The obesity rate is definitely on the rise. Aside from expanding waistlines, more and more people are suffering from chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and stroke due to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Because of this trend, more people are becoming conscious of what they eat and slowly transition from processed foods and fast food burgers to superfoods that bring a lot of health benefits.
One of the foods that belong to the superfood category is quinoa. This superfood has been eaten and consumed for centuries yet is only starting to gain popularity for the past few years.
Learn everything you need to know about this superfood and find out why quinoa deserves a space in your kitchen cabinet and daily diet.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa, pronounced as kin-wah, comes from the family of goosefoot plants or Chenopodium. But did you know that quinoa is actually a SEED, not a grain? You read that right. Contrary to popular belief, this seed is a native of Bolivia, Chile and Peru and is derived from the Andes Mountains in South America, making it a staple food diet among South American countries.
History of quinoa
The history of quinoa dates back 4,000 years ago, particularly during the Incan period. It was referred to as “chisaya mama” or “mother of all grains” because of the beneficial vitamins and nutrients it contains. During the Spanish colonization, Incas were not allowed to cultivate the seed, thereby resulting in the “extinction” of quinoa. Eventually, the cultivation of the seed was restored and is now thriving in various locations in the region.
The quinoa plant can grow up to 2 metres tall with broad, powdery and alternating arranged leaves. The plant’s colour can range from purple, green or red, with its fruits varying from white to red to black.
When uncooked, the quinoa seeds can look like brown or reddish-brown beads.
Quinoa has a distinct, nutty taste that makes it appealing not just to dieters. If not prepared correctly, it can have a strong, bitter flavour that comes from the outer hull of the seed.
Quinoa Nutrition: A Closer Look
So you know that quinoa is healthy and good for your body. But the question is how healthy is it? Here is a list of the essential nutrients you can get when you add a cup or 185 grams of this superfood in your daily diet.
- Protein – 8.14 grams or 16% of the daily value
- Carbohydrates – 39.4 grams
- Fats – 3.4 grams
- Calories – 222 calories
- Iron – 15% of the suggested daily consumption
- Fibre – 5 grams or 21% of the daily value
- Magnesium – 30% of the daily value
- Phosphorus – 28% of the daily value
- Manganese – Almost 60%
- Copper – 18% of the daily value
Calories in Quinoa
¼ cup of quinoa contains 172 calories. Wondering how much calories does quinoa contain compares to other grains and seeds? Then check this out.
Grains / Seeds
|Amount of calories per ¼ cup|
|Brown jasmine rice||160|
|Steel cut, oats||150|
|Long grain brown rice||171|
Health Benefits of Quinoa
Wondering what quinoa can give to you and your health? Then here are ten health benefits of quinoa that will surely convince you to add this superfood in your daily routine.
- It is one of the most protein-rich foods available. Did you know that quinoa contains nine essential amino acids? In fact, its protein balance is similar to milk and has more protein content compared to rice or wheat. Who says you can only get protein from meat?
- It is rich in fibre content. Fibre is an important component of your diet. It helps to relieve constipation, lowers cholesterol and glucose levels and makes you feel fuller longer. The good news is quinoa is rich in fibre so you can get the said benefits with fewer calories for the same volume of food.
- It is a good source of riboflavin. If you have been suffering from migraines, then there is still hope for you. Quinoa is a good source of riboflavin, an essential nutrient that can help decrease the frequency of migraine attacks by boosting the energy metabolism within the muscles and your brain.
- It contains iron. Another essential component needed by the body is iron. It keeps your red blood cells healthy, carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies the needed oxygen to your muscles to aid in contraction. At the same time, it lessens the symptoms of anaemia. You can opt for iron supplements but there’s nothing wrong with going natural via quinoa, right?
- It is alkaline-forming. Quinoa is comparable to wild rice, amaranth and sprouted grains. Although it is not primarily alkaline-forming, it can still promote balanced pH levels in your body.
