QUINOA: 5 Health Benefits of the Gluten-Free Protein Food
Quinoa, pronounced “keen-wah,” is a very healthy gluten-free and high-protein food that is actually not new to most people in South American regions, where it’s reportedly been harvested and used as a staple in their diet for some 7,000 years! Quinoa seeds are from a native and abundant flowering plant and, while the grain may look like a type of cereal, it’s actually not technically a grain or grass at all. Technicalities aside, however, quinoa benefits are so numerous that you might consider adding it to your diet in place of your favorite breakfast food, or in many of your everyday recipes! Let’s take a look at quinoa food and what it actually is so you know how to include it in your diet, and then check out 5 reasons why you want to get more of it in what you eat every single day.
What is the quinoa grain?
As said, quinoa is actually a seed from a certain type of flowering plant that is very common in South America; the plant itself is a bit brown and dull and not the most attractive of flowers, but the seed is harvested and then dried and used like many grains and cereals, as it’s similar to oats and rice. You can have quinoa grain plain with cold milk and perhaps some fruit as you would any other type of cereal, or boil it like you would oatmeal and add a touch of honey.
The seed is almost completely flavorless but it absorbs the taste of food around it, so recipes for quinoa usually include just adding it to other soups and stews, in order to give them some bulk and added fiber but without taking away from the taste. You can also grind quinoa seeds and use it in recipes for pasta, as a gluten-free, low-calorie substitute. Before you decide on how you’ll use this seed, let’s look at 5 quinoa benefits you can enjoy in your everyday diet.
- The quinoa grain is high in protein
Many people think you only get protein from animal products, but this isn’t the case. You can get protein from legumes, vegetables like broccoli, and quinoa. The protein in this grain is complete, meaning it contains all nine amino acids that you find in animal protein, so you lack nothing in protein nutrition when you choose quinoa over any other source. A cup of quinoa provides about 220 grams of protein, equivalent to an average egg. For those looking to reduce their meat consumption, you can get all the protein you need with quinoa foods without all the fat of beef and pork products.
- High in healthy fiber
Fiber is needed for your body to break down foods and absorb them into your body’s bloodstream; without enough fiber in your system, you may not get enough vitamins and trace minerals from the foods you eat. Fiber also absorbs water and holds it in your digestive tract while the body breaks down those foods, so they move through the system much easier. Fiber also makes you feel full long after eating, so you’re less likely to overeat or snack between meals, helping you to control your portions and your eating and keep your weight healthy as well.
Quinoa benefits include about 5 grams of fiber per cooked cup. Note that men are recommended to get about 30 grams of fiber per day, and women should get about 25 grams. That means you get a lot of your recommended quinoa fiber from one bowlful for breakfast every day!
- Heart healthy fats
Your body needs a certain level of healthy fats for your organs and muscles, and this includes the muscle of the heart. Without enough fat in your system, your muscles cannot absorb protein and the vital nutrients needed to repair and restore heart tissue. Quinoa cereal has a healthy amount of omega-3, a healthy fat that is needed to help the heart absorb the nutrients it needs, but without the risk of cholesterol building up in the system and clogging your arteries.
- Abundance of antioxidants
Antioxidants are high concentrations of vitamins and trace minerals that specifically fight free radicals, damaging agents from the atmosphere that cause cellular breakdown. Quinoa health benefits include high concentrations of many antioxidants called flavonoids. These are a plant-based compound that have been shown to help rebuild cells and tissues of the body, and protect them from breakdown from free radicals like cigarette smoke, air pollution, and chemical compounds.
- Trace minerals and B vitamins
Many people don’t get enough trace minerals like magnesium, potassium, and copper, since these are often processed out of foods they eat, and since more and more people are choosing meatless diets without substituting foods that are high in these essential elements. Cooking with quinoa can mean adding these trace minerals back into your diet, as quinoa cereal and grains are full of trace minerals as well as B vitamins. This family of vitamins is needed for healthy red and white blood cell production, energy, and the proper absorption of glucose into the body’s bloodstream. By adding more quinoa seeds to your diet, you get all these essential elements and this very important family of vitamins without the fat and calories of meat, and without any gluten!
Remember that you don’t necessarily need actual quinoa recipes to enjoy this healthy seed. You can add a handful to a pot of soup or stew for bulk and fiber, or mix it with your morning oatmeal as it cooks if you don’t like its overall flavor. You might also try some ways to dress up the taste; when boiled on its own, quinoa may have a slightly nutty flavor that is enhanced with just a touch of butter or honey. Some even like the seeds whole and raw; you can add them to a salad or sprinkle them on top of cottage cheese for a healthy and crunchy treat. With all the health benefits of quinoa, it pays to get creative with how you’ll use it in your everyday diet and cooking!