Quinoa Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits & Recipe

Quinoa Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits & Recipe

Quinoa Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits & Recipe

Quinoa is fast gaining traction as a superfood. The United Nations declared 2013 to be the international quinoa, perceiving its growing popularity and nutritional benefits.
While it is already a rage in Europe and the Americas, quinoa is almost unknown in south east Asia. Quinoa is rich in protein, minerals and other essential nutrients. It is full of dietary fibers, and is a good substitute for rice. It is also gluten free, hence a popular choice among vegans.
Let us find out more about this superfood.

What is quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a pseudocereal, i.e, it is not a food grain, but the seed of a plant which can be eaten as a cereal. It is a plant native to the Andes region of South America, where it was domesticated thousands of years ago. It has long been a staple for people residing in that region, though was virtually unknown to the rest of the world.(1)
Quinoa was regarded as sacred by the Incas. The emperor used to sow the first seeds. However, during the Spanish invasion of South America, its cultivation was banned. The cultivation resumed much later as the Spanish empire became weaker and ultimately the colonies gained independence. (2)

Properties of Quinoa

Quinoa is the seed of a plant of the amaranth family. It is used after removing its bitter-tasting outer seed coat.
Quinoa is mainly cooked like rice for consumption. It can also be eaten raw.
Quinoa is naturally gluten free, which makes it a popular option for health enthusiasts and people allergic to gluten. It is also rich in protein, fibers, vitamins and flavonoids, which makes it more beneficial than other staple cereals than rice or wheat. (3)
Quinoa is a also a highly durable plant, and can be grown in controlled environments. It can also be stored for long periods of time. World over, scientists have been working genetically modifying the plant and creating hybrids which can increase yields. NASA selected quinoa for using in its space flights and space stations, as it is long-lasting and high on essential nutrients. (4)

Benefits of Quinoa

 

Rich in protein and anti-oxidants

Quinoa is chock full of benefits. It is rich in proteins and contains all essential amino acids. It is also gluten free and full of anti-oxidants. Quinoa is considered a “complete food” by many scientists. (5)

Anti-inflammatory properties

Quinoa contains quercetin, which exhibits anti-inflammation properties. (6)

Rich in dietary fibers

Quinoa is rich in dietary fibers, especially when taken raw. (7)

Helps in weight loss

As quinoa is rich in proteins and dietary fibers. Scientific evidence shows that food containing protein and fiber cuts down carb consumption, reduces snacking, aids metabolism and reduces weight. (8)

Helps regulate diabetes

Quinoa contains a high amount of dietary fibers, and is low on starch and glycemic acids. This makes it good for diabetics. Eating quinoa improves insulin sensitivity and modulates secretion of certain gut hormones. (9)

Gluten-free

Quinoa is gluten free. In most cases, celiac-intolerant people use rice as a substitute for wheat. However, studies show that quinoa is a better substitute than rice in gluten-free diets. It is easily digestible, while its high protein, flavonoid and fiber content make it more nutritious than rice. (10)

Anti-cancer properties

Studies indicate that quercetin in diet prevents chemically-induced carcinogenics in white mice. Evidence also suggests that dietary intake of quercetin helps prevent lung cancer. (11)

Rich in iron, zinc and calcium

Quinoa is a good source of iron, zinc and calcium. These minerals are available in raw, boiled and roasted forms of quinoa. (12)

How to eat Quinoa

Quinoa can be taken raw, but mostly, it is boiled and eaten like rice. The usual method is boiling one cup of quinoa in two cups of water. A single cup of raw quinoa usually yields three cups when boiled.
It can be boiled in an open or covered pot, or in a rice cooker. Check with a fork to decide required tenderness after boiling for 15 minutes.
Quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice. It can be added to soups or stews to make them more filling. It can be used as a stir-fry base instead of rice. Quinoa can also be used as a substitute for pasta. It can also be used in a variety of salads. (13)

Quinoa flour

Quinoa can also be ground and used as flour. However, bread and baked goods made with quinoa flour are coarser, less fluffy and have a bitter aftertaste. (14)

Quinoa Recipes

Easy Quinoa Salad (15)

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cups water
1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 large cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese

Preparation

Boil the quinoa for around 10 minutes. Fork to check tenderness. Drain excess water.
Spread it out on an open surface to dry and cool.
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, garlic, peeper and oil. Whisk to make a dressing.
Take a bowl and toss the quinoa and the vegetables. Pour in the dressing and toss to mix evenly. Serve.

Quinoa risotto with arugula and parmesan(16)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
2 1/4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock or broth
2 cups chopped, stemmed arugula (rocket)
1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Rinse the quinoa.
In a saucepan, heat olive oil and saute the onion until translucent.
Add garlic and quinoa. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Add the stock and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and check the quinoa. It should be soft and slightly hard in the centre.
When the consistency is broth-like, stir in the arugula and carrots. Cook for a couple of minutes until the quinoa looks white or translucent.
Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper. Serves six portions.