- It is antiseptic. Thanks to the saponins found in quinoa, you don’t have to worry anymore when it comes to skin injuries. In fact, this seed is used to promote healing of skin injuries in South America, thus a good antiseptic.
- It is rich in magnesium. Magnesium can help relax your blood vessels, relieve you from migraine attacks, promote healthy blood sugar control and regulate your body temperature among many others. You can experience all of these because quinoa is also rich in magnesium, thereby promoting optimum health.
- It fights the signs of aging. If you are looking for the fountain of youth, then quinoa can help. It contains manganese, a powerful antioxidant that helps slow down the aging process and reduce the appearance of fine line and wrinkles by destroying free radicals in your body.
- It supports your cardiovascular health. Again, a lot of people die because of poor cardiovascular health. The good news is quinoa is rich in manganese and fibre that can help support the activities of your heart. At the same time, eating quinoa regularly can reduce bad cholesterol and increase your HDL or good cholesterol. Not bad, right?
- It controls your blood sugar. Whether or not you have diabetes, adding quinoa is your regular diet is found to control your blood glucose levels. Hence, it can lessen sudden spikes in blood sugar during the day. The ultimate question:
Is Quinoa Good for Weight Loss?
Aside from the many health benefits, did you know that quinoa is also associated with weight loss? Here are five reasons why quinoa can be your best friend in facilitating your weight loss efforts and turning your flab into abs.
- It is rich in vitamins. Quinoa is packed with essential vitamins in minerals such as iron and vitamin B-12 that are essential for energy production and weight loss. Keep in mind that if you are deficient in B vitamins, your weight loss can be slowed down and your body won’t be able to synthesize nutrients efficiently.
- It makes you feel fuller, longer. Quinoa is also rich in dietary fibre and protein, which makes you feel fuller and less likely to binge on unhealthy foods. At the same time, the fibre component binds with fat and cholesterol, which causes your body to absorb less fat and cholesterol and help you lose weight.
- It has a low glycemic index. The glycemic index indicates how carbohydrates can affect your blood glucose. Since quinoa is low in this department, eating it will not cause your blood sugar to spike up and makes you crave less for sweets and refined bread in case it crashes.
- It is low in calories. Did you know that quinoa only has 222 calories per cup? So even if you ate three servings, you can still get more food with fewer calories than eating a single plate of pasta.
- It is gluten-free. Again, quinoa is NOT a grain, which means it does not contain gluten which can cause inflammation in the small intestines, especially when you are diagnosed with Celiac disease. Since quinoa is gluten-free, it can help you better in losing weight.
How to Cook Quinoa Properly – A Few Tips
The health benefits and taste of quinoa depend heavily on how you prepare and cook it. To make sure you enjoy all of these benefits, here are tips on how to properly prepare and cook this super seed.
- Before cooking, place the quinoa in a bowl and run cold water in it.
- Quinoa can have a bitter taste because of the natural covering of the seeds called saponin. To remove it, gently rub the seeds in your hands as it is soaked in a bowl of cold water. Taste a few seeds to check if they still have a bitter taste until there is no longer a bitter residue.
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer to remove heavy particles that may have developed to the base of the washing bowl.
- To cook the quinoa in a saucepan, add one part of the super seed to two parts of liquid and bring to a boil for 12 to 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to simmer and cover. You can also cook it in an Instant Pot and have it ready in a few minutes.
- To check if you prepared quinoa properly, the seeds will become translucent and the white germ must have partially detached itself, like a white spiralled tail.
- If you want to have a nuttier flavour, dry roast the quinoa by placing it in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes.
There are so many ways to enjoy quinoa. If you want added flavour, add some pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander and season to taste. You can even add it on your favourite vegetable soups, salads, sandwiches and even in cookies or muffins.
Easy Quinoa Breakfast Recipes
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s true. You need a power-packed meal to help you last through the day. However, you need to consider calories and fat, especially if you are underweight watch, without compromising your required nutrition. Here are some of the healthy and easy breakfast meals you can do to quinoa to pump you up as you start your day. Enjoy!
