Quinoa is an ancient Peruvian seed that has become hugely popular in the recent years, thanks to its gluten free-qualities. This versatile seed has a mild flavor, so you can use it to cook many dishes. It contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it superior to most grains. Other than being rich in lysine, it is also a good source of iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin A. Quinoa health benefits include healthy bone, healthy heart, lower risk of diabetes, digestion improvement, weight loss food, etc.
Let us learn in detail about quinoa health benefits.
1. It’s highly nutritious
Quinoa, which is considered to be a pseudocereal or pseudo-grain, has remarkable nutritional properties (1). Quinoa is a relative of the spinach or chard. The part we consume is the seed of this plant which we can cook like rice.
- Total calories: 222
- Carbs: 39 grams
- Fats: 4 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Manganese: 58% of Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
- Magnesium: 30% of RDA
- Phosphorus: 28% of RDA
- Folate: 19% of RDA
- Copper: 18% of RDA
- Iron: 15% of RDA
- Zinc: 13% of RDA
- Potassium: 9% of RDA
- Vitamin B1, B2, and B6: Over 10% of RDA
- Small amounts of calcium, niacin and vitamin E
Quinoa is a complete source of protein; it contains all nine amino acids. In fact, 2013 was declared as The International Year of Quinoa by the UN for its potential in the eradication of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty (3).
2. It’s gluten-free
Quinoa is helpful for people who follow a gluten-free diet. Since it is nutritionally dense, it provides higher amounts of antioxidants than any other grain in a gluten-free diet.
According to a 2009 study, people with celiac disease who have to adhere to a gluten-free diet often end up with nutritional deficiencies.
While rice is the chosen grain for many of them, it cannot take care of all their dietary needs. By shifting to quinoa, they were able to meet their needs for protein, iron, calcium, and fiber (4).
In fact, incorporating quinoa into gluten-free products improves their polyphenol content as compared to other gluten-free ingredients like tapioca, corn, and potato.
- Suggested read: 12 Common Gluten Intolerance Symptoms
3. Great for your heart
One of the best health benefits of quinoa is that it can help in maintaining a healthy heart. The anti-inflammatory properties of quinoa make it an ideal addition to your diet.
Quinoa contains 4 grams of fat per cup, of which 25 percent is oleic acid, and 8 percent is alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Alpha-linolenic acid is known to reduce the risk of death from heart attacks.
Magnesium is known for its role in preventing hypertension (5). Research has also shown that deficiency of magnesium increases the hormone antiotensin II, which is responsible for increasing blood pressure.
Quinoa also contains Butyrate, which can slow down or stop the spread of atherosclerosis, a condition that causes the arteries to become narrow and thus restrict the blood flow (6).
Quinoa also contains potassium, which helps in lowering blood pressure.
4. Promotes healthy bone growth
Manganese helps improve bone density, which helps in preventing fractures. Magnesium is also essential for healthy bones.
Quinoa is also a rich source of phosphorus which combines with calcium to form mineral crystal which gives strength and structure to our bones (8).
5. Reduces risk of diabetes
One of the biggest health benefits of quinoa is seen in maintaining healthy blood sugar level. One cooked cup of quinoa can provide 58 percent of our daily requirement of manganese.
Manganese helps in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of diabetes. According to one study on mice, researchers observed that manganese supplementation in the diet could increase insulin secretion, which improves glucose tolerance (9).
Quinoa is rich in butyrate, a fatty acid that inhibits the inflation related to insulin resistance (10).
Magnesium is also associated with lower risk of type-2 diabetes (11). One cup of cooked quinoa can provide you with 30 percent of your daily needs for magnesium.
According to study on 12 patients with type-2 diabetes, scientists observed that quinoa has high potential to improve glucose tolerance and should be introduced in their daily diet (12).
6. Improves digestive health
Quinoa contains insoluble fiber which is helpful in promoting digestive health. It helps in reducing bloating, constipation, flatulence and pain. In a 2016 study quinoa and amaranth were studied for their role as prebiotics.
Scientist discovered that both these pseudocereals could improve gastrointestinal health by balancing the levels of good bacteria function (13).
Low levels of butyrate are linked to inflammatory gut diseases like IBS, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Since quinoa is a rich source of butyrate, it helps in reducing inflammation in the gut and reducing the risk of these diseases.
This fatty acid also causes the death of the abundant T cells that produce colonic inflammation (14).
7. Helps prevent migraines
Low levels of magnesium in the body are linked to migraines. According to the National Institute of Health, low levels of magnesium in the brain can affect changes in the brain blood vessels and trigger migraines.
Including quinoa in your diet can improve the magnesium levels. According to research, including magnesium in your diet can reduce the frequency of migraines by 41 percent.
Quinoa also contains riboflavin, which is recommended by many doctors for reducing migraines.
8. May help fight cancer
Quinoa is an excellent source of anti-oxidants, which gives it anti-cancer properties (15). This superfood contains saponins which have been useful in causing cell death glioblastoma, leukemia and lymphoma cells (16).
Quinoa also contains lunasin, a peptide which is known for its ability to bind to and break apart cancer cells. According to lab tests, lunasin kills only cancer cells and leaves the healthy cells untouched (17).
Quercetin is another antioxidant which is known for stopping the spread of lung cancer (18). Quinoa contains the highest amount of quercetin found in any food.
9. Helps to lose weight
You can ignore quinoa health benefits when weight loss is a big concern for you. Quinoa is a rich source of protein which helps boost metabolism and reduce appetite (19). It is also rich in fiber, which helps in making you feel full. Hence, you end up consuming fewer calories.
Quinoa also influences hormones like gherkin, peptide YY, and insulin, which play a role in regulating appetite.
Another reason why quinoa may help lose weight is that it contains manganese. Manganese affects digestive enzymes and makes it easy for the body to digest food.
10 Rich sources of antioxidants
According to a study that analyses the antioxidant content of five kinds of cereal, three pseudocereals, and two legumes, quinoa has the highest antioxidant content of all (20).
Quinoa is a rich source of bioflavonoids, which are known for their role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
Quinoa also contains quercetin, kaempferol, vanillic acid and ferulic acid, which are essential for reduction of inflammation.
Quinoa health benefits are undeniable, but there are a few health risks associated with this superfood.
1. Fiber can lead to stomach ailments
You can eliminate this problem by slowly increasing your intake of quinoa and drinking plenty of water.
2. Saponins can damage intestines
The outer layer of the quinoa seeds contains substances called saponins. Saponins have a bitter taste and can cause damage to the intestines. Rinse the quinoa seeds several times before you use them to avoid any problems.
3. Adverse reaction to prolamins
Quinoa seeds do not contain any gluten which is great for people with wheat allergy and celiac disease. However, some types of quinoa seeds include prolamins, which can trigger an immune reaction in people with celiac disease.
4. Oxalate can cause kidney stones
Quinoa also contains a substance known as oxalate which can bind with calcium and cause kidney stones (20). If you have a history of kidney stones, you are at a higher risk of more stones in the future if you eat food that contains oxalate.
5. Lower absorption of minerals
Quinoa contains phytates, which lower the absorption of iron and zinc in the body. Washing the seeds before you cook them can lessen the presence of phytates in quinoa seeds.
Final thoughts on quinoa health benefits
Quinoa health benefits are acknowledged by masses. It is a superfood that is also a complete source of protein. In a nutshell, quinoa has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps the body fight against diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart ailments and helps in weight loss.