Quinoa: The New Healthy Star

                                              

Have you ever thought that a pseudocereal would provide a tough competition to the most popular cereal of all, the rice? Yes, you heard that right. We are talking about quinoa, the superfood that has been taking the nutritional industry by storm. 

Quinoa is not only abundant in health benefits but has also become the go-to staple food in most of the countries. Packed with vitamins and minerals, quinoa is slowly rising in the popularity charts.

Sounds fascinating, right? Well, let us get to know more about this superfood then.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is a flowering plant in the Amarnath family. It is a herbaceous annual plant which is grown as a crop primarily for its edible seeds. These seeds which are consumed, are rich in protein, dietary fibres and minerals and vitamins and are found in greater proportions than any other grains.

Quinoa is not a grass but a pseudo-cereal which is closely related to spinach and amaranth. It was considered to be the most important crop for the Inca Empire and was also considered to be sacred. It has been grown for ages and only recently it has been declared as a superfood.

Also, an important fact did you know that quinoa is selected as an experimental crop in NASA’s controlled ecological life support system for long-duration human-occupied space flights? 

Quinoa Nutritional Facts

  • Raw uncooked quinoa provides:
  1. 13% of water
  2. 64% carbohydrate
  3. 14% protein
  4. 6% fat
  • 100 grams serving of raw quinoa seeds provide protein, dietary fibre, several B vitamins, folate and other dietary minerals which are 20% more than any other grains.

Now, that being said, let us come to nutritional facts for cooked quinoa which is the typical preparation for eating the seeds.

  • Cooked quinoa seeds provide:
  1. 72% of water
  2. 21% carbohydrates.
  3. 4% protein 
  4. 2% of fats
  • 100 grams of cooked quinoa seed provide manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, iron, zinc and 503kJ of food energy.

Health benefits of quinoa

Benefits of quinoa consist of a varied range. It is gluten-free, rich in antioxidants, minerals and fibres can be easily used in the daily diet and is a versatile grain overall. No wonder, it is selected by NASA as an experimental crop.

Some of the popular health benefits of quinoa are:

  • Extremely nutritious for the body

 Quinoa is abundant with dietary minerals and vitamins and each of them provides a distinct benefit for the body.

1.Iron

  • Keeps our red blood cells healthy which is the basis of haemoglobin formation in the body.
  • Carries oxygen from one cell to another and also supplies muscles with oxygen to aid contraction.
  • Increases brain function and also assists in neurotransmitter synthesis.
  • Regulate enzyme activity, body temperature and metabolism.

2.Magnesium

  • Relax blood vessels and therefore ameliorate migraine pains.
  • Reduce type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar levels in the body.
  • Detoxification and formation of healthy bones and teeth.

3.Manganese

  • Works as an antioxidant.
  • Protects cells from free radical damage.

4.Vitamin B

  • Maintains good health and well being.
  • Impacts energy levels, brain functions and cell metabolism.

5.Vitamin E

  • Prevents coronary diseases
  • Boosts immune system
  • Convert food into energy.
  • High in fibre

 Quinoa is considered to have twice as much fibre than any other grains. These soluble fibres provide whirlwind benefits for the body.

  1. It reduces blood sugar level and lowers the risk of haemorrhoids.
  2. It prevents coronary diseases by controlling blood pressure and diabetes.
  3. Quinoa also helps to relieve constipation.
  4. It can also help you lose weight as due to the presence of soluble fibres, quinoa provides fullness to the body which causes the consumption of calories in check.

  • Rich in protein content

 Many superfoods do not provide the necessary protein content for the body. However, for quinoa, it has a lot of protein stored in it. 

A tiny quinoa seed contains 8grams of protein and it is considered as a complete protein. That means it encompasses all the nine essential amino acids that our body needs.

  • Rich in flavonoids

Quinoa is high in riboflavin and also two flavonoids are known as quercetin and kaempferol are extensively found in the grain.

They provide anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant effects in the body.

It improves energy metabolism within the cells of the body and creates proper energy production in the cells.

  • Good for the gut

According to a study conducted upon rats, it has been seen that quinoa protects the gastrointestinal tract. Polysaccharides present in the cell wall of quinoa showed gastroprotective activities against gastric lesions in rats.

This study helped in strengthening the theory that quinoa had anti-inflammatory properties that are good for our gut.

Not only the above-mentioned benefits, but quinoa also has other healthy advantages lined up on its sleeve. It is gluten-free, low in glycemic index and high in antioxidants.

Side effects of quinoa

Quinoa is packed with nutrition and loaded with health benefits, however, it has been observed there are some side effects of quinoa.

  1. It causes allergic reactions in people who are intolerant to quinoa.

The general symptoms of quinoa allergy are 

  • Inflammation of skin, lungs and digestive tracts and itchiness
  • Wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea and stomach pain
  1. Quinoa contains a compound known as saponin on the outer coat of the seed. If quinoa is consumed in large quantities it can cause digestive discomfort. The lining of the intestines can get affected and also cause a condition known as the leaky gut syndrome.
  2. Although not scientifically proven, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be restricted from the intake of quinoa.

How to use quinoa?

Due to the subtle nutty taste of quinoa, this grain can be used as a versatile ingredient.

The basic ratio to cook quinoa is one part dry quinoa to two-part liquids just like rice. Use quinoa as a salad dressing, or make quinoa patty out of it. One can do wonders with this magic ingredient. You can also add it to your soups and stews or just eat it plainly like a breakfast porridge.

There you go, everything about the new superfood quinoa. Comparing it with rice can be a little unjustifiable, however, adding it in the kitchen cabinet and incorporating it in your daily diet can be worth the try.

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