How to prepare: Heat ½ cup of quinoa and a cup of water for five minutes. Add 2/3 cup of chocolate soy milk then heat it for another 5 to 7 minutes on medium low fire until quinoa is soft. Remove from heat, stir in a tablespoon of cocoa powder and maple syrup (you can try brown rice syrup or agave nectar too) and banana slices.
How to prepare: Combine a cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water or vegetable broth in a saucepan, bring to simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until quinoa is thoroughly cooked. Set aside. In a non-stick pan, heat ½ cup of chopped onion and 4 ounces of spinach for about two minutes. Then in a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, cooked spinach and onion, 2 eggs, ¼ cup of grated cheese, ½ teaspoon of oregano, garlic powder and salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper. Spoon the mixture in a muffin tin, filling about ¼ cup and bake it for 20 minutes.
How to prepare: In a small saucepan, bring two cups of milk to a boil then add a cup of quinoa. Boil it for 15 minutes or until three-quarters of the milk has been absorbed. Stir in 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and cook for 8 minutes or until the milk has been absorbed. Add a cup of fresh blueberries and cook for 30 seconds. You can add more milk, sugar, cinnamon and blueberries to suit your taste.
More Healthy Quinoa Recipes
Quinoa tastes great on its own. However, don’t you just love adding it or preparing various dishes to fully enjoy your dining experience? After all, this superfood is a great choice not just for vegetarians but to anyone who loves to eat healthily. Here are more quinoa recipes you will surely love.
How to prepare: Simmer a cup of quinoa in 2 cups of vegetable broth or water until cooked. Add in fresh spinach and heat until spinach has wilted and quinoa is cooked. Remove from heat then add pesto and lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Greek Quinoa Salad with Artichokes and Feta How to prepare: Cook 1 ½ cups of quinoa in 3 cups of vegetable broth or water until tender. In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. In a separate bowl, toss quinoa with kalamata olives, parsley, cilantro, diced red onion and cherry tomatoes and season with salt pepper. Then add the olive oil mixture and gently stir in the feta cheese.
Garlic quinoa with Parmesan Cheese How to prepare: Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes then reduce the heat to medium-low. Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and a cup of quinoa and allow it to simmer until quinoa is cooked. Remove from heat, season with salt to taste and top it with Parmesan cheese. Easy, right?
How to prepare: Sautee garlic in olive oil then add chopped green onions. Add a cup of quinoa and two cups of vegetable broth or water, bring to a boil and allow quinoa to cook for about 20-25 minutes. Then add a cup of corn kernels, black beans and chilli powder to taste before quinoa is done cooking. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add chopped cilantro before serving.
How to prepare: Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan and sauté onion and thyme until the onion is tender. Add artichokes and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add a cup of low sodium chicken broth and ½ cup of quinoa, cover and cook until liquid is completely absorbed. Remove pan from heat and add in parsley, grated lemon rind, fresh lemon juice and salt then serve.
How to prepare: Sautee chopped shallots in a pan until tender. Then add two cups of water, 1/3 cup dry white wine and salt and bring to a boil. Add 1 ¾ cup of quinoa, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice and pepper. Add quinoa, dried sweet cherries, roasted pistachios, fresh mint and fresh parsley and toss gently to combine.
How to prepare: In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup water and salt and bring to a boil. Add 1 ½ cup of quinoa and simmer until liquid is absorbed. Add 3 tablespoons of parsley, olive oil and black pepper then remove from heat. In a separate saucepan, sauté 3 cups of leek in olive oil until wilted. Add shiitake mushroom caps, bell pepper and ¼ cup dry white wine and cook until vegetable is tender. Add in salt and pepper to taste. In shallow bowls, place quinoa and top it with vegetable mixture and walnuts then serve.
Take home message
Surely, quinoa is a superfood with lots of health benefits. However, the key is not overeating. Despite its weight loss benefits, eating too much of this may not be good for you so take it easy.