Quinoa is native to the Andes of South America. It was cultivated by humans as early as 5,000 years ago and was regarded as “The Mother Of Grain” by the Incas. Quinoa is still one of the most popular health foods in the world.
Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that contains nine essential amino acids. It is also gluten-free. Thus, quinoa is an excellent substitute for rice and other refined carbohydrates.
What Is Quinoa?
Most people think that quinoa is a grain, but it is actually the seed of the green leafy plant of the genus Chenopodium Quinoa. It is also a member of the spinach and beet family. It is a “fake” grain because its nutritional content and its manner of consumption are the same as grains.
There are more than 120 different species of Chenopodium Quinoa, consisting of different seed colors. However, only three main varieties are commonly grown. The most common ones being white, red and black quinoa.
Studies have found that although white quinoa is more delicious, the vitamin E content of red quinoa and black quinoa is almost twice that of white quinoa. Black quinoa has the lowest fat content, but it also has the highest omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids.
1. White quinoa
It is the most common variety. Like its color, white quinoa usually has a milder taste than the other varieties. The texture is softer after being cooked. Therefore, many people use it as a substitute for rice.
2. Red quinoa
Red quinoa is similar to brown rice. It is more nutritious than traditional white quinoa. It has a richer taste and is chewier than other varieties. Red quinoa maintains a good shape during the baking process, so it is great for making baked goods and mixing in salads.
3. Black quinoa
The texture of black quinoa is firmer and the taste is sweeter. It is an ideal ingredient for making sweets (such as oatmeal and muffins).
The Nutritional Facts Of Quinoa
Generally speaking, quinoa is organically grown, non-GMO and gluten-free. Although it is not a grain from a botanical point of view, it is still counted as a whole-grain food.
NASA scientists have always considered it to be a crop suitable for growing in outer space. The main reasons are because quinoa is rich in nutrients and is easy to grow.
The nutritional content of 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa includes [*]:
- Carbohydrates: 39 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Manganese: 58% of RDA
- Magnesium: 30% of RDA
- Phosphorus: 28% of RDA
- Folate: 19% of RDA
- Copper: 18% of RDA
- Iron: 15% of RDA
- Zinc: 13% of RDA
- Potassium: 9% of RDA
- Vitamins B1, B2, and B6: More than 10% of RDA
- A small amount of Calcium, B3 (Niacin) and Vitamin E
- Total calories: 222
( Note: RDA refers to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, which is the number of calories and nutrients that should be contained in the daily diet recommended by the nutritional academic authority in various countries. )
Quinoa contains “complete protein”, that is to say, the protein in quinoa is composed of all 9 essential amino acids. Therefore, it is an excellent source of plant-based protein for vegetarians and vegans.
In addition, the fiber content in quinoa is much higher than in most grains. It’s also rich in flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Studies have shown that the content of quercetin in quinoa is even higher than that of typical high quercetin vegetarian foods such as cranberries.
Health Benefits Of Quinoa
Quinoa is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which are very beneficial to your physical and mental health.
Quinoa is high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, including phenolic acid, cell wall polysaccharides and vitamin E family nutrients, such as γ-tocopherol.
These nutrients help fight chronic inflammation, thereby reducing the risk of inflammatory diseases.
Quinoa also contains a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart health. Compared with ordinary grains, quinoa has a higher monounsaturated fat content.
2. Helps control blood sugar
Because quinoa is rich in fiber and protein, both of which can slow down the digestion process, it does not easily cause your blood sugar to spike.
Although quinoa contains carbohydrates, its glycemic index (GI) is only 53, which is a low-glycemic food. Therefore, it is very suitable for diabetics.
3. Can improve intestinal health
Quinoa is a prebiotic food. It can provide nutrients for the probiotics in your intestinal tract, which is beneficial to intestinal health.
Studies have shown that quinoa can prevent or improve colitis caused by dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) by regulating the balance of intestinal flora.
4. Suitable for people with gluten intolerance
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. For people with celiac disease, quinoa is a good substitute for other gluten-containing grains.
A gluten-free diet can be healthy, but only if it is based on naturally gluten-free foods. Gluten-free processed foods made from refined carbohydrates are not good for people’s health.
Adding quinoa to gluten-free foods has become a very popular practice. Quinoa can also increase the polyphenol content of foods. Polyphenolic nutrients help protect cells from free radical damage. In fact, most gluten-free foods lack polyphenols.
5. Helps with weight loss
In order to lose weight, the number of calories you consume must be less than the calories you burn. Therefore, eating foods that promote metabolism and reduce appetite can help you lose weight.
The good news is, quinoa happens to have these characteristics
Quinoa is rich in dietary fiber and high in protein. It not only promotes metabolism but also increases satiety and significantly reduces appetite, allowing you to consume fewer calories. [*]
In addition, quinoa has a low GI, which makes it difficult to induce appetite and stimulate hunger.
Is Quinoa Better For You Than Rice?
Rice has always been the most edible grain on the planet. It is loved by people because of its texture and taste. Quinoa has a texture similar to rice when cooked.
Both rice and quinoa are naturally gluten-free, both are good choices for those who are intolerant to gluten. However, the nutritional value of quinoa is much higher than that of rice.
- Quinoa’s glycemic index is lower than that of white rice, which means it won’t make your blood sugar levels soar.
- Quinoa is rich in fiber and protein, as well as other nutrients. A cup of quinoa contains twice as much protein as white rice.
- Quinoa contains fewer calories and carbohydrates.
- The dietary fiber contained in quinoa helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels.
- Quinoa contains complete protein (all 9 essential amino acids). It is high in lysine and tryptophan.
- Quinoa is much higher in mineral content such as calcium (three times), iron (five times), potassium (eight times) and manganese (two times) than rice. It also contains minerals not found in rice, such as magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
The Side Effects Of Quinoa
Quinoa is safe for most healthy people. However, some people may experience stomach aches, itchy skin, hives and other common food allergies after consuming quinoa.
This is because the seed coating of quinoa contains compound saponins, which may cause some physical discomfort.
In order to reduce the irritation of saponin, it is best to thoroughly wash or soak quinoa for a period of time before cooking it.
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How To Eat Quinoa
The way to cook quinoa is very similar to rice, but it takes less time.
As the quinoa shell contains saponins, it should be rinsed several times before use. Otherwise, it will have a bitter taste after cooking and may cause allergies.
Generally speaking, quinoa is three times the amount of raw quinoa when cooked.
The following tips can help you cook fluffy and delicious quinoa rice:
- The ratio of quinoa to water is 1:2. For example, add two cups of water to a cup of quinoa.
- Cook the quinoa at low heat until the water is absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and simmer for five minutes. When the time is up, use a fork to loosen the cooked quinoa and add it to your favorite recipe.
- Add some seasonings when cooking quinoa, such as salt, black pepper, chicken essence, garlic paste, etc., or directly use chicken broth or bone broth instead of water. This can make the cooked quinoa more delicious.
If you can’t finish quinoa, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or up to 2 months if it is stored in the freezer.
There are many ways to eat quinoa, for example:
- Eat as a substitute for rice.
- Add it to a vegetable salad.
- Make a bowl of nutritious and delicious breakfast porridge with some nuts or fruits.
- Put a handful of quinoa into your soup. Quinoa can improve the texture of soups and increase protein content. At the same time, quinoa can absorb the flavor of the soup.
- Add cooked quinoa to baking ingredients to make nutritious and healthy food.
The above are just a few examples. You can use your imagination and add quinoa to your daily diet to maximize health benefits according to your own preferences.