Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah; Spanish: quinua, from Quechua: kinwa), is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is not a true cereal like barley, as it is not a member of the true grass family. Quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, Swiss Chard, spinach and tumbleweeds. It is often referred to as “one of the Ancient grains” due to its unchanged characteristics over hundreds of years. The Ancient Incas labeled Quinoa as “the mother of all grains” and was first cultivated over 5000 years ago.
Quinoa comes in a range of colors like bright red (due to Betacyanin pigments), orange, pink, purple, tan, and black. Once cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy and slightly nutty.
Most quinoa consumed in the United States comes from South America countries like Peru and Bolivia, since cultivation is sparse in US states. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) designated the year 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa” considering its nutritional profile and the promise that it holds to fight malnutrition and hunger worldwide.
15 Health Wonders that make Quinoa the most Complete food on the Planet:
Quinoa provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein and is also considered organic.
- Protein-Rich Food: Quinoa is a complete protein food containing all nine essential amino acids.
- High Fiber Content: Twice as much as most other grains, Quinoa’s rich fiber (soluble and insoluble) relieves constipation, lowers cholesterol and glucose levels, and the risk of developing hemorrhoids. Makes you feel fuller for longer and is less “energy dense” which means it has fewer calories for the same volume of food.
- Reduces Diabetes Risk: Quinoa is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, and it’s unusually high protein-to-carbohydrate ratio and abundant soluble fiber, helps Quinoa to regulate blood sugar and slow the breakdown of carbohydrates to glucose. The phenolic acids, vitamin E compounds, cell wall polysaccharides, and other anti-inflammatory nutrients help reduce unwanted inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes risk.
- Lowers Cholesterol: Quinoa’s soluble fiber latches on to bile acids, expels them from the body, preventing its assimilation into the blood reducing total cholesterol, especially levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Quinoa is the best natural vegetarian protein alternative to animal-based protein.
- Controls Blood Pressure: Quinoa contains the highest levels of the mineral potassium of all grains, essential for stabilizing sodium blood levels, helping maintain blood pressure. Magnesium, a potent vasodilator, also helps to lower blood pressure levels.
- Supports Weight Loss: Fiber and protein levels in Quinoa increase satiety and the balanced blood sugar levels help reduce binge eating. Fiber aids the smooth accumulation and expulsion of waste through the intestines promoting gastrointestinal regularity. Quinoa provides a low calorie, low sugar, protein and fiber rich, healthy fat alternative.
- Rich in Iron: Iron rich Quinoa plays a critical in red blood cells and hemoglobin formation, supplies oxygen to your muscles enabling smooth contraction, and assists in neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, enzyme activity and energy metabolism.
- Loaded with Lysine: Lysine is an essential amino acid in Quinoa critical for tissue growth and repair, prevention and treatment of herpes infections and cold sores, increasing the intestinal absorption of calcium and eliminating it through the kidneys, increasing muscle mass, lowering glucose, and ameliorating angina.
- Source of Magnesium: Magnesium in Quinoa helps to relax blood vessels alleviating migraines, promotes healthy blood sugar control, transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.
- Rich Riboflavin Source: Quinoa’s B2 vitamin improves energy production in cells and helps reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers through increased energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells.
- Rich in Manganese: The Manganese in Quinoa is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.
- Antiseptic: The saponins present in Quinoa have potent wound healing powers. It significantly reduces inflammation, contracts the wound size, and increases collagen deposition to heal wounds quicker.
- Gluten-free: Quinoa, as a seed and not part of the grain family, is completely gluten-free. Gluten-free food is considered to be the only diet for people suffering from celiac disease and gluten allergy.
- Alkaline-forming: Quinoa helps maintain the alkaline balance in the body and has qualities comparable to wild rice, amaranth, and sprouted grains.
- Vitamins and Minerals Source: Quinoa is a super rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (oleic acid), omega-3 fatty acid (a-linolenic acid), antioxidant phytonutrients- flavonoids, manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper, selenium, Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, E, and soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Quinoa does contain oxalates, and sometimes in substantial amounts that can lead to kidney and gallbladder stones.
- The seeds have a natural coating of saponins which can lead to irritation in the stomach. Therefore quinoa must be rinsed properly before use.
- Quinoa may have antioxidant properties. Caution is advised when taking quinoa with other agents that have antioxidant properties.
- Quinoa may lower triglyceride concentrations, compared to gluten-free bread and pasta. Caution is advised in patients taking triglyceride-lowering agents.