Quinoa is cultivated as a grain, yet is not a grass. It is botanically related to the spinach and amaranth plant and is the seed portion of this flowering herbaceous plant known as the Chenopodium quinoa. For individuals who are sensitive to wheat or other grains or perhaps seeking a gluten-free alternative, quinoa makes a tasty replacement for rice or oatmeal. The flavor of quinoa makes it very versatile and is a good source of protein and essential amino acids.
Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah, is especially popular among vegans and those on a gluten-free diet, as it is packed with fiber, vitamin B6, copper, iron and minerals; and at the top of the list is its protein content. Quinoa is considered the only plant that is a complete protein and contains eight-grams per cup.
Some of the ways that quinoa supports good health are listed below:
- Supports Healthy Red Blood Cells: Due to the iron content in quinoa, it supports the blood cells by delivering oxygen throughout the cells, which promotes healthy muscle movement and brain function. When red blood cells are healthy, the body is also protected against health conditions such as anemia.
- Helps With Tissue Growth and Repair: With the presence of Lysine found in quinoa, the production of new tissue is increased and existing tissue is rejuvenated
- Great Source of Vitamin B: The B2 found in the quinoa seed helps support metabolism resulting in improved energy levels and healthy muscles.
- Promotes Health Digestion: With an incredible 5.2 grams of fiber, quinoa helps support healthy digestion while also helping rid the body of toxins. Ample fiber also helps reduce levels of unhealthy cholesterol and maintains blood glucose levels. Complex fiber is slower to breakdown in the body, resulting in longer lasting satiety which is great when trying to reduce snacking.
- Strenghtens the Immune System: Quinoa contains two flavonoids, kaempferol and quercetin, both of which help regulate bacteria and prevent viruses and inflammation in the body. If overgrowth of bad bacteria occurs, there is an increased risk of sickness, cancer and even depression.
Nutrition Facts per 1 cup cooked Quinoa
Protein – 8.14 grams
Fiber – 5.2 grams
Magnesium – 30% RDA
Folate – 19% RDA
Manganese – 30% RDA
In addition to these benefits, the source of magnesium found in quinoa helps protect cells throughout the body. Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to the body and when levels are depleted, it can result in depression, anxiety and the risk of heart issues.
The Inca people discovered quinoa approximately 4,000 years ago. The Inca warriors revered quinoa as a sacred crop, calling it chisoya mama, or “the mother of all grains.” While it existed in South America for millennia, it gained its popularity in 2013 when it was defined as a super food and one that could help end hunger.
The growing trend seemed to take root when it was recognized as a great protein source for those requiring a gluten-free diet due to Celiac disease and other digestive issues. While it is often called a grain, it isn’t due to its botanical makeup and the fact that it comes from a plant rather than a grass, like oats, wheat, etc.
However, that doesn’t stop people from using like a grain and that is quite alright because it holds higher nutrition value than true grains, making it a healthier choice. There are more than one-hundred varieties of quinoa ranging in colors from red, black and ivory. All varieties are nutritious but textures and flavors differ between them.
Quinoa is a great food source, can be prepared quickly and is enjoyed in various culinary dishes.