Quinoa, pronounced as keen-wah, has come a long way from being the sacred food of the Incans to the healthiest food on the block. Quinoa is one of the rare plant-based sources of complete protein and is gluten-free. It is the staple crop of South America and has been recognized as the “super crop” by the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization due to its rich nutrient profile.
Although the slightly nutty flavored and quick cooking seeds are easily available in India and other parts of the world, it is not being grown widely yet. Read about what it is known as in Indian language, here.
With looks similar to couscous, quinoa is often confused to be a grain because of the way it is cooked and consumed. Technically quinoa is a seed or a pseudo cereal like amaranth and buckwheat. Read more about whether Quinoa is a seed or grain here.
Quinoa is amazingly nutritious and half a cup of cooked quinoa –
- Offers same calorie content as brown rice but provides more fiber and protein
- Contribute to your daily intake of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate and copper.
- Provides B-complex vitamins
1. Offers Complete Protein packed with all the essential amino acids
Quinoa is one of the rare plant-based foods that provide high quality protein to the body. It is a rich source of all the essential amino acids including lysine and isoleucine that the body cannot produce on it own. The remarkable profile of quinoa makes it a preferred choice for vegetarians and vegans to meet the daily requirement of protein. A cup of uncooked quinoa provides approx 24g of protein.
2. Gluten-free for individuals with Celiac disease
Gluten-free food alternatives are often recommended to individuals suffering from extreme gluten intolerance. It often includes corn and potato flour products along with pseudo cereal options like buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa. Quinoa is the preferred grain over corn and potato, providing carbohydrates and fiber along with iron and protein that most other gluten-free grains lack.
3. Rich in anti-oxidants
Research has shown that quinoa is an anti-oxidant powerhouse. It has high concentration of flavonoids, a type of anti-oxidants, mainly Quercetin and Kaempferol. These anti-oxidants are helpful in flushing out toxins, reducing signs of aging and preventing diseases like cancer, heart diseases and arthritis, to name a few. Sprouting the seeds is found to further increase the anti-oxidant level.
4. Rich in fiber
A cup of cooked quinoa contains approx 21% of the recommended daily intake of fiber, which is almost twice as much most other grains. Fiber is best known for promoting gut health and relieving constipation. It’s also helpful in reducing the risk of heart diseases by lowering high blood pressure. Fiber also lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
5. Helpful in relieving migraine pain and reduce frequency
Magnesium deficiency can cause migraine pains and is often prescribed to treat and prevent migraine. Quinoa is a rich source of magnesium, providing nearly one fifth of the daily requirement in just half a cup. Research shows that improvement in magnesium levels can significantly lower the frequency of migraines.
6. Supports weight loss
The high fiber and protein content in quinoa is well known in supporting weight loss. Protein helps boosts metabolism due to high protein and works alongside fiber to fight hunger pangs. The low glycemic index of quinoa is also helpful in regulating blood sugar levels and reducing cravings. It is also a low fat option in comparison to most grains.
The nutritional powerhouse is loaded with anti-oxidants that are responsible for removal of harmful free radicals from the body. These anti-oxidants reduce signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. A quick quinoa face-pack can also be helpful in reducing sun damage and revitalizing the skin.
8. Makes skin supple
Rich in collagen, a protein that gives shape to the skin cells, quinoa can rejuvenate your skin by boosting elasticity of the skin and reducing wrinkles. The skin looks much younger and supple by including quinoa in your daily diet. Vitamin E and B12 found in quinoa also help in reducing dark spots and pigmentation.
9. Fights acne
Quinoa is a natural way to prevents acne. It works by reducing the secretion of sebum (oil) along with its low glycemic index that is responsible for fighting acne.
10. Nourishes hair follicles
A rich source of protein, quinoa is an excellent way to get rid of your hair problems. Since hair is mostly made up of protein, a diet rich in protein will strengthen the roots, reduce hair fall and make them fuller and healthier.
11. Treats dandruff
Vitamin E found in quinoa, balances the generation of natural oils and perfectly hydrates your scalp and strands, reducing chances of dandruff. Other nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and iron are also important for moisturizing the scalp.
12. Restores original color of hair
An amino acid known as “tyrosine”, responsible for producing melanin, is found in abundance in quinoa. Melanin is the natural pigment that gives hair and skins its color. Since quinoa supplies plenty tyrosine and thus melanin, it aids in restoration of your true hair color.
Quinoa is a great food not just for vegetarians and vegans, but for anyone looking to include more healthy and nutritious whole grains in their diet.
She is a lover of yoga and satire and has always been fascinated about nutrition and healthy living, but the real journey of research started after giving birth to two kids. She wanted to pass on good eating habits and balanced diet for their holistic growth, and started writing as a resource for others interested in the same.
Namrata currently lives in Bangalore.
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