Quinoa has quickly surfaced as one of the most popular health foods. Originally cultivated in the Andes mountains of South America, quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein, fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E, various beneficial antioxidants and is one of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids.
Quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain, and is the principal protein source for rural Andean populations, substituting for the lack of animal protein. Moreover, due to its high protein content and amino acid profile, quinoa is suggested to be an alternative to dairy products. The high quality and balanced composition of amino acid content of its protein is superior to wheat, barley, and soybean. (1)
Here are some of the health benefits of quinoa:
High in Fiber – Quinoa has very high fiber content. Quinoa has a range of 10–16 grams of fiber per every 100 grams (2). Boiled quinoa contains much less fiber, gram for gram because it absorbs so much water. Fiber can help reduce blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, increase fullness and help with weight loss (3).
Gluten-Free – A gluten-free diet can be healthy, as long as it’s based on foods that are naturally gluten-free. You can use quinoa as an ingredient in gluten-free diets for people who don’t want to give up staples like bread and pasta. Using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free ingredients like refined tapioca, potato, corn and rice flour can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of your diet (4).
High in Protein – Protein is made of amino acids, nine of which are called essential, as your body cannot produce them and needs to obtain them through your diet. If a food contains all nine essential amino acids, it’s referred to as a complete protein. Quinoa contains sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids (5).
Mineral Uptake (The Good) – Quinoa is very high in 4 important minerals like iron and magnesium.
Mineral Uptake (The Bad) – Quinoa also contains a substance called phytic acid, which can bind minerals like zinc, iron and calcium, reducing their absorption (6). Quinoa is also high in oxalates, which can reduce the absorption of calcium and can cause problems for certain individuals with recurring kidney stones (7).
Help You Lose Weight – Quinoa can help you lose weight because it’s high in protein, which can both increase metabolism and reduce appetite significantly (8). Quinoa also has a low glycemic index which can help reduce calorie intake (9).