Updated: Mar 27
It is incredible how many benefits a single food item can have and how much recognition quinoa has gotten in health circles; even from those with a firm basis in science.
There’s no doubt that you have heard of quinoa ((KEEN-wah)—a nutrient-rich food crop with edible seeds and leaves. After all, it’s pretty much everywhere you turn! From quinoa fried rice to quinoa salads, it’s become an ingredient featured in many dishes and has become one of the most popular foods for those trying to improve their health and lose weight. However, in some parts of the world, this superfood is not known.
But what exactly is quinoa, and why has it become such a big deal?
Said to be a pseudo-grain, quinoa comes from the South American Andes, where it is still widely grown today and has been consumed for centuries. Today, it’s still considered a grain (a pseudo-grain, to be exact), though in reality, it isn’t a grain at all, but rather a seed; however, we eat it much like we eat other grains. Whether you call it a seed or a grain, quinoa is commonly called a superfood or “Mother of grains” for a good reason!
Here’s a look at 13 incredible nutrition facts about quinoa.
1. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free
People who have Celiac disease cannot consume gluten, as their bodies cannot break it down. When they do consume gluten, they can experience a number of adverse reactions. Those who do not have Celiac disease but are sensitive to gluten can also experience adverse effects when they eat products that contain gluten. However, gluten seems to be everywhere, and while it may have negative effects on those who cannot tolerate it, gluten does offer health benefits.
Since quinoa is naturally gluten-free and has a texture similar to rice and other gluten-based products, it is a safe alternative to gluten for those who cannot tolerate it. So, whether you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, you have a gluten sensitivity, or you want to cut gluten out of your diet, replacing rice, pasta, and other gluten foods with quinoa is something you might want to consider.
2. It has a high protein content
Unlike other grains (even though, as we already mentioned, it’s not a grain), quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, meaning that it is considered a complete protein. In other words, it is likened to animal protein, which makes it an excellent way for vegetarians and vegans to ensure they are getting the vital protein that their bodies need.
A single cup of cooked quinoa has around 8 grams of protein—roughly the same protein content as a single egg. So, whether you don’t eat meat at all or you are trying to reduce your consumption of meat, or you are just looking for another food that can increase your protein intake and build muscle, quinoa is a food that you should add to your diet. Plus, it has a nice, meaty texture, making it incredibly fulfilling and will keep you satiated for a long time.
3. It can facilitate weight loss
Not only does quinoa contain a high amount of protein, but it also packs a lot of insoluble fiber. Both of these nutritional facts combined make you feel full longer after you eat the pseudo-grain. Naturally, when you feel more satiated, you are less likely to eat in excess, which certainly aids in weight loss. Furthermore, scientific studies have suggested that quinoa may help activate insulin, gherkin, and peptides hormones that can aid in weight loss.
This food also contains a lot of manganese, which helps with digestion, making it easier to digest your food more efficiently. Lastly, a recent study conducted in Paris revealed that eating quinoa on a regular basis can help to increase the amount of energy the body expends, which can also help with weight loss.
4. It could help prevent cancer
Another nutritional benefit of quinoa that may come as a surprise is that it is believed that this superfood can help prevent certain types of cancer. That is because it contains a high amount of antioxidants, and antioxidants have properties that naturally fight off cancer. Furthermore, the seed has also been found to contain other nutrients that can stave off cancer, including saponin, lunasin, and quercetin.
Though the research findings that support these nutrients can be beneficial for cancer prevention are still relatively new, and additional studies need to be conducted, there is a chance that quinoa can help you avoid getting certain types of cancer, including lung cancer and breast cancer. So, if you are trying to reduce your risk of developing cancer (and who isn’t?), you might want to consider making quinoa a regular part of your diet.
5. It promotes a healthy gut
Studies have found that quinoa serves as a prebiotic, or compounds of fiber that your body cannot digest, and work alongside probiotic enzymes that help to fee helpful bacteria that reside within the gut. To elaborate further, quinoa contains butyrate, which may combat conditions that affect the gut, such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
By increasing butyrate levels, inflammation in the gut can decrease and may help combat the conditions mentioned above. Moreover, quinoa also contains succinic acid, which has also been found to serve as an anti-inflammatory agent for the gut. All these things combined mean that if you eat quinoa regularly, you may be able to improve the health of your gut and prevent the development of certain conditions of the gut – or reverse these conditions if you have already been diagnosed with them.
6. It contains powerful antioxidants
It has been found that quinoa contains large amounts of antioxidants known as flavonoids, which have been noted for their ability to prevent certain diseases. For example, polyphenols, a specific type of flavonoid, may be able to help prevent certain diseases that may be chronic or shorten your life expectancy, such as cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Furthermore, quinoa also contains high amounts of other essential antioxidants that may play an important role in disease prevention, such as kaempferol, quercetin, ferulic acid, and vanillic acid.
These antioxidants are noted for their ability to reduce inflammation, which is a significant risk factor in developing many chronic diseases. Last but not least, quinoa also contains beta-carotene, which has been found to fight off the damage caused by free radicals, which have also been found to play a significant part in the development of certain chronic health conditions.
7. Improves the health of your heart
As was already mentioned, quinoa contains many nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties, which are extremely important for the health of your heart. Most notably, these anti-inflammatory properties can help to prevent heart disease, which happens to be the leading cause of death in the world. That’s because quinoa contains a high amount of good fats for the heart, such as trans fats, monounsaturated fat (in the form of oleic acid), and an omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid.
