Quinoa has gained popularity as a health food in the last few years. It’s crunchy texture, and nutty flavour has made it a favourite of many. Since these seeds are gluten-free, even those people who are sensitive to gluten can enjoy this superfood. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is called a superfood as it contains more protein than any other seed or grain (1). It contains all nine essential the amino acids. It is also rich in calcium, lysine, vitamin B and iron. These flat, oval seeds can be consumed as porridge or can be added to salads and soups. Let us read some more about quinoa nutrition facts before we add them to our daily diet.
Cooked quinoa nutrition facts ( One cup -185 grams) (2)
- Calories: 222
- Fats: 4 grams
- Total carbs: 39 grams of which 5 grams are dietary fibres
- Protein: 8 grams
- Folate: 19 % DV (daily value)
- Vitamin B6: 11% DV
- Thiamin: 13% DV
- Riboflavin: 12 % DV
- Manganese: 58% DV
- Magnesium: 30 % DV
- Phosphorus: 28 % DV
- Copper: 18 % DV
Quinoa is a complete protein source
Quinoa is a considered to be a source of complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids. It is a good source of lysine, which is usually missing in a vegetarian diet. Quinoa also contains methionine and histidine (3).
Since quinoa does not contain gluten, it is an excellent source of protein for those who are gluten sensitive.
Though quinoa resembles grains, it is actually a seed (4). It is harvested from the goosefoot plant which grows in Andean highlands of South America. A one cup serving of quinoa contains 39 grams of carbs, which is comparable to brown rice which contains 44 grams of carbohydrates.
- Suggested read: 21 Best Low Carb Vegetables to Help You Lose Weight
Quinoa is an excellent food to include in your diet, even if it a low-carb one. It also contains dietary fibre which slows down digestion and helps prevent blood sugar spikes.
Glycemic index is the measure of how fast your blood sugar rises after a meal. The high glycemic index is linked to obesity. Thanks to the presence of dietary fibre, quinoa has a relatively low glycemic index score of 53 (5).
Quinoa contains double the amount of fibre as compared to other grains. In fact, the fibre content in cooked quinoa (2.8 %) is even more than that of brown rice (1.8 %) and yellow corn (2.4%) (6).
Almost 10 percent of the dry weight of quinoa comes from fibre, which mostly consists of insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre promotes better gut health and also helps in weight control (8).
One cup of quinoa (185 grams) contains only 4 grams of fats. Only 32 calories of the 222 calories in one cup of quinoa come from fats. Quinoa seeds include oleic, linoleic acid and palmitic acids (9).
Although the fat content in quinoa is higher than other grains, it is not a high-fat food. It contains healthy fat and not the unhealthy unsaturated variety.
Quinoa seeds are an excellent source of many vitamins. One cup of quinoa contains nearly 10 percent of the daily recommended allowance of riboflavin (vitamin B2). Vitamin B2 helps in the functioning of a range of enzymes. It is deficiency can cause anaemia, skin rashes and sensitive eyes.
Quinoa is also packed with folate which is essential for pregnant women (10). One cup of quinoa can provide 19% of your daily requirement for folate.
Quinoa also has Vitamin B6, which is essential for vitamin B3 and synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin. A cup of cooked quinoa provides 13 percent of our daily requirement of thiamine. This vitamin is essential for getting the energy to the cells in the body.
This superfood also contains many minerals which are required by our body. One cup of quinoa contains 58 percent of the daily requirement of manganese. Manganese is essential for proper functioning of many enzymes (11). Magnesium too is an essential mineral for our body and quinoa is abundant in this mineral (12).
Copper is also an essential mineral for heart health that we can add to our diet by consuming quinoa. Phosphorus, iron and zinc are some of the other minerals that are found in quinoa.
Antioxidants and plant compounds
Quinoa seeds contain antioxidants and plant compounds that can affect our health. In fact, this superfood is richer in antioxidants than many other grains and legumes (13). Here are some of the main ones.
This plant compound is what gives quinoa its bitter taste (14). You can get rid of it by washing the quinoa seeds before cooking.
Phytic acid can inhibit the absorption of iron and zinc in our body.
This powerful antioxidant protects us against diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases (15).
This polyphenol antioxidant helps in reducing the risk of cancer (16).
Oxalates present in quinoa can increase the chances of kidney stone formation.
Health benefits of quinoa
Quinoa has been given the status of superfood as it is nutrient rich and helps lower the risk of many ailments. Let us look at some of them.
1. Ideal for people allergic to gluten
Quinoa is ideal for people who are allergic to gluten, like those with celiac disease. Not only is it safe for those who need to consume a gluten-free diet, but it also provides them with a lot of nutrients and antioxidants (17).
2. Reduces risk of diabetes
Whole grains like quinoa help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, while refined carbs raise this risk. A study was done recently to compare the effects of quinoa and traditional gluten-free products. The study found that quinoa is much better in reducing blood triglycerides and free fatty acids than gluten-free bread or pasta (18).
Quinoa is high in protein which helps boost metabolism (19). Its high fibre content makes you feel fuller for longer and helps reduce appetite. The low glycemic index of quinoa has also been linked to the low-calorie intake.
4. Improves heart health
Quinoa is considered good for reducing the risk of heart disease. It contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants which are suitable for heart health.
5. Improves digestion
Quinoa contains insoluble fibre which helps improve the digestive health. It helps in reducing constipation, bloating, flatulence and pain.
6. Prevents migraines
Low levels of magnesium are linked to migraines (a magnesium deficiency symptom). Quinoa is a rich source of magnesium, so it helps prevent migraines.
Quinoa has very few health risks and can be eaten safely by most people. Let us look at some of the harmful effects of quinoa.
1. Lowers absorption of minerals
The presence of phytates in quinoa can reduce the absorption of iron and zinc in the body. Washing or soaking quinoa seeds before cooking them can help reduce the levels of phytates in them.
2. May cause kidney stones
Quinoa contains high amounts of oxalates. Dietary oxalates contribute to the formation of kidney stones as they are associated with low calcium intake (20).
3. May cause stomach irritation
Saponins, a plant compound that coats quinoa seeds and gives it a bitter taste can irritate the stomach. So, wash the seeds before you cook them.
Quinoa is a highly nutritious food and can benefit you immensely if you add it to your diet. Not only is it considered a complete protein source, but it is also gluten-free. Quinoa nutrition facts lie in its rich source of vitamin, mineral and antioxidants. Quinoa certainly lives up to its superfood status.