Indian Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa and mixed vegetable pulav

Quinoa can easily be used as a substitute for rice. You can use boiled quinoa instead of rice while making pulav. You can easily make a vegetable quinoa pulav. Here is an easy recipe, from Sanjeev Kapoor.

Ingredients

2 cups quinoa, soaked and drained
½ cup shredded spinach
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
5-6 button mushrooms, roughly chopped
5-6 French beans, roughly chopped
¼ cup corn kernels
1 tablespoon oil
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder

Preparation

Heat oil, add cumin seeds. When they are fried and release aroma, add in onions and saute until translucent.
Add carrots, beans, corn kernels, mushrooms and salt. Saute on high heat for 2-3 minutes.
Add quinoa, mix well with vegetables.
Add turmeric, chilli and garam masala powder. Mix well.
Add spinach and 3 cups of water. Boil until quinoa is completely done.
Serve hot.

Quinoa Poha

Here is another easy quinoa recipe by Sanjeev Kapoor.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves
2 medium onions, chopped
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 green chillies, chopped
2 small potatoes, boiled, peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons roasted and crushed peanuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons scraped fresh coconut

Preparation

Rinse and boil quinoa in two cups of water. Cover after 20 minutes.
Heat oil, add mustard seeds. When they start to sputter, add curry leaves and saute.
Add onions. Saute until golden brown.
Add turmeric powder and green chillies. Saute well.
Add boiled potatoes, mix well.
Add boiled quinoa. Salt and mix well.
Take it off the pan and let it cool for a while. Mix in peanuts, coconut and coriander. Serve hot.

Conclusion

Quinoa is a great fruit that is stocked full of proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibers. It is gluten free and ideal for diabetics. You can easily use quinoa instead of rice while making pulav, upma and poha. Similarly, it forms a great alternative for pasta, and can easily be used as base for stir fry and salads. You can try introducing quinoa by starting with these recipes.

FAQs on Quinoa

Q1. What is quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a pseudocereal, i.e, it is not a food grain, but the seed of a plant which can be eaten as a cereal. It is a plant native to the Andes region of South America, where it was domesticated thousands of years ago. (1)

Q2. Is quinoa gluten free?

Quinoa is naturally gluten free, which makes it a popular option for health enthusiasts and people allergic to gluten. It is also rich in protein, fibers, vitamins and flavonoids, which makes it more beneficial than other staple cereals than rice or wheat. (3)

Q3. What is quinoa flour?

Quinoa can also be ground and used as flour. However, bread and baked goods made with quinoa flour are coarser, less fluffy and have a bitter undertaste. (14)

Q4. Is quinoa rich in proteins?

It is rich in proteins and contains all essential amino acids. It is also gluten free and full of anti-oxidants. Quinoa is considered a “complete food” by many scientists. (5)

Q5. Does quinoa help in weight loss?

As quinoa is rich in proteins and dietary fibres. Scientific evidence shows that food containing protein and fibre cuts down carb consumption, reduces snacking, aids metabolism and reduces weight. (8)

Q6. Is quinoa good for diabetes?

Quinoa contains a high amount of dietary fibers, and is low on starch and glycemic acids. This makes it good for diabetics. Eating quinoa improves insulin sensitivity and modulates secretion of certain gut hormones. (9)

Q7. Can quinoa prevent cancer?

Studies indicate that quercetin in diet prevents chemically-induced carcinogenics in white mice. Evidence also suggests that dietary intake of quercetin helps prevent lung cancer. (11)

Q8. How to eat quinoa?

Quinoa can be taken raw, but mostly, it is boiled and eaten like rice. Quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice. It can be added to soups or stews to make them more filling. It can be used as a stir-fry base instead of rice. Quinoa can also be used as a substitute for pasta. It can also be used in a variety of salads. (13)

References:

  1. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.): composition, chemistry, nutritional, and functional properties NCBI
  2. Lost crops of the Incas: little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation National Academy Press
  3. Nutrition facts and functional potential of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.), an ancient Andean grain: a review NCBI
  4. Quinoa breaches the boundaries of outer space FAO
  5. Total antioxidant capacity and content of flavonoids and other phenolic compounds in canihua (Chenopodium pallidicaule): an Andean pseudocereal NCBI
  6. Quercetin transiently increases energy expenditure but persistently decreases circulating markers of inflammation in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet NCBI
  7. Properties of starch and dietary fibre in raw and processed quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Willd) seeds NCBI
  8. Effect on blood lipids of very high intakes of fiber in diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol NCBI
  9. Metabolic effects of dietary fiber consumption and prevention of diabetes NCBI
  10. In vitro starch digestibility and in vivo glucose response of gluten-free foods and their gluten counterparts NCBI
  11. Multitargeted cancer prevention by quercetin NCBI
  12. Effects of roasting and boiling of quinoa, kiwicha and kañiwa on composition and availability of minerals in vitro NCBI
  13. The Nutrition Source Harvard Health
  14. Quinoa flour in baked products NCBI
  15. Quinoa Salad Mayo Clinic
  16. Quinoa risotto with arugula and parmesan Mayo Clinic

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