Quinoa is popularly seen as a superfood because it has plenty of nutritional benefits. It is a seed of the goosefoot plant in the amaranth plant family, similar to spinach and beet. It is qualified as cereal and not classified as a seed because it is eaten the way other grains are and has a similar nutritional profile.
A cup of cooked quinoa has 39 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, 5 grams of fibre, and 1 gram of sugar. It also contains over 70 per cent water when cooked. There are more than 100 varieties of quinoa. The different kinds come in different colours, such as black, white, red, which are the most common. The less occurring types come in rainbow colours, orange and purple.
Rainbow quinoa is a mixture of black, white, and red quinoa. Purple quinoa is similar in taste and texture to red quinoa. Orange quinoa is milder than red quinoa but not as mild in taste as white quinoa. Orange quinoa is the rarest kind of quinoa to find.
Quinoa also comes in flakes and flour. The flakes are mostly used as a breakfast option like the way oats are eaten, while the flour is used for baking and other recipes that require flour, such as muffins and cakes.
Difference Between White, Black, and Red Quinoa
There are three different types of quinoas which are black, white, and red. They are not vastly different, but there are some differences between them.
Black quinoa has the lowest iron value and least fat content compared to white and red quinoa. It has an earthy taste, similar to red quinoa, and is sweeter than white quinoa. It also takes the longest to cook and is the crunchiest.
White quinoa is the fluffiest of the three when it is cooked. It loses its shape after cooking, and that is why it becomes fluffy. It is the fastest cooking of the three with the shortest cooking time.
All three types have all the essential amino acids found in proteins, making them a superfood. You can choose the quinoa you want to use based on the meal you plan to prepare. The differences in texture, flavour and even colour will inform the types of quinoa that you will use. For instance, red quinoa is preferred for salads because of its colour and shape, which holds during cooking, while white quinoa can prepare stir-fried dishes as a substitute for rice.
All the types of quinoa have nutritional benefits that will make you love quinoa. The top seven reasons why you will love quinoa are:
#1: Essential Amino Acids
Quinoa is rich in proteins, with at least 15 per cent of the grain being protein. It has the essential amino acids, which are nine in number. These are needed in the body and are only gotten from food sources; the body does not make them.
Quinoa is considered a complete protein, because of the nine amino acids found in it. Amino acids are responsible for tissue and muscle growth and repair and help create and maintain healthy muscles, bones, skin, and blood.
#2: Low GI (Glycaemic Index)
Glycaemic Index (GI) is a measurement of how fast your blood sugar rises after eating. Certain foods will raise your blood sugar quickly, while others will take time. Foods that have a high glycemic index rating will increase blood sugar very fast and, after a short time, will drop it, which leads to increased appetite.
Quinoa has a low GI which raises your blood sugar slowly and slows energy release. This helps you control your hunger because you are less likely to have cravings, thus helping with weight loss and weight maintenance. Quinoa is high in monounsaturated fats, which are good because it needs them to function well with energy production.
Good fats also help regulate weight loss, and they are important for good heart health. Quinoa has significantly lower triglyceride concentrations in the body and reduces metabolic syndrome if you eat it regularly.
Quinoa contains 20-hydroxyecdysone, which is a compound that helps with weight control. 20-hydroxyecdysone burns more calories which help in weight control, and it also absorbs less fat in the diet, which reduces weight loss.
Quinoa is gluten-free, which makes it a great option for people who are gluten allergic. Increasingly, gluten has been discovered to cause several digestive-based diseases such as celiac disease. Compared to other gluten-free options such as potato and rice flour, quinoa has more nutritional benefits. This makes it a better source of nutrition for people who are looking for gluten-free foods.
Quinoa also helps reduce inflammation because it contains butyrate, which is a fatty acid that reduces the occurrence of inflammation. It also reduces the hormone in the body that is responsible for inflammation.
#4: High in Fibre
Quinoa is high in dietary fibre compared to other grains such as rice. Food rich in fibre helps you feel full so that you do not overeat. It also prevents constipation which happens when you do not eat enough fibre in your diet.
Constipation can introduce other health problems such as abdominal pain, headache, skin breakouts, and the development of haemorrhoids if untreated. Fibre also helps keep your blood sugar well-regulated and is one of the ways the body lowers cholesterol.
#5: Mineral Rich
Quinoa is full of minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, selenium, and phosphorus. It is also rich in Vitamin B1, B2, B6, and small amounts of B3.
Iron helps in haemoglobin formation and ensures red blood cells are healthy; magnesium helps to regulate the temperature in the body, the way nerves transmit information, and in the development of healthy teeth and bones. Magnesium also helps to prevent the occurrence of strokes.
Manganese is an antioxidant, while potassium helps regulate nerve function, muscles’ function, and heartbeat. Phosphorus is used in the formation of healthy teeth and bones and how the body uses fats and carbohydrates. Selenium is a trace element in the body used in small quantities to prevent cell damage.
All these minerals are important for body development and to maintain good health. In addition, they aid in optimum muscle health, increase the body’s immunity, and many other health benefits.
#6: Contains Antioxidants
Plant compounds quercetin and kaempferol are flavonoids. They are plant antioxidants in small amounts which are beneficial to your health. Because they work as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antiviral, and anti-depressant qualities in the body, they are beneficial.
These trace compounds quercetin and kaempferol are high in quinoa, contributing to overall health because they expel oxidants found in the environment and some foods.
It is a great food for cancer prevention. It helps prevent Type 2 diabetes and heart diseases because it is rich in other plant-based antioxidants in addition to quercetin and kaempferol.
#7: Promotes Digestive Health
Quinoa has polysaccharides that help gastric health by preventing gastric lesions, which cause ulcers. These polysaccharides present in the quinoa seed wall prevent stomach acid from pouring into the stomach lining, which prevents the formation of lesions.
Quinoa also has riboflavin which helps the cells in the digestive walls’ tract develop and function optimally. It also contains glutamic acid, responsible for a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach after being transformed to glutamine. A healthy mucosal stomach lining prevents digestive diseases and ensures that your body absorbs all the nutrients your body needs.
Quinoa contains phenolic acids and vitamin E group nutrients like gamma-tocopherol. These aid in promoting healthy microbes in the digestive system and friendly gut bacteria that help prevent digestive inflammation and diseases.
While quinoa is a healthy food with plenty of nutritional benefits, some people find it hard to eat because of the taste. To get used to the taste and texture of quinoa, you can start by incorporating small amounts in your other foods, such as salads.
If you find that the quinoa is bitter when you prepare it, you can wash it thoroughly before cooking, making it taste better. Quinoa is naturally coated by saponin, which is what makes it bitter, and washing it thoroughly removes the coating.
However, some brands come prewashed so that you can directly prepare the quinoa. Quinoa cooks in just 15 minutes which makes it a wonderful option for fast meals.
Another great way to incorporate this nutritious grain in your meals is to have it in other forms such as flours, where you can use it in other foods or use it in spreads, sauces, and flakes. You will still get the same nutrition in these forms.