that helps in preventing anemia. The deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood characterized anemia.
This condition results in a pale looking skin, decrease energy and constant weariness. Iron is a very important component to restore hemoglobin levels.
But with quinoa, you can easily have enough intake of iron to decrease the risk of anemia.
Good for Cardiovascular Health
Since quinoa can decrease cholesterol level then it can positively affect the heart. A study in European Journal of Nutrition in 2004 showed that quinoa produced lower levels of free fatty acid content and triglyceride concentrations.
These are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Additionally, another article published in Journal of Food Lipids reported that quinoa seeds contain many of the dietary flavonoids shown to inversely correlate with mortality from heart disease.
Good for Pregnant Women
In addition to the above-mentioned health benefits of quinoa, it also contains high levels of folate advisable for pregnant women.
Then, it has an integral role in cell development as well as fetal development.
Most of all, it decreases birth defects and protects against miscarriage and neural tube defects in the fetus.
Still, quinoa is one of the healthiest foods of all time. It contains a lot of essential vitamins and minerals good for the body.
Furthermore, the above-listed health benefits of quinoa should encourage you to incorporate quinoa into one’s diet.