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by inKin
12 Jan

The Best Superfoods A-Z: Q is for Quinoa

Despite its super nutritional value, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has become fashionable among foodies in recent years earning its well-deserved place among the world's most popular healthy foods. NASA has even approved this nutritional powerhouse as an excellent food for the astronauts during their long-term space journeys.

 

Quinoa or as the Incas called it "the mother grain" has a 5000-year history and has originated with Incas on the South American Continent. This superfood of Inca civilization is naturally gluten-free and is packed with protein, fiber and all nine essential amino acids which our bodies could not produce by themselves. In fact, though quinoa pretends to be a grain, it is technically a seed. White, black, purple, red, orange, grey - quinoa grows in a rainbow of colors, and all of them have different taste, texture and nutritional value. Among them, white quinoa is the most widespread and works well with many dishes. Besides, it is cooked faster than the rest of the types and has milder flavor making it an incredible substitute to any dish. 

 

Nutritional Facts 

What makes quinoa such a unique superfood? Firstly, quinoa has a very high protein content making it a perfect food for people fighting high cholesterol. This protein is complete one which means that it contains all the nine essential amino acids which play a critical role in our body. Our cells, muscles and tissues need amino-acids to function properly. However, they can not be produced by our bodies naturally and could be obtained only through food which contains amino-acids. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), quinoa provides between 70-360% of amino acids necessary for our bodies. 

Another "hero" of quinoa nutrition chart is fiber. The amount of fiber is twice more compared with other grains beating even brown rice. 

Need vitamins and minerals? Quinoa is a good source of Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin C, B and E and plenty of others.  

One cup /185g/ of cooked quinoa contains 222 calories of which:  

 

  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fibre: 5 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams of which 0.42 grams is saturated
  • Complex carbohydrates: 39 grams

 

It also has the average daily intake rate of the following minerals and vitamins: 

  • Magnesium: 28%
  • Phosphorus: 40% 
  • Folate: 19% 
  • Copper: 40%  
  • Iron: 15 - 34 % 
  • Zinc: 18-25 % 
  • Potassium 7% 
  • Vitamins B1, B 6 - 18 % 

 

 

Health Benefits 

 

Metabolic Health 

One cup of cooked quinoa contains 5 grams of fiber which is 20 % percent of the recommended average daily intake rate, and this makes it an excellent food for your digestion system. Quinoa is also much more easily digestible than many other grains. Besides unlike many other grains, the complete protein in quinoas makes it a gluten-free food which is also excellent news for your metabolism.  

 

Longevity  

Want to live longer? A number of researches have shown that eating quinoa reduces the probability of premature death from various conditions. This is due to the fiber intake, which reduces the risk of mortality as well as the essential amount of magnesium. This mineral is crucial for the body's functioning as it is present in each and every cell of our body. 

 

Heart Health 

Including quinoa in your daily diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Quinoa contains soluble fiber which takes care of your heart by lowering the bad cholesterol level in the blood. Another powerful heart-strengthening component that quinoa contains is magnesium. It helps to improve blood flow, thus regulating several functions of the body. This superfood is also rich in types of antioxidants /e.g. polyphenol/and minerals /e.g. copper/ which are vital for protecting heart health. 

 

Weight Loss 

Quinoa is rich in vitamin B. The lack of this vitamin may lead to the slowing of metabolism and as a result weight gain. Quinoa is also satisfying due to the high level of fiber and protein. This helps to reduce the consumption of additional meals, thus resulting in weight loss. 

 

Blood Sugar Control 

What about the glycemic index of quinoa? This grain's glycemic index is 53 /low/ while the glycemic load is 11 /medium/. These figures make quinoa a friendly option for people with diabetes. Besides, the high level of fiber slows down the absorption of nutrients, helping the body's energy level rise gradually. This also makes it comfort food for people with diabetes. 

 

How to Cook?

The secret to perfect fluffy quinoa is the amount of water used while cooking. Use 2 cups of water or broth for one cup of quinoa. Bring the water to boil then lower the heat until all the liquid has been absorbed. Cover the pot only when most of the water has been absorbed. To be correct with the amount, keep in mind that quinoa expands in water. Another tip for the perfect quinoa dish is to wash it thoroughly before cooking. This will help to remove the special coat that covers quinoa called saponin, which gives this super grain the bitter taste. 

 

Quinoa and Spinach Salad

Are you looking for a healthy boost? This quinoa and spinach salad is a perfect fast-cooking and simple lunch option for meatless days. Just a few steps and - voila. It is ready!  

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of quinoa 
  • ⅓ cup tomatoes
  • 2 cups of chopped spinach 
  • ½ cup of almonds 
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon extra virgin oil
  • Salt and pepper

 

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly and boil with two cups of salted water. Drain and let it cool.   
  2. Chop the spinach, tomatoes and almonds and add to quinoa
  3. Toss olive oil and lemon juice
  4. Add salt and pepper. 

 

 

Photo Credit: Depositphotos

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