All of these things have been found to decrease the risk of heart attack significantly. Additionally, quinoa can also help reduce bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels, which can drastically improve the health of the heart. And then there are the heart-healthy nutrients that quinoa contains, such as magnesium, butyrate, and potassium. All of these elements combined make quinoa very good for the heart.
8. It reduces the risk of developing diabetes
Foods rich in manganese have been found to be one of the most important things you can do to maintain your blood sugar levels and keep them healthy, thereby reducing your risk of developing diabetes. Since quinoa is so dense in manganese, it stands to reason that eating this food can help to lower your risk of diabetes.
The reason why manganese is effective for managing insulin levels and preventing diabetes, is because it is believed that It aids in the process of converting amino acids into sugars and also helps to balance the amounts of sugar that enter the bloodstream. In addition, several scientific studies have found that increasing your intake of magnesium can help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes drastically, and a single cup of quinoa contains about 1/3 of the recommended intake of magnesium.
9. It can help prevent iron deficiency anemia
Iron is vital for your body, as it plays a fundamental role in producing oxygen-rich red blood cells. If your body does not get enough iron, there is a good chance that you will suffer from a condition known as iron-deficiency anemia. This condition can have severe effects on your health. For example, it can make you intensely tired, confused, dizzy, and cause several other adverse effects.
Unfortunately, many people—particularly women, do not get the amount of iron they need. Since quinoa contains a high amount of iron, it can help stave off iron-deficiency anemia, so you should consider eating it on a regular basis if you want to avoid becoming deficient in iron or if you have been told that you have low levels of iron and need to improve your them, but don’t want to take supplements.
10. It’s extremely nutrient-dense
There’s a very good reason why quinoa is regarded as a superfood: it’s because it contains so many vital nutrients. A single cup of cooked quinoa contains all of the following nutrients:
5 grams of protein
8 grams of protein
58 percent of the recommended intake of manganese
30 percent of the recommended intake of magnesium
18 percent of the recommended intake of copper
9 percent of the recommended intake of potassium
15 percent of the suggested daily intake of iron
Additionally, a single cup of cooked quinoa also contains essential B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and even Vitamin E and calcium. All of these nutrients play a vital role in your health, which means that quinoa is one of the most nutritionally dense foods that you can eat. It’s also very easy to cook and quite tasty, so getting your intake of these nutrients with quinoa is quite simple.
11. Complete Protein Source
Quinoa is the only grain with a complete amino acid profile, making it the only source of plant-based protein considered “complete.” Most other grains are missing some vital amino acids, and therefore they don’t offer the same benefit as eating meat. However, quinoa has all of the essential amino acids necessary for muscular repair and tissue regeneration.
If you like to train hard in the gym, or you’re a competitive sportsperson, quinoa should be a staple at your dinner table. Proteins are chains of amino acids, and they’re essential for rebuilding tissue and the generation of new cells. When our diets are deficient in protein, or muscles decrease in volume, and our connective tissues begin to weaken.
Many people who enjoy eating meat attest that a vegan or vegetarian diet is low in protein and doesn’t contain a complete protein source. While this may be true for all other vegan food sources, quinoa offers all the protein vegans and vegetarians need to maintain muscle mass and repair tissues.
12. High in Magnesium
In today’s era of fast food, factory farming, and commercial agriculture, many of us don’t receive the adequate nutrition we need from our diet. As a result, we may develop several mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
Along with potassium, calcium, and Vitamin D, magnesium deficiency is widespread in today’s society. Magnesium is an essential mineral responsible for over 300 biological processes in the body. For example, this mineral regulates blood sugar, enhances neural function, and improves the health of our immune system.
Quinoa is a rich source of magnesium, with one cup of the grain providing as much as 185-milligrams of magnesium per serving; that’s 30-percent of the recommended daily allowance for this mineral.
13. Metabolic Benefits
Due to its high nutrient content and excellent health benefits, quinoa is a must for anyone concerned about their metabolic health. Metabolism is the chemical process in the body that helps sustain our life.
Many people with health issues develop “metabolic syndrome” due to poor lifestyle choices, such as eating a poor diet, drinking alcohol, and smoking. Cleaning up your diet is an excellent start to improving your metabolism. Toss out all forms of refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and flour, and replace them with nutritious carbs, such as whole- grains, sprouts, and quinoa. These carbs do not cause digestive inflammation – the number one cause of the metabolic syndrome.
Studies of quinoa added to the diets of people with metabolic syndrome show that replacing the flour and other gluten-based carbs with quinoa reduced fasted blood glucose levels while improving insulin sensitivity. The subjects also noted improvements in cholesterol, total triglyceride counts dropped, and production of LDL cholesterol, the bad kind of cholesterol, fell as much as 16-percent.
The Ideal Side Quinoa
Quinoa – the ancient grain with healing powers. We’re sure that this article has you left thinking that it’s a good idea to include quinoa in your diet – but how do you use it in your food? Fortunately, quinoa has plenty of uses in a variety of dishes.
Quinoa is the ultimate side for meat and vegetable dishes. The grain is a fantastic addition to salads, and it tastes excellent when baked into pies, casseroles, and pasta dishes. Quinoa is so versatile, you can use it in any recipe you like, and it tastes great with chicken, beef, and fish dishes as well.
We recommend that you always soak your quinoa before cooking. Some varieties of the quinoa grain have “saponins” on the outer layer, and this compound can give your quinoa a bitter taste. If you’re feeling lazy, look for a brand that presoaks their grains before packing. After cooking, quinoa has a light, fluffy appearance and an earthy, nutty flavor.