“Mother of all grains” is what the Incas called it. And it took us a few thousand years to realize how great of a food it is: Quinoa. You’ve probably heard about it from a few dietitians who strongly recommend it. But what is it exactly? And what superpowers does it have?
Quinoa is a pseudo-grain that grows in South America. I say pseudo because it doesn’t really fit in the same category as grains. It is more the seed of a plant. With 2mm in diameter, it comes in various colors from white, red to black depending on the cultivar.
Just like other grains, it is high in carbs (70%) and fibers. However, it stands out because of its high protein content (15%). In fact, it contains all 9 essential amino acids including Lysine which you can’t normally find in cereals and which are low in legumes. 55-65% of its fats are polyunsaturated or what we usually call “the good fats”. Aside from the macronutrients, quinoa is rich in vitamins and minerals: Vitamin B2, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc and copper.
No need to speculate about its benefits, I will just go ahead and state them for you!
Benefits of Quinoa
1. It loves your heart!
Quinoa contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and 6). The latter have proved to be very beneficial for the heart. They reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good one (HDL). They protect you from cardiovascular disease.
Besides, it is rich in soluble fibers which help reduce cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. In fact these fibers help eliminate cholesterol from the body and regulate blood glucose.
A study conducted at Harvard showed that the high fiber content of whole grain cereals [such as quinoa] can reduce heart failure risk of 29%.
Finally, the intake of magnesium, mineral known for relaxing the body, can help reduce arterial hypertension.
Quinoa can help your body fight free radicals and prevent cellular damage. This is possible thanks to copper (antioxidant) and manganese which is the cofactor of an important antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase.
3. Fights cancer
According to the UK women’s cohort study, a diet rich in fibers can help reduce risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. Yes! It’s true! A high intake of fibers (>30g/day) results in a 52% lower risk of breast cancer for women.
Insoluble fibers also protect against colon cancer by speeding intestinal transit time. Basically, your fecal material will navigate faster through the colon and the impact between the colon membrane and the toxins will be less likely. Conclusion: lower cancer risk!
4. No more constipation
Of course, this is due to the high fiber content!
5. Great for vegetarians
As we’ve discussed in a previous post, vegetarians need good sources of proteins, iron and zinc. And that’s exactly why quinoa is the right choice for them. The quality of its proteins is as good as meat. And even though its iron is not very well absorbed by the body, the addition of a source of vitamin C such as a squeeze of lemon juice can fix that problem.
This cereal does not contain gluten. It is suitable for people who suffer from gluten intolerance or what we call the celiac disease.
It is also believed that quinoa can reduce gallstones because of its fiber content and migraine because of its magnesium. In fact, the latter prevents constriction of blood vessels responsible for that intolerable headache.
How do I integrate it in my diet?
First of all, I’m sure you’re thinking: “It’s such a good food for the body, I’m sure it tastes like…” don’t say it! Because I can assure you it doesn’t! It is very tasty. Even its leaves are edible. However, they’re hard to find on the market.
You can find the grain mainly in organic food stores in forms of flour, flakes (such as breakfast cereals), grains that you can cook like other cereals, milk or powder.
The positive thing (or an extra positive thing) about quinoa is it can be used in sweet and salty recipes.
- The dough can be used to make cakes or muffins; it can also be used to make a pizza or a bread loaf.
- It can replace bulgur in Tabbouleh.
- It can be eaten as such like nuts.
- It can replace rice in all recipes such as risotto or stews.
- You can just sprinkle it on any salad.
Highly nutritious, great taste and let’s say that with your creativity, you can use it almost anywhere! Indeed it is a very precious food. So try it and let us know what you thought of it!