Food & Diet
6 Reasons Why You Should Incorporate Quinoa into Your Daily Diet
WHAT IS QUINOA?
“Quinoa is one of the oldest grains in the world”. This statement is only half true however, because it’s not really a grain, but a seed. Related to plants such as chard and spinach, quinoa has been cultivated in South America for 5,000 years. It has gained global popularity since being touted as a “superfood” a few years ago by the health industry. With great reason too and here are 6 of them that should convince you to use quinoa more often:
1. QUINOA IS VERY NUTRITIOUS
Quinoa is incredibly nutritious. For such a tiny thing, each grain contains more vitamins and minerals than you would expect it to. It is a good source of iron, copper, protein, fiber, vitamin B6 and thiamin. Quinoa is also an excellent source of folate, magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. According to Kelly Toups of the Whole Grains Council, food will qualify as a “good source” of a nutrient if it contains at least 10% of the daily requirement of that nutrient. It will qualify as an “excellent source” when it reaches at least the 20% mark. Below are some nutritional facts from one cup, or 185g of quinoa from Authoritynutrition.com.
- Potassium: 9% of the RDA
- At least 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6
- Zinc: 13% of the RDA
- Iron: 15% of the RDA
- Copper: 18% of the RDA
- Folate: 19% of the RDA
- Phosphorous: 28% of the RDA
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA
- Manganese: 58% of the RDA
- Quinoa also contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cup
- It also contains trace amounts of calcium, niacin and vitamin E
2. QUINOA IS A COMPLETE PROTEIN
You read that right, quinoa is one of the very rare plants that actually have all 9 amino acids in them. It is a great protein substitute for meat, especially for people who lead vegan and vegetarian lifestyles and even for those who would just like to have the weekly meatless Mondays. One of the most important amino acids that plants usually lack is lysine. One of its major roles is in the synthesis of carnitine, a compound responsible for converting fatty acids into energy and helping lower cholesterol naturally. People who get their protein from plants will usually be deficient in this particular amino acid, which is why it is a great idea for vegetarians and omnivores alike to have at least two to three servings of quinoa every day.
3. CONTAINS FLAVONOIDS
As if being highly nutritious and being an excellent source of high quality protein wasn’t enough, quinoa is an abundant source of antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients, often responsible for the rich pigmentation in fruit and other plants. These compounds have been found to prevent certain types of cancer and prevent the development of atherosclerosis. Quinoa is especially rich in the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin has been found to relieve hay fever, sinusitis, asthma and even skin problems such as eczema. Kaempferol is a strong antioxidant that prevents oxidative degradation in our cells and DNA. Studies have confirmed that kaempferol is a chemopreventive agent, meaning that it inhibits the formation of cancer cells.
4. VERY HIGH IN FIBER
Although not really a grain, quinoa is still considered a “whole grain” because it is sold and consumed with all the parts of the seed intact. Like other whole grains, quinoa is highly rich in fiber. It contains 2.5g of soluble fiber and an average of 22g of insoluble fiber per cup. Soluble fiber attracts water and expands in your stomach, helping you feel full longer and eventually leading to weight loss. Some soluble fibers have also been found to lower cholesterol levels through regular consumption. Insoluble fiber mainly adds bulk to the stool and allows for better digestion. Since our physicians are always telling us to eat more fiber, quinoa should be able to do the trick.
5. QUINOA IS GLUTEN FREE
This is an especially important reason to include quinoa in the diet for those who have celiac disease. An autoimmune disease that makes it difficult for the small intestine to absorb nutrients from your food, celiac disease is often aggravated by gluten. And guess who’s completely gluten free – quinoa! Gluten is an allergen for some people, unfortunately it’s quite difficult to avoid it. It is found in cookies, pastries, pasta, pizza, and just about anything that can contain wheat. Quinoa can be a great go-to substitute for those who are gluten intolerant.
6. QUINOA HAS A LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX
Carbohydrates are an important part of our diet. In fact, the traditional food group pyramid suggests that a majority of our diet should be comprised of carbohydrates. But why do carbohydrates get such a bad rap? This is because a lot of the carbs we consume are refined carbohydrates and refined carbs are notoriously high on the glycemic index. Food high on the glycemic index is food that is immediately broken down into simple sugars which increases blood insulin levels. The long term consequences of high GI food consumption are obesity and type II diabetes to name a few. Quinoa has none of these downsides. Yes, it has carbohydrates, but the high fiber content and the nature of the carbohydrates in quinoa stabilizes blood glucose levels instead of inducing spikes and crashes.
Another great thing about quinoa is that it is quite easy to incorporate into the diet. It can be used as a grain, a cereal (cold or warm), as a source of protein in a salad or as a warm side dish. Others have even incorporated quinoa into snacks and desserts. The possibilities are endless with quinoa making it a breeze to add it to your meals.
I don’t personally believe in “superfoods”, I am a staunch believer in just eating a balanced diet containing whole and natural foods as opposed to eating one type of food that’s supposed to fix everything. But for quinoa, I might make an exception.
Absurdly rich in most everything your body might need, quinoa is indeed quite super.